The Yisrael Beytenu party was projected to win around four to five Knesset mandates according to exit polls on Tuesday night, closely skimming the electoral threshold.
"I am disappointed,” party leader Avigdor Liberman said after hours of silence from his campaign. “But we will respect the election results and the voter's decision." He also cautioned that “we need to wait for the real results,” as the final vote is often different from exit polls.
Liberman said that his party was still committed to its liberal right ideology, but that on the political path there are always ups and downs.
“I hope this election will bring political stability,” said Liberman.
Final polling prior to the election had estimated that Yisrael Beytenu would receive five or six seats.
The exit poll projections would present a serious decline for Liberman’s party, which claimed seven seats in the previous general election, and relished the role of kingmaker – ultimately placing the crown on then-New Right leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
The harbinger of haredi danger
Liberman and his party had spent much of the Election Day serving another role, that of harbinger of the dangers that would supposedly befall the country should Shas and United Torah Judaism enter the ruling coalition. Campaign messages repeatedly warned that Israel would become a state based on Halacha, Jewish religious law.
At a mid-day press conference in Tel Aviv in front of Sarona market restaurants that open on Shabbat, Liberman warned that “it’s important that these voices, of a liberal, free and tolerant State of Israel will continue to hear and continue to be heard. It’s important that everyone comes and votes. What needs to be understood, that in the alternative, the next coalition will come and close these places.”
Women would be excluded from public life if his opponents seized power, Liberman warned.
“The other question is where will the budgets go, will the money go to yeshivas or will the money go to hi-tech and IDF soldiers,” Liberman said after voting early in the morning. “The only party that does not twist and zigzag on this issue is Yisrael Beytenu.”
While the election was mostly without incident, Yisrael Beytenu had complained about harassment by activists from other parties. Likud supporters were accused of spitting on Yisrael Beytenu backers and tearing up signs in the morning. Liberman supporters circulated claims on social media that at a polling station had replaced Yisrael Beytenu ballot tickets with those belonging to the Likud.
Liberman has previously said that his party would not sit in a coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party.
“I want to thank all our activists," said Liberman after the closing of the polls, adding that his supporters had done the “maximum” the last few months to campaign.
Liberman said that he was proud of Yisrael Beytenu’s achievements with the previous ruling coalition in the finance and agricultural ministries.