Election Day is a day off work for many people in Israel, including those who were out enjoying the day with friends and family in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market. Despite the relaxed atmosphere, the election was weighing on people’s minds.
Specifically, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was on people’s minds.
A white SUV flying Israeli and Likud flags from the roof made the rounds through the market, with portraits of Netanyahu posing in front of an Israeli flag plastered to the doors and hood.
When the car parked and the music cut off, a man holding a bullhorn climbed out of the driver’s seat. Before long, he was off, championing Netanyahu through the horn as he marched up and down the street.
He was not alone in his pro-Bibi fervor.
“I love him,” said one man in a mix of Hebrew and broken English. “He’s a good guy. I’m 60. For 15 years… only Likud.”
Another woman of a similar age echoed the message.
“He’s a special man,” she said affectionately, listing his virtues, including his years of experience as prime minister. “The Arabs are afraid of him,” she added.
Asked about the corruption charges Netanyahu is currently facing, she said she could forgive everything for how good of a man and prime minister he was.
“What did he do, drink champagne?” she asked.
This woman was not alone in feeling that the charges facing the Likud chairman are a waste of time.
The charges are “nonsense,” said one American tourist walking with his wife. He said he did not care if Netanyahu had accepted some champagne and cigars over the course of 10 years as prime minister.
When asked what, for Israel, his three biggest issues were, he responded succinctly: “Security. Security. Security.”
Other Netanyahu voters had much more tepid support for the right-wing politician.
Two men who were asked why they were voting for Bibi, responded in Hebrew, saying, “Everyone is sh**.”
Many others at Mahaneh Yehuda, however, had different ideas about whom to vote for.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich also had supporters on the street at Mahaneh Yehuda. There was also a strong contingent who declined to disclose who they voted for.
Despite a variety of party affiliations, market-goers shared collective concerns on broad issues. Regardless of who they were voting for, people emphasized national security and the economy as their biggest issues.
These two were followed by maintaining Israel as a Jewish state, housing costs and healthcare.
Strong differences in opinion
The Likud supporter with the bullhorn got into a loud argument with a Lapid supporter, which subsequently drew the attention of other passers-by. As the man with the bullhorn parroted the de-facto Likud slogan, “Rak Bibi” (only Bibi), a trio of religious youth shouted back, “Rak [Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar] Ben-Gvir” (only Ben-Gvir).