At Likud Headquarters, Optimism and Bated Breath

While Tzachi Hanegbi is confident, Gideon Sa’ar is more reserved. And everyone is counting down until the ballots are tallied.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

This morning when I arrived at the Likud campaign headquarters I bumped into Tzachi Hanegbi, who was just making his way back to the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion in order to vote. The former minister, who up until a few months ago was in Kadima, is now heading the Likud Election Day campaign headquarters.

“What’s going to happen this evening in the exit polls?” I asked him. Hanegbi did not hesitate to give an optimistic declaration: “Remember what I am telling you – 37 Knesset seats.” Then he added in English: “Read my lips.”

A few minutes after I met Hangebi I saw the tweet from socialite Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes on Twitter. “A comforting poll I just got from a friend in the media – Likud 38 seats,” she wrote. Hanegbi might be optimistic and Judy might be calm but others in the Likud are bit more anxious.

Upstairs in the situation room on the fourth floor, the plasma television screens are showing the television broadcasts, but the atmosphere is still a bit drowsy. A row of telephones is arranged on the tables along with laptops containing lists of voters, both guaranteed and undecided.

One of the campaign headquarters staffers explains that at every polling station Likud workers have been instructed to report the names of voters who have already arrived. The names are cross-checked with the lists of voters, and voters who have yet to show up at the polling places get a phone call from local activists in their city. In certain cases, the activists bring them in to the polling place.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar is also at the campaign headquarters. When I told him the optimistic prediction of his colleague Hanegbi, he smiled but replied with far more caution. “If there is one thing I don’t want to do,” he said, “it’s to try to predict the results. Let’s wait and see what happens.”

Sa'ar, speaking later at the Likud headquarters, expressed concern over voter turnout among Likud supporters. "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."

The most anxious person in the Likud is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He hastened out to vote very early in the morning, without a lot of joy and rejoicing. Flanked by his family, Netanyahu muttered a few things to the cameras about “a rain of Likud ballots,” and then he departed.

After the polling station, Netanyahu went to the Western Wall, where he slipped a note into a crack between the stones and left the praying to his son Yair, who stayed behind. The prime minister then returned to the official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem and sat down to make phone calls. He phoned a long list of government ministers, mayors and key activists to get updates and to urge them to bring the voters to the polling stations.

In Likud they are drawing encouragement from the relatively high voter turnout this morning. Like their rivals in the center-left camp, they, too, are saying a high voter turnout will benefit them, bringing more Knesset seats. And like Hanegbi told me as he stepped into his car: In another 12 hours, we will know who was right.

Netanyahu speaking to reporters in Netanya on Election Day, January 22, 2013.Credit: Nimrod Glickman

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