Even though there had been several media announcements that President Shimon
Peres would vote at the Jerusalem School for the Arts, which is where presidents
of Israel traditionally vote, regardless of where they have their private homes,
his name was listed for the Beit Hinuch polling station on the capital’s Kaf Tet
B’November Street, where voting booths had been set up in
There was great excitement in the mistaken belief that the
president would cast his vote at this particular school.
when it was learned that he had voted elsewhere was palpable.
is arguably closer to the president’s official residence than the School of the
Arts, but in his case, tradition is tradition.
Quite a few changes were
made this year with regard to where residents of the Rehavia, Talbiyeh, Kiryat
Shmuel and German Colony neighborhoods vote.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and his family, for instance, voted at the Paula Ben-Gurion School,
which is closer to both his private residence and to his office than it is to
his official residence. His neighbors on Smolenskin Street and Balfour Road, who
used to vote next door to the Prime Minister’s (official) Residence at what was
once the Rubin Music Academy and later a branch of the Shuvu network of
religious schools for boys with little or no background in Jewish observance,
located in what was originally the Schocken House, were assigned for the first
time in decades to far less conveniently located polling stations.
school closed down more than a year ago, and the building now belongs to a
private property developer, whose plans for building a high rise in its stead
are being hampered.
In other polling stations in the radius of the four
above mentioned neighborhoods, Jerusalemites were complaining that they used to
go somewhere else to vote and couldn’t understand why they had been
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who voted at the same
polling station as Peres, was not a happy camper. Neeman, accompanied by his
bodyguard, arrived at the polling station promptly at 7 a.m.
discover that it had not yet been set up and that the personnel listed to be on
duty had not yet arrived. It took 40 minutes before he was able to cast his
ballot. Other voters who had also arrived early at the polling station began to
lose patience because the pace was so slow. Some people standing in line said
that they didn’t get up early just to waste time, and were on the verge of
leaving when the pace began to pick up.
Meanwhile, local and foreign
media representatives, mostly television crews and stills photographers, were
converging on the classroom in which the president was scheduled to cast his
vote at 8.30 a.m. They jostled for space in the narrow confines of the room to
get a good angle of the country’s No. 1 citizen performing his civic
A Chinese photographer who had arrived early refused to yield space
to an Israeli television cameraman and ignored the politely phrased requests of
personnel from the President’s Spokesman’s Office. An ugly exchange erupted
between the Chinese photographer and the Israeli cameraman, with the latter
declaring angrily: “You are not the boss here!” By the time Peres arrived, the
media squeeze had become almost unbearable.
The president shook hands
with the three people manning the polling station, asked them if it had opened
on time and whether everything had gone without a hitch, and received an
affirmative reply on all counts, even though it wasn’t exactly
After greeting the media, he presented his ID card to the people in
charge so that his identity could be verified, was given an envelope and went
behind the screen to select a party ballot slip to place in his
When he emerged he posed for the cameras, holding the envelope
over the slot in the ballot box until photographers gave him the green light to
Peres then addressed the media in Hebrew and English saying
that he wanted to wish all the candidates well, and that he wanted to once more
ask all citizens to vote. “It’s a holiday, but it’s a day of freedom to vote,”
he said, emphasizing that Israel is a free, democratic and strong country. He
didn’t know of any state more democratic than Israel, he said. In its almost 65
years of sovereignty, Israel had been embroiled in seven wars, but had never
lost sight of freedom, he asserted.
“We were forced to fight but
continued to build. We are a unique country forced to face challenges and
dangers, but we have never given up on freedom.
Neither war nor troubles
can overcome freedom,” said Peres, adding “I call upon citizens to come and vote
Peres had taken a little longer than necessary behind the
screen, which prompted one of the journalists to ask if he had hesitated about
where to cast his vote. “Everyone may hesitate over which party to vote for, but
not whether to vote,” Peres replied.
When another journalist asked him
about allegations that he had intervened in the election campaign, Peres made no
attempt at denial. “Of course I intervened,” he said.
“I voted. Doesn’t
that constitute intervening?” Reporters wanted to ask him more questions but his
spokespeople instantly muzzled them.
How Peres voted is anyone’s
Peres was leader of the Labor Party before being defeated by Amir
Peretz in the Labor primary in November 2005. Soon after, Peres quit Labor and
joined Kadima, six days after the party had officially been registered, and was
a minister in the Kadima-led administration..
On Election Day, he chose
to ignore a question as to whether he had voted Labor or Kadima.