Israelis will be heading to the polls on Tuesday to cast their vote in the national election that is widely seen as a referendum on incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu.
As the parties scramble to rally last-minute voters, the final poll before the election, published Friday, gave the right-wing bloc a solid lead over the center left, headed by Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party.
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 21
10:40 P.M.: Netanyahu visits the Western Wall
Eight hours before voting opens, Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall, praying and placing a note in its stones.
9:30 P.M.: Netanyahu releases campaign video calling Yitzhak Rabin more rightist than Kahane
- Netanyahu vs. Gantz: Your Comprehensive Guide to the 2019 Israel Election
- The Known Knowns, Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns That Could Decide Israel's Election
- With Gantz as Election Rival, Netanyahu Competes Against an Old Version of Himself
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a campaign video imploring voters not to repeat the mistake made in 1992, "when they also brought a general, a respectable one, Yitzhak Rabin, who spoke to the right of Kahane," referring to the racist U.S.-born rabbi whose followers now lead the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, a part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties.
Netanyahu goes on to say Rabin formed a left-wing party which brought about Oslo and "the vilest killers into the country, they brought them into Judea and Samaria and we got a disaster."
8:45 P.M.: Likud party internal server is extremely vulnerable to breaches, researcher reveals
The Likud party’s internal server is accessible to anyone on the internet, meaning that the personal data of its over 100,000 members is vulnerable, a security researcher revealed on Monday.
Noam Rotem, who first revealed the breach on the Cybercyber podcast, told Haaretz that the server isn’t even password-protected.
Rotem showed Haaretz an Excel file listing 119,000 Likud members along with their ID numbers, home addresses, home and work phone numbers and other information, like their level of support for the party. Other files discussed activists’ level of support, how many voters they could bring to the polls and other details of the party’s campaign.
This latest breach comes just two months after Ran Bar-Zik, a software developer, researcher and Haaretz writer, revealed that the system Likud used to run its February primary was also completely exposed to the web due to a trivial problem: Its IP address had been widely disseminated and wasn’t secured by a password.
That system was used to conduct the second count of the primary votes. Bar-Zik discovered that anyone with access to the IP address could have altered the numbers, and thereby affected the outcome of the primary.
Ido Kenan of the Podcasti site asked a Likud spokesperson for comment, but no answer has yet been received.
8:29 P.M.: Gantz sounds alarm over report of secret deal promising senior portfolios to far-right
Kahol Lavan co-leader Benny Gantz expresses outrage over Channel 12 News' report of tapes in which Bezalel Smotrich says Netanyahu promised senior portfolios to the Union of Right-Wing Parties. "The tapes of Smotrich are appalling and dangerous," Gantz says. "Every Israeli citizen should ask himself if he is prepared for his children's education to be in the hands of racist Kahanists leading an agenda of internal hatred. Smotrich's announcement of a secret deal with Netanyahu to get the Education, Justice and Public Security Ministries is a direct threat to the rule of democracy, and brings us to the brink of a dark and dangerous era. Anyone voting for Netanyahu is in effect voting for Smotrich and Ben Gvir."
8:10 P.M.: Far-right settler leader says Netanyahu offered education, justice portfolios
Bezalel Smotrich, chairman of National Union and second on the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties alliance, says that Netanyahu has agreed to give the education and justice portfolios to members of the slate, despite the prime minister's denials, according to Channel 12 News. "I suggest not being alarmed by Netanyahu's denials, to each his own campaign considerations, it's perfectly fine," Channel 12 News quoted Smotrich as saying in a recording of a closed-door meeting.
Likud denies the claim, saying: "This is a total lie. The education portfolio will remain with Likud."
7:40 P.M.: Bernie Sanders says he hopes Netanyahu loses
"When election time comes in Israel, he always tries going even further to the right by appealing to racism within Israel, I think it's unfortunate," Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tells NBC News. "I'm not a great fan of his, and, frankly, I hope he loses his election."
7:12 P.M.: How the electoral threshold affects the Israeli government
The electoral threshold is designed to prevent small parties from being represented in the parliament. In other words, a party must win a minimal percentage of the votes to gain a parliamentary seat. The electoral threshold has increased four times over the years and never declined. In the 1990s it rose to 1.5 percent, preventing the election of a one-person faction. Since 2015 it has been 3.25 percent. Because of the threshold, some of the slates joined other lists to decrease the chances of remaining outside. In the present election, fear of the threshold led Prime Minister Netanyahu to convince Habayit Hayehudi and the National Union to run with the far-right Otzma Yehudit.
7:09 P.M.: Former PM Barak endorses Labor
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak says he will vote for the Labor Party, "the only one who is sounding a clear diplomatic and social voice, and it has an impressive team." Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay urges voters to listen to Barak, "the man who led dozens of operations behind enemy lines, who defeated Netnayahu 20 years ago, and who made one of the most important decisions of the last few decades when he removed the Israel Defense Forces from Lebanon."
6:05 P.M.: Netanyahu's party petitions against transport for Bedouin to polling station
Likud has stepped in to fight a battle picked by the right-wing Im Tirtzu NGO against a left-wing group that’s trying to help Bedouin get out the vote. According to a post by Prime Minister Netanyahu on his Facebook page, Likud submitted a request to the Central Elections Committee to join the petition of Im Tirtzu against what the latter claims is an illegal request by the Zazim grassroots organization to transport Bedouin citizens to polling stations. Likud became involved after it transpired that Im Tirtzu was not legally permitted to submit such a petition because it is not a political party. Full story here...
5:16 P.M. Gantz: 'Historic need to change the government'
Kahol Lavan co-leader Benny Gantz said in a final statement to the media before the election: "There is a historic need to change the government. Bibi launched a huge 'oy gevalt' campaign to stay in power despite the indictments, but we will not give him that. [Labor Party Chairman Avi] Gabbay needs to understand that the only way not to block a revolution is to make us the largest [party]."
5:10 P.M. Netanyahu campaigns at Jerusalem market
Prime Minister Netanyahu took his campaign to Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market as he continued making the final case for his re-election. "Some of our people are complacent," the prime minister warned. "They believe the media, which is trying to put them to sleep," he said, telling those present that the media was trying to give Likud supporters a false sense of security so they do not go to the polls.
4:53 P.M.: 'Death to Arabs' painted on Arab slates' campaign banners
Banners for the two Arab-led slates, Hadash-Ta'al and United Arab List-Balad, have been found vandalized with the words "death to Arabs" at the Nazareth bypass.
4:38 P.M.: Chat bot on Netanyahu's Facebook page sending out phone numbers for supporters to call
The chat bot on Prime Minister Netanyahu's Facebook page has been messaging users who have expressed support for Likud in prior conversations, with its automatic reply system sending phone numbers and urging users to call them and convince them to vote for Likud.
4:16 P.M.: Zehut campaign brochures distributed in synagogues attack National Insurance Institute for assisting Arab community
The ultra-nationalist, religious Zehut party has been distributing brochures in synagogues that attack the National Insurance Institute's assistance to the Arab community. The brochures, which Zehut confirmed were made by the party, quotes Chairman Moshe Feiglin as saying: "Why are half of the National Insurtance Institute's expenses directed to the community responsible for the majority of murder case [sic], the deadly accidents, the vehicle thefts, the agricultural thefts, and the illegal construction?" The quote is taken from Feiglin's book "The End of Normalcy," published last year.
3:15 P.M.: Elections Committee fines Likud over text messages with fake polls
The Central Elections Committee has ordered Likud to pay a 7,500-shekel fine to the Gesher party. Gesher had demanded Likud be punished for sending out text messages with fake polls, which excluded Gesher from unidentified numbers in violation of election rules.
3:09 P.M.: Arab parties campaign to fight 'dejection and despair' among their voters
Despite previous polls to the contrary, Israel's Arab parties are now hopeful for a good turnout. While previous surveys predicted that less than half of the community will vote, the latest polls carried out by the parties are more optimistic.
1:46 P.M.: Netanyahu's wife calls journalists 'leftists,' tells them to cover rival Ayelet Sheked's 'bedroom'
The prime minister's wife yelled at journalists from the right-leaning, religious news site Srugim, calling them "leftists" and telling them to "write about the bedrooms" of Hayamin Hehadash co-chairs Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked ran Netanyahu's bureau from 2006 to 2008.
"You work with [Naftali] Bennett and Shaked," she told the reporters. "Why don't you write about their bedrooms?"
12:46 P.M.: Feiglin foot massage video makes it to PornHub
Far-right Zehut Chairman Moshe Feiglin's appearance on mock interview show "Kablan Kolot," aired on Israeli news website Ynet, has made waves not only on Israeli social media, but also making it to pornography website PornHub.
Its host, flamboyant comedian Dudu Bauchner, essentially tries to make his politician guests laugh, or better embarrassed.
With Feiglin, it seems Bauchner's job was easy enough. Sipping whiskey, they both willingly slapped each other's feet, gave alcohol-infused foot massages - the interviewer even bit Feiglin's feet, only to finish off with an intimate slow dance.
10:30 A.M.: Benny Gantz to give final pre-election speech
The Kahol Lavan leader and prime ministerial hopeful is expected to give his final speech before the election at 4 P.M. Israel time.
8:37 A.M.: Feiglin ready to talk with both Netanyahu and Gantz
Far-right Zehut Chairman Moshe Feiglin, who is predicted 5-7 Knesset seats in recent polls, told Kan Bet public radio he’d been approached by both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. “We’ll talk to both sides and decide,” he said. “Once we understand the reality created by the Israeli voter, we’ll sit with both sides and decide.”
8:36 A.M.: Far-right slate warns of 'left-wing government if Likud gets too big'
Rafi Peretz, chairman of the Union of Right-Wing Parties told Kan Bet public radio that “if Likud is gets too big, we risk a left-wing government,” urging voters to support smaller right-wing parties.
8:35 A.M.: Labor 'trying to steal votes from us,' Lapid says
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, now co-leader of the Kahol Lavan alliance, told Kan Bet public radio “the fight is about which party will be the biggest. That’s what we have to focus on, because that’s what will decide the election.”
Lapid also said he has no intention of backing off from his rotation agreement with Benny Gantz for prime minister, arguing it has no effect on public support, despite opinion polls suggesting most Israelis would like ot see the agreement annuled. “It’s a spin Labor Party has invented, because [Chairman Avi] Gabbay is trying to steal votes from us,” Lapid said.
5 A.M.: Women's rights party in final campaign push, despite poor poll showings
Orli Levi-Abekasis, formerly a member of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and now at the head of her new Gesher party, is convinced she will make it into Knesset after April 9, despite poor showings in public opinion polls, which predict she is several thousand votes short of the 3.25-percent electoral threshold.
As party activists try to persuade voters, party sources say internal polls predict it seven out of 120 Knesset seats. In a final campaign push, the party showcased Levi-Abekasis’ achievements in parliament over the past decade, in a video focusing on healthcare and other social issues.
4:33 A.M.: Gabbay says Gantz stutters on West Bank annexation
Looking to sway the left-wing vote, Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
“Netanyahu said if he wins he’s going to take Israel on the most dangerous adventure in its history,” Gabbay told a press conference, arguing the entire opposition “was expecting to hear clear-cut statements from Kahol Lavan … Instead, we’ve heard Kahol Lavan chairman saying something like ‘annexation is not a matter of for or against.’ Do you want to be a second Likud or an alternative? Have you given in to the wanton vision of Netanyahu and [far-right leader Bezalel] Smotrich?,” Gabbay said.
>> Top six op-eds on Israel's elections ■ Netanyahu? Gantz? Who Would American Jews Vote for in Israel’s Elections? | Jonathan S. Tobin ■ Annexing the West Bank: Why We Must Take Netanyahu's Pre-election Stunt Seriously | Victor Kattan ■ Non-Jews Are About to Lose the Right to Vote in Israel | Samuel Heilman
3 A.M.: Netanyahu convenes emergency meeting of Likud ministers
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Likud ministers for an emergency meeting in his Jerusalem residence, urging them to do more to ensure the party has the upper hand in Tuesday's election.
"It's not clear at all that we have 61" Knesset seats to form a governing coalition, Netanyahu told ministers, referring to his party's seats put together with those of other right-wing parties, according to recent public opinion polls.
11:15 P.M.: Netanyahu asks settler leaders to only support Likud
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Sunday with several dozen local municipality heads associated with the right in an attempt to convince them to support his party.
According to sources who attended the meetup, Netanyahu claimed he fears that his regime is in danger and tried to dissuade them from supporting other right-wing parties, in particular far-right Moshe Feiglin's Zehut.
Efrat local council head Oded Ravivi, a Likud member considered high-up in the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements, said that Netanyahu told the council heads that he fears losing the election: "We learned from the prime minister that he thinks there is currently no bloc, despite the media's attempts to draw a different picture. The prime minister does not trust Feiglin and as long as he doesn't declare that he is part of a right-wing bloc, we cannot consider him as such," Ravivi said.
Another source who attended the meeting said that Netanyahu's central goal was to cause those affiliated with the settler right to support the Likud. According to the source, Netanyahu did not directly refer to his statements on annexing the West Bank.
10:57 P.M.: Gantz invokes “Pretty Woman” to thank party activists
Benny Gantz told a party convention in Tel Aviv: “Netanyahu is panicking. We’ll be the biggest government, the president will call us,” asking Kahol Lavan to lead the next government, “and we’ll take it from there.”
However, Gantz raised some eyebrows when thanking his supporters. “In the movie ‘Pretty Woman,’ which is worth watching, they go out to dinner and right after stepping out of the elevator he tells his girlfriend: If by the end of the evening I forget to thank you, because I’ve had a great time, I’m doing it now. Thank you for all you’ve done.”
30 years on, assuming Gantz is Richard Gere as the acclaimed businessman in the movie - hardly befitting of the MeToo era - does that make Kahol Lavan activists Julia Roberts as an escort? One of the candidates on his slate pushed back: “Was that the best example he could find, of a man and a prostitute?”
10:40 P.M.: Former Likud minister, ex-military chief, ex-Likud minister back Gantz
Former military chief and defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who started his political path with Likud only to later join former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Kadima and quit politics before the 2015 election, publicly endorsed the Kahol Lavan slate at a party event in Tel Aviv.
Mofaz was joined by former senior military officials Amos Yadlin and Avi Mizrahi, but the most surprising high-profile supporter must have been former Justice Minister Dan Meridor, longtime Likud member. “I struggle with what is happening to my movement,” he said, blasting Netanyahu’s attack against the justice system and other state institutions. “Where have we got to? … The prime minister must set a moral example.”
7:04 P.M.: Israeli army soldiers begin casting votes
Israeli army soldiers have begun casting their votes in 640 ballot boxes across Israel. 130 of the ballot boxes will be mobile ones placed in remote army outposts (Yaniv Kubovich)
4:34 P.M.: LISTEN: Netanyahu's only ideology is staying in power
With just hours to go before voting begins in one of the most the closest, bitterest and most contentious elections in recent Israeli history, host Simon Spungin is joined by Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn and columnist Anshel Pfeffer. They try to answer one question: Is there nothing that Bibi won't do, say or promise to remain in power?
2:17 P.M.: Netanyhau tells LGBTQ leaders Likud would keep education portfolio
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told representatives of Israeli LGBTQ organizations that the education portfolio would remain in Likud's hands and not be handed over to one of its potential conservative coalition partners. Netanyahu said before he would appoint an education minister from his own party, but in February told far-right Habayit Hayehudi they would get the education and housing portfolios if they unite with Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit, which they did.
His wife, Sara, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel and Likud lawmakers Amir Ohana, who is openly gay, and Yoav Kish, also attended Sunday's meeting. Heads of the organizations represented in the meeting said in a statement that Netanyahu refused to commit to promoting equal rights as a precondition for any potential coalition government, but told them he is personally committed to LGBTQ rights.
Netanyahu's last meeting with LGBTQ representatives was in 2009, after a deadly shooting at a Tel Aviv LGBTQ youth center.
1:59 P.M.: Palestinian foreign minister issues warning over Netanyahu's West Bank annexation promise
Riad Malki said Israel's leader will face a "real problem" if he follows through with his election campaign promise to annex Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Malki added that the Palestinians would resist such a policy if carried out.
11:32 A.M.: Netanyahu is competing against an old version of himself, writes Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn
Benn adds: "The fact that the right rose to power 42 years ago and that Netanyahu has ruled for a decade doesn't stop them from arguing the real power remains in the hands of their political opponents."
9:11 A.M.: Netanyahu says he will begin annexing West Bank if he wins Israel election
Netanyahu told Channel 12 that he will not "evacuate any community" nor divide Jerusalem: "A Palestinian state will endanger our existence," he said.
6:32 A.M.: With days before election, Netanyahu hits the panic button, writes Anshel Pfeffer.
"We’ve seen it all before in 2015. But will a last-minute 'The Arab voters are moving in droves' strategy be as effective for Netanyahu in 2019?" he asks.
WATCH: Lawmaker Ahmad Tibi says Netanyahu killed the two-state solution