Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Election Day, March 17, 2015.
(photo credit: screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog exchanged last minute criticisms on Tuesday with the clock ticking down to the closure of polling stations in elections for the 20th Knesset.
Herzog attacked Netanyahu, saying that the prime minister's "panic is embarrassing."
Netanyahu had tried to get out the right-wing vote earlier on Tuesday by warning that Arab voters
were going en masse to the polls. He later warned against voting for the Zionist Union, who he said was supported by the Joint Arab List.
Herzog said in response that "those who want a prime minister that cares about his citizens and doesn't incite or divide must stand up, go out and vote."
The Zionist Union leader put Netanyahu in the same camp as far-right activist Baruch Marzel, the number four candidate on the Yahad party's list.
"We don't want to suddenly find out tonight that we're getting an extremist government consisting of Netanyahu and Marzel that will tear Israel apart," he said.
MK Ahmed Tibi also took offense at Netanyahu's comments, accusing him of "inciting against Arab voters who are taking advantage of their natural and democratic right as citizens."
Likud sent an SMS to voters that "voting percentages tripled among the Arab population! The concern is coming true: The call by [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] and American money are bringing Arabs to the polls. Go vote!" The SMS included a link to a Channel 1 news report that Abbas encouraged Arab MKs to form one party and recommend Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog as prime minister.
Netanyahu held a press conference in Ashkelon on Tuesday evening, but the Central Elections Committee decided to bar its broadcast on radio and television on the grounds that it constitutes illegal electioneering on voting day.
The Likud reacted angrily to the decision, saying that "while Tzipi and Buji [Herzog] have interviewed on all the television stations all day long, the first that they decided to ban the broadcast of was the prime minister. They will not shut our mouths. The prime minister will put out his comments on the Internet."
Netanyahu again warned at the press conference of the dangers of a left-wing government supported by the Joint Arab List and said that Joint Arab List leader Ayman Oudeh had previously called to put Netanyahu behind bars because he protects Israel's citizens and soldiers.
"This is the same list that doesn't think that Hamas is a terrorist organization. This is the party that is supporting Herzog, that Herzog has made an agreement with. A left-wing government dependent on this list will make concessions on Jerusalem and the '67 borders," he said.Lahav Harkov and Dana Somberg contributed to this report.