Zionist Union's Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Zionist Union activists partied on Tuesday night as if it was 1999, when the Labor party led by Ehud Barak wrested the government from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Barak’s brief tenure in office, which lasted less then two years, marked the last time that Israel had a left wing government.
When the exit poll data was released just as the polls closed at 10 p.m. it showed the Zionist Union neck-in-neck with the Likud, at 27 mandates each. The preliminary vote tally of the other nine parties gave more mandates to the Left wing parties, then the right, and made it seem possible that the Zionist Union could form the next government.
“Bibi go home,” activists chanted as they stood at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds waiting for Zionist Union party head Isaac Herzog to appear.
Under the bright florescent lights of the sports arena where they gathered, they shouted out slogans like “We’re changing the government!” and “Upheaval.””
They interspersed the chanting with dancing, convinced that Herzog could be the next prime minister. Many of them wore blue party T-shirts with a white silhouette of Herzog’s face. Some of them waved Israeli flags and others the party flag.
When Herzog took the stage, just after midnight, he called the initial results a “remarkable achievement.”
“Since the elections of 1992 when Yitzhak Rabin [of the Labor party] was elected [prime minister], we have not achieved these kind of results,” Herzog said.
“I am very proud to be here with you today,” he added as activists applauded and chanted, “the Zionist Camp.”
“These results will allow us to return to the government, but we are waiting for the real results, because everything is based on exit polls, everything is open.”
He promised to create a government that would focus on socioeconomic issues, such as lack of housing and high prices. It would also seek peace with its neighbors.
“The public wants change," he said. “Israel deserves a political upheaval,” he added.
Herzog’s partner in leading the party, Tzipi Livni told the crowd, “Tonight I can look into my children’s eyes and say, I did everything for you,” Livni said.
“We fought together for your future, for the state where you live and where you will live,” Livni said.
“We will continue to fight. We will fight for the nation that we so love,” she said.
Herzog spent election day visiting voting stations, particularly in Tel Aviv and Modi’in. He also posted encouraging notes on his Facebook pages urging voters not to give way to apathy.
He himself voted at 8 a.m. near his Tel Aviv home
”Today is a celebration of democracy,” he said. “The election is about hope. Whoever wants despair and disappointment should vote Bibi, but those who want hope and change should vote for me,” he said. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report