Israel Election 2019: Facebook Blocks Netanyahu's Messaging After Election Law Violation

Parties complain of voter fraud in station across Israel

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Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz speak at the end of Israeli Election Day, September 18, 2019.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz speak at the end of Israeli Election Day, September 18, 2019. Credit: Ofer Vaknin, Ilan Assayag

Here are all the updates from Israel's Election Day up until an hour before the exit polls (10 P.M. local time). Click here for the latest updates

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 40

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8:50 P.M. Every politician is now a wanna-Bibi with Netanyahu's 'losing' strategy 

As journalists and Kahol Lavan activists arrived at the Rosh Ha’ayin polling station Tuesday morning to provide the backdrop for Benny Gantz’s arrival to vote, the first thing they saw was a giant Likud battle bus parked in front of the Nofim school.

This wasn’t just any Likud bus. This was the “Miribus,” Culture Minister Miri Regev’s election ride across the country, in which she has regaled voters with blaring nationalist songs and impromptu interviews... Read the full story here

7:22 P.M. Palestinian Authority denies election interference

The chairman of Fatah's Central Committee, Hussein Al-Sheikh, denied Netanyahu’s claims that the Palestinian Authority is interfering in the Israeli election. Al-Sheikh said Netanyahu and Likud allegations are false and constitute “wild incitement against the PA and its leaders.”

In past elections, including the April election, the Palestinian Authority tried to encourage Israel’s Arabs to vote in higher numbers and even supported the creation of a new Jewish-Arab political party. These efforts were met with criticism from the Arab public, and reportedly contributed to internal disputes within the Joint List. 

>> Read more: Netanyahu violates election rules with forbidden polls, illegal interviews ■ On Election Day, it’s the Prince of Darkness vs. Israel’s very soul | Analysis ■ Bibi, Gantz or deadlock? 7 scenarios, 5 outcomes for the Israeli election ■ An election so nice they held it twice: Our top takes on Israel's election

7:12 P.M. Voter turnout remains slightly higher than in April election

As of 6:00 P.M., the voter turnout in Israel was 53.5 percent, 1.5 points higher than it was in April, according to the Central Elections Committee.

6:21 P.M. Israeli Arab voter turnout up, activists say, citing ‘wild intimidation’ factor

The Arab turnout in this do-over election could be a decisive factor in the final outcome: Because Arab citizens overwhelming vote for Arab-led and Jewish left-wing parties, the more Arab citizens come out and vote, the harder it will be for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a ruling coalition.

In the April 9 election, only 49 percent of eligible Arab voters in Israel exercised their civic right. Read the full story here

5:37 P.M. Voter turnout so far slightly higher than in April election

As of 4:00 P.M., the voter turnout in Israel was 44.3 percent, 1.5 points higher than it was in April, according to the Central Elections Committee.

5:30 P.M. Facebook reactivates Netanyahu’s chatbot 

Netanyahu’s automated messaging bot comes alive after being suspended by Facebook for three hours. Netanyahu removed previous posts that breached Israeili election law and promised not violate it in the future.

Facebook reactivated the private messaging function following a directive from the Central Elections Committee. 

5:19 P.M. Election committee forbids Shas from giving out religious amulets at polling stations

The Central Elections Committee issued a ban on the ultra-Orthodox Shas party's giving away talismans and prayer books at polling stations, following a petition by the Democratic Union. 

4:54 P.M. Election committee tells Facebook to reactivate Netanyahu's chatbot

The Central Elections Committee head, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, instructs Facebook to reactivate the premier's official handle's automatic messaging function, hours after it was suspended for violating Israeli election law. Read the full story here

4:53 P.M. Bibi, Gantz or deadlock? 7 scenarios, 5 outcomes

There is only one important outcome Tuesday night: Will Likud and the three (or possibly four) other parties expected to endorse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerge with a majority of at least 61 seats in the new Knesset? With 60 seats or fewer, Netanyahu will not have a governing coalition and new possibilities would open up — though it will not be plain sailing for Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz to build a coalition of his own.

The question of which party wins the most seats, Likud or Kahol Lavan, is a secondary one... Read the full analysis here 

Israelis voting in the election, Rosh Ha'ayin, September 17, 2019 Credit: Meged Gozani
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara casts their votes during Israel's parliamentary election at a polling station in Jerusalem, September 17, 2019. Credit: Heidi Levine/Reuters
Benny Gantz voting in Rosh Ha'ayin, September 17, 2019. Credit: Meged Gozani
Yair Lapid voting in Tel Aviv, September 17, 2019. Credit: Moti Milrod

3:47 P.M. Voter turnout so far equal to turnout in April election

As of 2:00 P.M., the voter turnout in Israel was 36.6 percent, 0.7 percent higher than it was in April, according to the Central Elections Committee.  

3:35 P.M. Four polling stations closed due to suspected fraud

The elections committee announced that four polling station in the Arab village of Yarka were temporarily closed due to suspected fraud. According to the police, voters attempted to cast multiple ballots at the same time.

The stations have been reopened and will stay open until midnight, to make up for the period when they were closed to the public. 

Ayman Odeh casts his vote in Haifa, September 17, 2019. Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP

3:08 P.M. Facebook suspends Netanyahu chatbot

Facebook announced it is suspending the use of automatic messaging on Netanyahu's official page for publishing opinion poll results, which Israeli election law does not permit for three days prior to Election Day.

Facebook said it works with elections commissions around the world to maintain the integrity of elections and that it is required to abide by a country's local laws. Netanyahu's automated messaging bot will be suspended until polls close at 10 P.M. on Tuesday.

Last week, Facebook suspended Netanyahu's automatic messaging function for 24 hours after messages were sent stating that "Arabs want to annihilate us." Facebook said it took the action after determining that the content violated its policy on hate speech.

3:06 P.M. Netanyahu gives second illegal radio interview

Netanyahu gives an interview to the right-wing Kol Hai radio station. According to Section 129 of the Israel Election Law, candidates are forbidden from giving radio and television interviews on Election Day. 

Ayelet Shaked casts her vote in Tel Aviv, September 17, 2019. Credit: Nir Keidar

2:01 P.M. Labor-Gesher claims fraud in Be'er Sheva 

The Labor-Gesher slate submitted a complaint to the Central Elections Committee claiming its ballot slips at two polling stations in Be'er Sheva were replaced with slips from the April election, in which the party is listed as Labor and not the joint Labor-Gesher party slate.

1:51 P.M. Netanyahu gives illegal radio interview

Netanyahu gives an interview to the Galey Yisrael radio station, breaching Section 129 of Israeli Election Law. Last week, the Central Elections Committee head, Justice Hanan Melcer, issued a clear directive forbidding radio and television interviews with candidates on Election Day. 

The committee said Netanyahu violated the election campaign law on Monday, when he published opinion poll figures less than three days before Election Day.

Amir Peretz arrived with his wife Ahlama voting in Sderot, September 17, 2019. Credit: Labor-Gesher Spokesperson
Lieberman casting his vote in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, September 17, 2019. Credit: Josh Breiner

1:41 P.M. Elections committee says voter turnout so far higher than in previous election

As of 12 noon, voter turnout was 26.8 percent, 2 percent higher than it was in the April election, according to the Central Elections Committee. 

12:27 P.M. Labor alleges that Bnei Brak residents posed as observers 

The Labor Party has filed a complaint with the Central Elections Committee alleging that residents of Bnei Brak impersonated the party's observers at three polling stations in the city. Labor is seeking to disqualify the polling stations.

12:23 P.M. Resident of Kafr Qasem detained on suspicion of impersonating elections committee official

Police say they are investigating the circumstances around a suspected impersonation after a resident of the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Qasem was accused of posing as an inspector on behalf of the city's election commission and trying to vote with a different name. The suspect has been detained for questioning.

12:16 P.M. Yisrael Beiteinu files complaint against Likud 

Yisrael Beiteinu has filed a complaint to the Central Elections Committee, alleging that Likud members were handing out Russian calendars in Petah Tikvah. Gifts are prohibited according to election laws. 

11:41 A.M. Voting station in Umm al-Fahm reopens 

Shas Chairman Arye Dery at campaign headquarters on September 17, 2019.
Benny Gantz taking a selfie with a supporter on Election Day, September 17, 2019.
Ayelet Shaked in Jerusalem on Election Day, September 17, 2019.
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Shas Chairman Arye Dery at campaign headquarters on September 17, 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
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Benny Gantz taking a selfie with a supporter on Election Day, September 17, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
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Ayelet Shaked in Jerusalem on Election Day, September 17, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Police have reopened a voting station in the northern Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. The site was closed after a precinct secretary started filming the polling station.

11:33 A.M. Voting rate breaks highest record since 1984

As of 10 A.M. this year's voting turnout is the highest it's been since 1984, according to the Central Elections Committee. 

11:30 A.M. Police close a voting station in Umm al-Fahm 

Israel Police have closed a voting station in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm after a precinct secretary began filming voters. 

11:17 A.M. Elections committee bans Likud from distributing free ice cream

Central Elections Committee head Justice Hanan Melcer issued a ban on Netanyahu's Likud from giving out free ice cream to voters. 

11:24 A.M. Benny Gantz: 'We will win'

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz cast his vote in Rosh Ha'ayin alongside his wife. He wrote on Twitter: "Go out and vote - we will win." 

11:06 A.M. Yair Lapid: 'It's an emergency for democracy'

Kahol Lavan co-leader Yair Lapid voted in Tel Aviv, calling the election "an emergency for democracy" and urging voters to "get out of the house."  "We get reports from all over the country that Bibi manages to get his people out of the house. If Bibi has one more [Knesset} seat, a government with Smotrich, Litzman and Ben-Gvir, a government of blackmail and racism, will be formed here again. So if you want to have a good government here, this is no time to go to the beach – go vote," he said. 

10:30 A.M. Elections committee head says Netanyahu violated propaganda law 

Central Elections Committee head Justice Hanan Melcer said that Netanyahu violated propaganda law by publishing opinion poll results within three days of Election Day. Melcer ordered him to remove the item. 

Attorney Shachar Ben-Meir and Dr. Anat Ben-David filed petitions regarding the use of automatic messaging functions on Likud's official Facebook page and against an interview in which Netanyahu discussed polling data, which is forbidden beginning three days before the election.

10:02 A.M. Yisrael Beiteinu files complaint against Likud 

Yisrael Beiteinu filed a complaint to the Central Elections Committee claiming that members of the Likud party were filming outside polls in the Haifa district town of Or Akiva and had attempted to forge ballots in Ashdod. 

10:07 A.M. Avi Gabbay and Naftali Bennett cast their votes

Yamina's Naftali Bennett voted in Ra’anana and Labor's Avi Gabbay cast his ballot in Kfar Sava. 

9:54 A.M. President Rivlin: Voting is our democratic duty

President Reuven Rivlin voted in Jerusalem and called on Israelis to take the Election Day holiday seriously. "I beg of you, set aside the required time – this is our democratic duty. Neither the president nor the party leaders will determine who the next prime minister is. Only you are voting today," Rivlin said. 

9:52 A.M. Ayman Odeh urges all citizens to vote 

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh cast his ballot in Haifa, urging all citizens to come out and vote. "Each vote for the Joint List will allow us to fight for peace, equality and social justice for everyone," Odeh said.  

"Nobody will give us the influence and rights we deserve – we have to take them ourselves," Odeh added. 

9:17 A.M. Litzman casts vote in Jerusalem

United Torah Judaism Chairman Yaakov Litzman voted in Jerusalem, saying that today is a "fateful and critical day for the State of Israel." 

"We will be judged on whether the Jewish character [of the country] and Jewish tradition are harmed or not," Litzman said. 

9:11 A.M. Barak: 'I voted, now it's your turn'

Democratic Union's Ehud Barak cast his ballot in Tel Aviv, later tweeting: "I voted – it's your turn! Only the Democratic Union ... If we're in, Bibi is outside."

8:45 A.M. Ayelet Shaked: 'We are at war'

Yamina party Chairwoman Ayelet Shaked came to her polling station in Tel Aviv along with her husband, son and daughter to cast her vote. 

"We are at war, today," the former justice minister said, calling the situation dire. "We have to explain to all those on the fence ... why [to vote} Yamina and not Likud."

8:10 A.M. Amir Peretz casts his vote

Labor Party leader Amir Peretz voted in Sderot with his wife, Ahlama. "It's a close fight. Every vote will count," Peretz said.

"If Labor-Gesher falters, Netanyahu will get immunity. I call on Labor voters to come out and vote and bring about the long-awaited upheaval," Peretz added.   

7:48 A.M. Rivlin vows to avoid third election

President Reuven Rivlin said in a video message Tuesday morning: "I will do everything I can to get an elected government in Israel as soon as possible and to avoid another election campaign."

Rivlin explained that if the the party head whom he designates fails to form a government, or if the proposed government is rejected by the Knesset, he would task someone else with the role. "The second option is to inform the Knesset speaker that there is no possibility of forming a government, and there is no escaping a third election campaign," Rivlin said. In the event that neither scenario produces a government, he would task someone else who has the support of a majority of 61 lawmakers with the role.

7:44 A.M. Lieberman casts vote, says there will not be another election

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman voted in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim. "There will be no third election, whether there are 61 seats or not. We will need to find a proper arrangement. We will only support a broad liberal government. I will support no other government," he said.

7 A.M. Polls open

Some 10,885 polling stations opened nationwide, with 6,394,030 Israeli citizens eligible to vote.