Israeli Election Campaign Going Down to Wire

israel elections
Rafi Peretz, leader of the Jewish Home party, dance swith activists of the Union of Right-Wing Parties during a visit at the party’s situation room in , Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On the last day before Israelis go to the polls, Benny Gantz was predicting victory for his Blue and White party, while Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made last-minute appeals to not let that happen.

“We will replace the government because there is an urgent historical need,” Gantz said. “Netanyahu is running a desperate campaign in order to overcome his legal problems and we won’t let him.”

“People realize that they have to make us the largest party, we are half a meter away from victory but we still need two more mandates. We will win,” said Gantz, repeating his campaign mantra.

Assuming he does win, Gantz told Walla news he expects the Trump administration to delay the unveiling of its Middle East peace plan until he forms a government, adding that he hopes Netanyahu hasn’t been given details of the plan that he could exploit as campaign propaganda.

The prime minister has been trying to use Gantz’s optimistic rhetoric against him, warning Likud supporters that the danger of the center-left coming to power is real, amid polls giving the former IDF chief an edge over the PM.

“Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid know they are leading, every poll says so as well, and they blatantly say so! Everyone has to vote Likud, otherwise we would have a Left government,” PM Netanyahu wrote online Monday.

In Yerushalayim’s famous Machaneh Yehudah market, Netanyahu didn’t look like he was behind, as supporters crying out “Bibi, Bibi!” thronged the place, and Likud election banners were hanging in numerous shop stalls.

“It’s very late. Right now we have a gap of several mandates,” Netanyahu told the crowd as he stood on a stall. “Lapid and Gantz are leading us. The only way to close the gap is to ensure that the Likud will form the next government.”

“Some of our people are complacent… they say everything is fine, it’s in your pocket, but it’s not,” he said. “Right now, if every Likud supporter does not go out together with his family and friends, we will wake up with Yair Lapid as prime minister.”

According to the law, midday Monday was the last chance for polls to be published before Tuesday’s election. The final results put Blue and White ahead of Likud, but not by a gap too big too close.

Yediot Ahronot gave Blue & White 30 seats to Likud’s 26; Maariv/i24News predicted B&W 28 to Likud 27; the pro-Netanyahu Yisrael Hayom had B&W winning 32 seats to Likud’s 27; Channel 12 30/26. Only KAN forecast Likud as the victor, by the narrow margin of 31/30.

The average of the five polls gave Blue & White 30 seats and Likud 27; Labor 10; Hadash-Ta’al (7), United Torah Judaism (7), New Right (6), Meretz (5), United Right List (5), Zehut (5),& Shas (5), Kulanu (4), Yisrael Beytenu (4), and Ra’am Balad (4).

That could give Netanyahu’s Likud a majority of 63, enough to form a government. But that’s only counting Zehut, led by Moshe Feiglin, who has so far witheld his support for either Netanyahu or Gantz, and the ultimate outcome could hinge on his preference.

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