Live-blogging Israeli Election Day 2015

Ben Sales

JTA Israel correspondent Ben Sales will be live-blogging Israel’s 2015 vote, from when polls open at 7 a.m. to when balloting ends at 10:00 p.m. Get all the updates here and on his Twitter feed, @benjaminsales. All times noted are local Israel time.

1:52 p.m. This chart from Ynet charts turnout in every election since 1973. So far, this election seems most similar in terms of turnout rates to 1992, when 14 percent voted by 10 a.m., and 27.5 percent by noon. Labor won that election.

turnout chart

1:40 p.m. As of noon, turnout is at 26.5 percent, close to the figure at that hour in 2013, when Netanyahu won. Total turnout in 2013 was 67.7 percent.

1:20 p.m. Controversy is brewing around a Likud statement that “Right-wing rule is in danger. Arab voters are going to the polling stations in droves.” The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov tweets that in response, the Joint List will stop reporting Arab turnout numbers so as not to draw right-wing voters in response.

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Arab-Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi tweets in response that Netanyahu is scared, and calls on Arab voters to go to the polls to further cause him panic. “Change is at the door,” he writes.

12:45 p.m. Israelis are flocking to the polls, and flocking to the parks. Election Day is a day off for most Israelis, so, according to Israeli news site Walla, tens of thousands of Israelis are visiting national parks and nature preserves.

12:40 p.m. Netanyahu has beaten Herzog… on Wikipedia. According to the Times of Israel, 53,630 have visited the Hebrew Wikipedia entry for the prime minister, versus 43,663 visits for his challenger’s page.

12:05 p.m. According to Times of Israel, quoting Israel Radio, Kachlon said he won’t recommend a prime minister “without sensitivity or compassion that for years did not listen to the public,  and the cost of housing has only risen more and more.” This is a jab at Netanyahu, who saw housing prices skyrocket during his term.

The statement comes after Likud used a recording of Kachlon for its campaign, and it could have huge implications. Kachlon hasn’t yet said whom he’d support for prime minister, and he’s expected to be the kingmaker between Netanyahu and Herzog.

11:54 a.m. Some of the most bizarre election graffiti out there. This says “Only Mashiach (messiah) saves the situation,” above pictures of party leaders atop plungers, with bleeding hearts. Spotted on Jerusalem’s central Jaffa St.

weird election graffiti

11:49 a.m. Likud has been fined about $5,000 for campaigning using a recording of Kulanu chair Moshe Kachlon praising Likud lawmakers, according to Israeli reports. Kachlon’s words were recorded when he was still a member of Likud.

11:45 a.m. Voting in Haifa, Arab-Israeli Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh says he’s excited “to become part of the history and turning point that will significantly change the reality of life of Arab and other citizens of the country,” according to the Times of Israel. Odeh has emphasized fighting discrimination and improving quality of life for Arab Israelis, and his party is expected to come in third today, behind Zionist Union and Likud.

11:30 a.m. According to Israeli reports, as of 10 a.m., voter turnout is 13.7 percent — the highest at that hour since 1999, when Labor unseated a Netanyahu government. Historically, high turnout has been good news for the left. And according to reporter Meirav Zonszein, as of 11:30 Arab voter turnout was at 10 percent, as opposed to 3 percent in 2013.

9:45 a.m. In Al Monitor, veteral Israeli journalist Ben Caspit writes that according to internal polls, Likud has erased the four-seat lead Zionist Union had in polls just a few days ago. Looks like Netanyahu’s interview circuit may have helped.

9:27 a.m. Michael Oren, who could be the only lawmaker born and raised in the U.S. to serve in the next Knesset, casts his ballot, presumably for his party, the centrist Kulanu. Here’s our profile of Oren from the campaign.

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9:10 a.m. Party leaders cast their votes. Here’s what they had to say about what they want the next government to look like, according to Haaretz:

Netanyahu pledges to form “a government led by the nationalist camp. There will be no unity government with the left led by Labor.”

Herzog: “Those who want to continue on Bibi’s path of disappointment should vote for him, those who want change should vote for the Zionist Union.”

Yair Lapid, chair of Yesh Atid: “We are here hoping that at the end of the day, we won’t have a government of Bibi, Bougie and the Haredim, that will sell out all of Israel’s assets.” (Bibi and Bougie are Netanyahu and Herzog’s nicknames, respectively.)

Naftali Bennett, chair of Jewish Home: ” This is the day for those who love the land of Israel, this is the day for those who love our flag, this is the day for those who love our country, this is our day. Today, Israel lifts its head.”

Moshe Kachlon, chair of the centrist Kulanu party: “Today is the first time that I’m not voting Likud, but I’m doing it with a whole heart. We feel great, we reached our peak at the right time, and I’m sure the results will surprise everyone.”

9:00 a.m. In honor of the elections, Google has a special doodle for Israel.

Screenshot 2015-03-17 at 09.00.42

8:34 a.m These guys have been at this central Tel Aviv intersection for the past week or so, trying to get out the center-left vote for an organization called V15, which wants to unseat Netanyahu. Today is crunch time for them.

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8:15 a.m. Outside my polling place, there are signs and volunteers for Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and Meretz, all on the center-left side of the political map. Here’s what an Israeli ballot looks like, with all of the possible parties.

ballot campaign signs

7:25 a.m. Here’s a quick review of where we are: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is trailing its center-left challenger, the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog. But in total, the left- and right-wing parties are polling neck-and-neck with each other, making the election too close to call. The Arab-Israeli Joint List is expected to come in third, with the centrist Yesh Atid and religious Zionist, pro-settler Jewish Home following.

7:00 a.m. Polls open! 5,881,696 Israelis can vote today at more than 10,000 polling locations across the country. About 3.9 to 4.7 million voters are expected to cast ballots — a voter turnout of anywhere from 67 to 80 percent. In 2013, it was 67.7 percent.

6:50 a.m. Happy Israeli Election Day! JTA Israel correspondent Ben Sales will be live-blogging Israel’s 2015 vote, from when polls open at 7 a.m. to when balloting ends at 10:00 p.m. Get all the updates here and on his Twitter feed, @benjaminsales.