LIVE BLOG: Israelis go to the polls, ending three-month election campaign
Millions of Israelis cast their vote in one of approximately 1,000 polling stations spread across the country.
Israelis across the country took to the polls on Tuesday morning, to elect the 19th Knesset. More than 5.65 million Israelis are eligible to vote. The approximately 10,000 polling stations located in towns, hospitals and prisons around the country will stay open until 10 P.M. in most locales, but will close at 8 P.M. in small towns and hospitals.
To cast a ballot, voters will need to present an Israeli ID card, a valid passport or a valid driver’s license. There is no need to bring the postcard telling you where your polling station is located. For anyone who didn’t receive such a postcard and isn’t sure where to vote, the Central Elections Committee has both a website (www.bechirot.gov.il) and a telephone hotline, 1-800-200-137.
Haaretz bloggers sum up Election Day in Israel:
Chemi Shalev offers a compendium of election night adjectives, narratives, superlatives, and expletives; Anshel Pfeffer brings you 10 reasons that the polls could be wrong; Allison Kaplan Sommer shares the new Israeli phenomena of posting voting pictures to Facebook, Instagram, and twitter; Bradley Burston urges Israelis to go out and vote as if their lives depended on it.
By law, any voter who finds himself more than 20 kilometers from the town where his polling station is located on Election Day is entitled to a free ride on public buses or trains. To get your free ticket, you must present either your ID card, including the insert listing your address, or another form of ID, plus the postcard listing your polling station. Voters with disabilities can vote at any one of hundreds of specially adapted polling stations.
In this election, for the first time, the public will be able to follow the counting of ballots in real time on the government’s Memshal Zamin website, or using a special cell phone app. An estimated 85 percent of the ballots will be counted overnight, with the rest counted on Wednesday. After all the votes are counted, the Central Elections Committee will publish the results.
9.50 P.M. Labor officials: we're not ruling out endorsing Lapid for PM.
9.21 P.M. The White House said that regardless of the results of the Israeli election, the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not change.
"We will continue to make clear that only through direct negotiations can the Palestinians and the Israelis ... achieve the peace they both deserve," said spokesman Jay Carney. He said the complexity of the conflict, not Obama's relationship with the Israeli leader, was the main impediment.
9.11 P.M. 70.6 percent of Israel's 10,000 prisoners have voted, as opposed to a mere 21 percent in 2009, after the law was amended to allow them to vote with a prisoner ID instead of their identity card.
8.30 P.M. Voter turnout stands at 63.7 percent, as opposed to 59.7 percent at the same time in 2009.
8.08 P.M. Tzipi Livni says will pursue attempts to join forces with Labor and Yesh Atid.
8.06 P.M. Netanyahu calls on supporters: "The Likud government is in danger, go vote for us for the sake of the country's future."
7.52 P.M. Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu officials are trading accusations, imputing the responsibility for the electoral failure of their joint ticket.
7.49 P.M. Likud is attempting to minimize Yesh Atid's apparent success. "We've sent our volunteers to tell floating voters that voting for Lapid will strengthen the center-left bloc and weaken Netanyahu," said Minister Gilad Erdan.
7.34 P.M. High voter turnout reported in IDF bases as well, standing at 60 percent - up 13 percent since 2009.
7.15 P.M. Voter turnout picking up in Arab communities. In Nazareth, 44 percent have voted.
6.00 P.M. Voter tunrout stands at record 55.5 percent. The electoral threshold is likely to rise to 80,000 votes, as opposed to 67,000 in 2009.
5.45 P.M. In unprecedented move, Latin Patricarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah urges Israeli Arabs to vote.
5.41 P.M. Yesh Atid sources say that Channel 10 pollsters informed them that they're set to be the second-largest party.
5.37 P.M. Labor MK Isaac Herzog: If voter turnout exceeds 70 percent, [Labor leader Shelly] Yacimovich will be the next prime minister.
5:33 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Haaretz that voter turnout in Likud strongholds in Israel are low, highlighting the growing fear within his party that it's heading for collapse. As the evening wears on, Netanyahu is continuing his efforts to awaken Likud voters across the country.
5.27 P.M. Likud is concerned with low turnout at the party's traditional bastions. "We're lucky if we get 31 seats," one party official said.
4:43 P.M. Police have reported that there have been roughly 350 incidents related to the elections, including illegal posting of signs, traffic violations near polling stations, and minor scuffles.
According to the police, traffic is still heavy in the north, and Mt. Hermon has been closed to tourists.
4:30 P.M. Over the last few hours, reports have been received regarding disruptions to the voting process. The chairperson of the ballot committee in Jaljulia was held for questioning by the Rosh Ha'ayin police, after his staff realized that 8 ballot envelopes were missing.
At a polling station in Beit Shemesh, an ultra-Orthodox man flipped a ballot table upside down, and was also held for questioning by police on the scene.
Both in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem demonstrations were held in protest of the elections.
4:23 P.M. 46.6% of eligible voters have cast their ballots, as opposed to 41.9% at this hour during the 2009 elections.
4:20 P.M. Tzipi Livni in Holon: "I feel like I did during the social protest. Suddenly people are coming out of their homes. Maybe there will be a revolution here."
4:03 P.M. Netanyahu to Haaretz: "Voter turnout is high but not in traditional Likud strongholds. Go out and vote in order for us to be strong."
3:47 P.M. Meretz MK and chairperson of the sub-committee on issues of accessibility, Ilan Gilon, submitted a complaint to the Central Elections Committee, claiming that many polling stations marked as handicap accessible are falsely labeled. "Field reports have been received describing the lack of accessibility at three specially-labeled polling stations in Sderot. We continue to receive various reports from areas throughout the country. This is a true failure. The Central Elections Committee chairperson must guarantee that every citizen can access the polling booth.
3:26 P.M. The Kibbutz Movement reports that by 2:30 P.M., voter turnout among kibbutz residents stands at 46%.
3:24 P.M. Kadima chairperson Shaul Mofaz traveled north to campaign after voting in Kochav Yair. He stopped in Acre, where he met with voters at different polling stations. From there he went to campaign around Haifa, where he toured the city with Mayor Yonah Yahav. According to Mofaz "up until now there has been an impressive voter turnout. I believe it will reach 65%."
2:48 P.M. Netanyahu: "Reports are showing that voter turnout is lower than average in areas that traditionally support Likud. Likud voters of all ages – drop everything and go vote."
2:23 P.M. At this point, 38.3% of Israelis eligible to vote have cast their ballots. This figure represents more than half of the total number of votes that were cast during the 2009 election.
2:20 P.M. Motivated by the low rates of voter turnout among Arab Israelis in relation to the general rate, chairpersons of the various Arab parties have issued a joint call asking the Arab community to go out and vote.
2:03 P.M. Habayit Heyehudi chariman Naftali Bennett en route to campaign in Petah Tikva, after visiting Lod and Be'er Sheva.
2:00 P.M. Habayit Hayehudi's Jeremy Gimpel voted with his wife Tehila in the settlement of Neveh Daniel as their three young children watched. “My eyes still fill with tears when I get behind that blue cardboard box," he wrote in a message to Haaretz. “I told my children to never take for granted the right to choose our leaders after all we’ve been through as a people."(Andrew Esensten)
1:48 P.M. Israelis are out in droves enjoying the day off for the election, and there are reports of major traffic jams throughout the country.
1:20 P.M. Voter turnout in Arab towns is hovering around 10% on average.
Yafia – 8%.
Ara – 12%.
Kfar Kara – 9%.
Dir Hana – 10%.
Ar'ara – 12%.
Daburiyya – 11%.
Maghar – 4%.
Muqeible – 15%.
1:06 P.M. Likud reports suspicion of fake ballot slips in polling booths in Hadera, Rishon Letzion, and Beit Ezra. The slips do not contain the words "lead by Benjamin Netanyahu for Prime Minister."
12:49 P.M. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar: "It is definitely troubling that voter turnout rates are high in areas where left-wingers are the majority, as of right now we are working to raise the voter turnout among Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu voters."
12:42 P.M. Eretz Chadasha party files formal complaint with the Central Elections Committee, claiming that their ballot slips, which depict the Hebrew letter "ז," are being removed from polling booths and replaced with ballot slips for the Atid Aher party, which recently dropped out of the election. Atid Aher's ballot slips depict the letters "זה."
12:40 P.M. Balad's Haneen Zoabi casts her vote in Nazareth, saying her party expects to pass the minimum threshold needed to enter Knesset.
12:30 P.M. Some 26.7% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, as compared to 21.6% at this time of day in 2006.
12:00 P.M. Hatnuah's Amir Peretz in Be'er Sheva: "Our goal is to bring down Netanyahu, but if the public thinks otherwise, we will have to sit down at the end of the day and decide what to do."
11:50 A.M. Central Election Committee says that all of the country's voting booths opened this morning without incident. One observer in Jerusalem reported that a female member of the observers' committee showed up in "immodest dress." In Hadera, Shas activists attempted to replace Habayit Hayehudi ballots with their party's ballots.
11:15 A.M. Labor Party hopeful Itzik Shmuli, former student union head and social-justice protest leader, casts his vote in Lod: "Yes, we can beat Bibi… Support for Netanyahu is dropping and is weaker than ever."
11:00 A.M. Meretz head Zehava Gal-On, touring voting stations in Tel Aviv, says she expects her party to gain additional Knesset seats, "even ten."
10:50 A.M. Labor Party head Shelly Yacimovich casts her vote in Tel Aviv: "The pile of ballots for the party that I voted for was the lowest in the ballot box." Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni and her husband voted in north Tel Aviv. Hadash leader Mohammed Barakeh votes in Shfaram, says he believes voter turnout in the Arab sector will be high while more Jewish voters will support Hadash.
10:40 A.M. President Shimon Peres calls on all Israeli citizens to go to the polls: "Today is a celebration of democracy. "Thus far, some 11.4% of eligible voters have cast their ballots.
10:30 A.M. Habayit Hayehudi activists reportedly remove Otzma Leyisrael ballot from ballot box in village of Yad Binyamin. Over 20,000 police deployed across the country to maintain order.
9:45 A.M. Kadima head Shaul Mofaz casts his vote in Kochav Yair, accompanied by his wife Orit: "Today is an important day for the State of Israel, we are certain that Kadima will achieve good results at the end of the elections. The reality in Israel today is that the left is inexperienced, the right is leading us to extremism, and thus the center is important."
9:30 A.M. Amir Peretz votes in Sderot, predicts that his party Hatnuah will win many more seats than polls predict.
9:10 A.M. Vast majority of voters in national-religious settlement Hashmonaim, near Modi'in, say they are voting for Habayit Hayehudi. Somewhere between 25 and 30 percent appear to be English-speakers from the U.S. (Judy Maltz)
9:05 A.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem, leaves a note asking for success.
9:00 A.M. Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef casts his ballot in Jerusalem.
8:50 A.M. Hadash MK Dov Khenin casts his vote in Tel Aviv, says he has never seen the Likud so dispirited.
8:40 A.M. Ninety-nine percent of voting stations across Israel are open. Many Israelis have the day off work today. Hotels in the north of the country report high occupancy rates, while traffic jams have been reported on the road to the ski site on Mount Hermon.
8:30 A.M. President Shimon Peres casts his ballot in Jerusalem. Avigdor Lieberman casts his vote in the West Bank settlement Nokdim, where he lives: "Yesterday Beitar Jerusalem won a historic victory in Tel Aviv, today we will win a historic victory."
8:15 A.M. Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett and his wife cast their votes in Ra'anana. After casting his vote, Bennett stands outside polling station and sings "Hatikvah." Shas' Aryeh Deri casts his vote in Jerusalem. "With this ballot I am putting Eli Yishai in the Knesset," said the latter.
8:00 A.M. Washington Post editorial urges Obama to "concede, and maybe even welcome, Mr. Netanyahu's reelection while quietly urging him to construct a centrist government."
7:05 A.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family cast their ballots in Jerusalem. Netanyahu said that "while it's not a rainy day," he wished to see "a rain of ballots" for Likud. "Likud-Beiteinu represents the entire nation. The stronger Likud-Beiteinu is, the easier it will be to lead Israel successfully," the prime minister said.
7:00 A.M. Polling stations open across Israel.