Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu began his Election Day with a vote and a
prayer – but that was not enough to save his list from losing 11
With wife, Sara, and his sons Yair and Avner in tow, Netanyahu
voted at the Paula Ben-Gurion School in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, with the
prime minister paraphrasing former Likud leader Menachem Begin’s call for it to
“rain Machal [Likud] voting slips” despite the sunny weather.
The Likud Beytenu campaign did not give specific numbers or locations as to where voter turnout was higher or lower, and sources within the party glared incredulously at The Jerusalem Post when asked if, perhaps, Netanyahu and Sa'ar's declarations were made in an attempt to encourage undecided voters to choose Machal.
Netanyahu moved on to the Western Wall.
“I come to the Kotel every
[election], to touch the rock of our existence, and I say a prayer for the
future of Israel and the future of our nation,” he said.
By the time the
polls closed at 10 p.m., Netanyahu needed to pray he wouldn’t lose his
The dozen or so mostly kippawearing activists chanting
“Hedad [Hooray for], Bibi!” and singing “The whole world is a narrow bridge”
could not cover up the bleak atmosphere at Likud Beytenu’s half-empty election
night headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Sa’ar, who led the party’s campaign, sweated as he addressed the press after
exit polls gave the joint list 31 seats.
“We have a long night ahead of
us, but all of the exit polls show clearly that the largest list is Likud and
the Right bloc has a clear majority, so the next prime minister will be Binyamin
Netanyahu,” Sa’ar said. “We will invite all Zionist parties to be part of a
broad government that can deal with the challenges ahead.”
the public that Likud Beytenu would continue to lead the country, and warned
against “elements on the Left” who would try to block Netanyahu from once again
becoming prime minister.
Meanwhile, the few politicians remaining in the
room – Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, MK Danny Danon, Deputy Minister
in the Prime Minister’s Office Gila Gamliel and former Kadima MK Tzachi Hanegbi
– spoke to the many members of the media, who outnumbered Likud Beytenu
Campaign officials tried to find ways to spin the results,
mostly laying blame on various religious Zionists and the far Right.
senior Likud Beytenu figure called the projected result a failure for Moshe
23 on the joint list and head of the Manhigut Yehudit
faction within the Likud, pointing out that he often said the Likud was not as
strong as it could be because it was not right-wing enough.
super right wing, and Feiglin will be in the Knesset, but his theory didn’t
prove itself,” the source said.
Likud central committee member Gidon
Ariel pointed to “confusing” messages from Netanyahu and the party’s campaign
that turned off settler and religious-Zionist voters, pushing them into the arms
of Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett.
Likud and Yisrael Beytenu’s
fall from a combined 42 Knesset seats to what exit polls say will be 31 was
nearly predicted by polls, which last week forecast a result of 32 to
As Election Day went on, though, Netanyahu, Sa’ar and others made it
clear they were concerned the downturn would continue, as high voter turnout
would help the Center- Left bloc.
“The Likud is in danger of losing
power. I ask that you drop everything and go out now to vote Machal,” the prime
minister pleaded on his Facebook page in the afternoon.
“This is very
important to ensure the future of the State of Israel.”
day, Netanyahu and other Likud ministers and MKs visited polling places around
the country, expressing concerns, as voter turnout rates went up, that their
supporters were not voting.
Netanyahu offered incentives to those voting,
posting on Facebook that those who write on the profile that they voted Likud
Beytenu may get a phone call from him. The prime minister, who occasionally
shows off his artistic skills on social media, also posted a hand-written note
calling to strengthen his party, together with a doodle of a Machal voting
Visiting campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv in the afternoon, when
turnout had already hit nearly 50 percent, the prime minister said everyone must
“go out and vote, and then return to the cafés,” before dashing off to a café in
Netanya to convince more voters.
“We are worried by the fact that areas
where the Left is strong have a higher turnout rate,” Sa’ar told reporters as
campaign headquarters buzzed with activity and volunteers called potential
Sa’ar explained that the campaign was “working to raise the
percentage of Likud Beytenu votes, so the result of the election will reflect
what the people want, and most people want Netanyahu and the national camp to
lead the government.”
Meanwhile, others in the party expressed careful
“It’s too early to know what the results will be,” Danon, ninth
on the parties’ joint list, said in the afternoon. “It was a weird campaign,
without a clear rival. That made it hard to wake up the
Shortly after Netanyahu stated the opposite, the Likud MK
said that, in the morning, voter turnout was low in Likud strongholds, but that
it went up by the afternoon.
“No matter what, the Right will win this
election,” Danon asserted. “I believe in activism in the field, and we have a
major presence [at polling places].”
Still, to be on the safe side, the
MK sent out an SMS to supporters taking advantage of the day off: “Dear friends,
after the picnics and barbecues with your family and friends, go vote. We need a
Another source at campaign headquarters predicted the
joint list would get 37 seats, adding, “Don’t worry.”
His prediction was
reinforced by Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, wife of Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, who
tweeted: “I just got a calming poll from a friend in the media: Likud 38
Both were proven wrong by the end of the night.
Speaker Reuven Rivlin took a statesmanlike stance when he voted near his home in
Jerusalem, saying that every vote counts.
“Unfortunately, the Israeli
public lost its faith in its ability to have an influence,” he said.
must remember that this is the most important day for a parliamentary
Today, the public determines who will represent it for the
next four years and who will influence its fate.
“No citizen has the
privilege of avoiding voting,” Rivlin said.