Jewish News Online brings you all the latest news and opinion from Israel and across the Jewish world as Benjamin Netanyahu fights for his political future against his main challenger – Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni’s and the centre-left Zionist Union Party. The Zionist Union Party has been polling slightly ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud, but neither political camp has a clear majority. The coming hours will prove fascinating – so keep this page open as we bring all the latest events, analysis and images straight to your desktop…
5.25pm: Liberman tells voters that he is the only way to stop ISIS from reaching Israel. Accused of panic.
— lyse doucet (@bbclysedoucet) March 17, 2015
— Dr. Samuel Mahaffy (@samuelmahaffy) March 17, 2015
5.17pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 1. The young pretender: Is Isaac ‘Bougie’ Herzog up to the job? Does his lineage count for him or against him? What is his public image, and is this different to reality? Is his pragmatism a welcome antidote to Netanyahu’s dogmatic views? To what extent do Israelis need cconvincing
4.53pm: More Israeli election stats
4.50pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 2. The economy’s rising damp: Is Israel on the brink of recession? What can be done about rising inequality? Will there be another social protest similar to that of 2011? Is the problem of corruption endemic? Will foreign companies continue to invest in Israel if there is no peace deal soon?
4.46pm: Nearly finished..
4.38pm: Is this a major political miscalculation?
4.30pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 3. What the world wants: Would the Sunni Arab monarchies rather see a hawkish Israeli government more likely to attack Iran, or a dovish Israeli government more likely to make peace with the Palestinians? Will the ousting of Netanyahu help repair strained bilateral relations with states like the US and Turkey?
3.57pm: Hadash using political satire to mock Bibi, after his remarks about Arabs voting ‘in droves’ caused a stir.
3.55pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 4. Likely alliances: Could the centre-left Zionist Union form a coalition with the Likud? If so would Netanyahu ever agree to be anything other than prime minister? Will the religious parties like Shas and United Torah Judaism once again be kingmakers? If so who’s bed will they get in, and for what in return?
Interesting how no-one says today they’re voting Likud. It’s just “Bibi” — Anshel Pfeffer (@AnshelPfeffer) March 17, 2015
3.34pm and 3.40pm: Some are predicting upwards of 60% Arab Israeli voting turnout.
Arab turnout in 13 was a historic low of 56% – lots of work went in to ensure it was above 50% i think this year 66% is realistic — Joel Braunold (@braunold) March 17, 2015
85.4% of my twitter feed has reported on the Israeli election turnout as of 4pm Israel time — David Halperin (@dhalperin) March 17, 2015
3.26pm: OPINION: “For most Israelis, the prospect of a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians is so distant that it has simply not registered as a substantive issue in this election. Peripheral issues are the handling of last year’s battle with Gaza-based militants and Israel’s intentions once the Palestinians join the International Criminal Court in two weeks’ time, but for the most part, big Western bugbears such as settlements are not up for discussion. For Israel-watchers in Europe and America, the virtual absence of the now-defunct peace process in the Israeli national debate may come as a shock. It would seem that the Palestinians are, in the words of one commentator, “sealed behind Israel’s walls and fences, ghosts at Israel’s political feast”. By Stephen Oryszczuk Jewish News, foreign editor.
3.08pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 5. Arab engagement: Will Israeli Arabs vote in larger numbers than before? How long can the merged group of Arab parties survive? Will they give their seats to secure a centre-left government led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni?
2.26pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 6. Bibi fatigue: Have Israelis finally had enough of Mr Netanyahu? How strong is the ‘Rak lo Bibi’ (Anyone but Bibi) movement? What does he have to show for his three terms as premier? Have stories of his profligate spending habits damaged his reputation? Would anyone else have the gravitas to lead?
1.57pm: OPINION: Bibi’s calls for people to vote, because the Arabs are voting is a sad indictment of his politics of gloom and fear. People should want to vote because it’s their civic duty and right. By Jack Mendel, Jewish News online editor. 1.54pm: Netanyahu doing some last minute campaigning
1.50pm: A sunny day for an election encouraging people to get out and vote..
1.31pm: More fallout from Netanyahu’s comments about Arab voters coming out to vote in their ‘droves’.
1.26pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 7. The resurgent ‘left’: Is this the year left-leaning Israelis cancel out a move to the right? Would a centre-left government continue settlement building? Would they compromise on territory to strike a deal with the Palestinians? Will it intervene to resolve socio-economic problems? Will Meretz stay below the four-seat threshold?
12.56pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 8. The contested ‘right’: Will the Likud retain its core right-wing vote? Has Naftali Bennett’s settler-dominated Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) forced everyone further right? To what extent have corruption allegations weakened Avigdor Lieberman Yisrael Beitenu? Will Eli Yishai’s far-right party Yahad be included in a coalition?
12.46pm: Some reaction to Bibi’s comments regarding Arab voters going to the polls in ‘droves.’
This is an irony in Bibi’s behavior today: He should be proud of Israel for enfranchising all of its citizens, Arab and Jewish. — Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) March 17, 2015
12.45pm: Should the UK follow Israel’s example?
The UK should absolutely copy Israel in making polling day a national holiday. Turnout would rocket (metaphorically) (groan). — Jay Stoll (@jaystoll) March 17, 2015
12.40pm: For many Israeli-Arabs, this election is a watershed moment, as they vote for the first time.
12.16pm: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 9. The sacred centre: Who will hold the centre ground in this election? How many seats will centrist parties such as Yesh Atid and Kulanu get? What are their priorities? Whose coalition will they join?
11.47am: Yesh Atid Party leader, Yair Lapid accompanies a couple to vote, on their wedding day.
11.47am: The Jewish News‘ TOP 10 ELECTION FACTORS:
Number 10. The main issues: Will this election be dominated by security? What are Israelis’ chief concerns? Where is the peace process in parties’ list of priorities? To what extent will economic factors like the cost of housing dominate?
11.28am: Jewish News poll update: We asked our readers – “If you were Israeli who would you vote for in the election?” After 420 votes:
- Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union Party – 38%
- Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party – 31%
- Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party – 9%
- Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party – 5%
- Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party – 1%
- Other – 16%
There is still time to cast your vote! 11.16am: OPINION: Benjamin Netanyahu posts a video on his Facebook page telling voters that the right-wing government is in danger, because “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves.” Bibi, you can’t tell Palestinians to reject violence, and simultaneously fear-monger when they engage in the democratic process. By Jack Mendel, Jewish News online editor. 11.01am: Israel’s election turnout continues to challenge previous years.
10.47am: OPINION: Netanyahu’s election-eve pledge to prevent a Palestinian state was a huge gamble to hook right-wingers. Surely you have to leave hope – no matter how forlorn – blowing in the breeze? Richard Ferrer, Jewish News editor. 10.40am: For the first time, former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres votes in the election, but is not standing.
10.32am: Some Israelis have agreed to cast their votes on behalf of Palestinians.
10.20am: OPINION: “Why a vote for Bibi could be a vote for oblivion” – CLICK HERE to read. By Jewish News online editor 9.56am: Israel’s soldiers make sure they cast their ballot:
9.45am: Chuck Norris has his say on Israel’s election: 9.42am: This election has already seen a very high turnout.
9.26: The UK Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis wishes voters in Israel all the best.
9.19am: The leader of the Joint List, Ayman Odeh, casts his vote.
9.07am: OPINION: “Are we finally witnessing the left-wing become a force in Israeli politics again? The complete collapse of the peace process had miserable consequences for the left. An invigorated left-wing, even one championing potentially unworkable hopes for peace, can boost the effectiveness of Israeli government.” Richard Ferrer, Jewish News editor. 8.58am: Google creates an Israeli election doodle
8.45am: Voting began this morning at more than 10,000 polling stations nationwide. This election follows a campaign focused on economic issues such as the high cost of living, rather than fears of a nuclear Iran or the Israeli-Arab conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to his hard-line base at the last minute, saying a Palestinian state would not be established if he is elected to a fourth term. His remarks could further sour ties with the United States. Voters are today electing a 120-member parliament, casting ballots for a party list. It typically takes weeks of negotiations for a governing coalition to be formed. Mr Herzog’s party has been polling slightly ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud, but neither political camp has a clear majority. Mr Netanyahu’s pledge to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state marked a reversal of long-standing promises to the United States and were seen as a last-ditch effort to appeal to hard-line voters as he fights for his political survival in a close race. He claimed that any state established alongside Israel would be controlled by Islamic extremists who “will attack us with rockets”. “Who wants such a thing?” he said in a phone interview with Israel TV’s Channel 10 after casting his ballot. Mr Herzog has said he would revive peace efforts with the Palestinians, repair ties with the US and reduce the growing gaps between rich and poor. “Whoever wants to follow Bibi’s (Netanyahu’s) path of despair and disappointment will vote for him,” Mr Herzog said after casting his vote. “But whoever wants change, hope, and really a better future for Israel, will vote the Zionist Camp lead by me.” Israelis vote for a 120-member parliament, casting ballots for a party list, rather than individual candidates. After an election, it typically takes weeks of negotiation to form a governing coalition and determine who will be prime minister. Mr Netanyahu has governed for the past six years and has long been the most dominant personality in Israeli politics. He has swung further to the right in the final stages of the campaign, appealing to his base. In his interview with Channel 10, he ruled out a coalition with Mr Herzog and said he would seek an alliance with the ultra-national Jewish Home party, which also opposes Palestinian statehood. He portrayed Mr Herzog as someone who would easily give up territory for a Palestinian state. The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. “We have a different approach,” Mr Netanyahu said. “They (the Zionist Union) want to withdraw. I don’t want to withdraw. If I put together the government, it will be a nationalist government.” 7.10am: President Ruvi casts his vote: