This is a live post and will be updated periodically. You’ll find most recent updates up top with older news beneath.

Despite earlier exit polls showing a narrow victory for the Gantz/Lapid-led Blue and White list, later exit polls show a narrow victory for Likud, making it more likely that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be asked to form the next Israeli government. It would be his fourth consecutive electoral win and fifth overall. It would also make it likely that Netanyahu would emerge as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister later this year.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

Netanyahu claimed victory, because his Right-Center bloc won handily over Gantz’s Center-Left bloc in polls broadcast on Channel 13 and KAN, 66 to 54 and 64 to 56, respectively. In Channel 12’s poll, the blocs were even at 60 seats.

“The right-wing bloc led by Likud clearly won,” Netanyahu said. “I thank Israeli citizens for their trust. I will begin forming a right-wing government with our natural partners already tonight.”

However, challenger Benny Gantz, basing himself on earlier polls also declared victory:

“We won!” Gantz and his number two Yair Lapid said in a joint statement. “The Israeli public has had their say! Thank you to the thousands of activists and over a million voters. These elections have a clear winner and a clear loser. Netanyahu promised 40 seats and lost. The president can see the picture and should call on the winner to form the next government. There is no other option!”

Shas, United Torah Judaism, Kulanu, and the Union of Right-Wing Parties all announced that they would recommend Netanyahu for prime minister when the parties who will be represented in the next Knesset meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to determine who will form the next government. The Labor Party and Meretz will recommend Gantz.

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7:00 PM EDT

A couple of Israeli channels are projecting seats based on sampling vote counts so far and both have found Likud now with a slight advantage over Blue and White.

Channels 12 and 13 are both projecting Likud to get 35 seats to Blue and White’s 34.

In addition, Moshe Kahlon, who leads the Kulanu party that broke off from Likud, has now said that he will support Netanyahu for Prime Minister. (After the votes are tallied, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin will summon all the parties to discuss the results of the vote and will ask each party which candidate it will support for prime minister. If any party leader gets more than 60 recommendations, Rivlin will choose him to get first crack at forming the new government.)

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5:00 PM EDT

Counting of the ballots is taking place here.

i24 news anchor Eylon Levy is tracking the results in English. His most recent tally (4:44 PM EDT) is here.

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3:00 PM EDT

Initial exit polls indicate a narrow Blue and White victory over Likud 37 – 36. Labour and Shas have 7 each. The New Right Party of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked surprisingly may not have made the threshhold of 4 seats.

Here are the three major exit polls.

The JNS analysts are pointing out that the exit polls may not take into account the last two hours of voting and that the army votes — which trends to the right — are not taken into account in the exit polling.

The consensus is that Netanyahu has the clearer path to the premiership. There also is some talk about a national unity government between Blue and White and Likud. That would result in a national unity government and (I think) possibly a rotating premiership.


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Here’s the JNS live feed that discussed the election.

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2:59 PM EDT

Is this a surprise, Gantz said that Blue and White is set to make history and Likud says that the rumors right now are “not good.”

2:55 PM EDT

With five minutes to go, here’s a tease.

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2:00 PM EDT

With one hour to go before we will get the results of the exit polls. Stay tuned, we plan to have them as soon as they’re broadcast at 3 PM.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz went home and intends to go to the Blue and White election watching event later tonight.

It was a big day for Gantz, not just because it was his first political campaign, but because on his way back from voting, he was the first on the scene of a motorcycle accident.

Something you might not have expected to see.

I received a question in the comments on the status of the investigation against Netanyahu. The announcement at the end of February of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that he intended to indict the prime minister on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust has raised the question of Netanyahu’s ability to govern, even if he wins today’s election.

In short, the announcement is not an indictment. And the decision to indict Netanyahu could take a year. The next step in the process is a meeting between Netanyahu, his lawyers, and Mandelblit, where the prime minister’s team will make the case not to indict. It should take place in the next couple of months.

Although there was some speculation that the announcement would hurt Netanyahu and Likud, they still remain one of the biggest two parties competing today.

As far as the nature of the charges, this report by Raphael Ahrens outlines the charges in one of the cases. Law professor, Avi Bell, questioned Mandelblit’s decision to go forward.

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12:30 PM EDT

Who votes in Israeli elections?

And even a bride on her wedding day.

The only thing that seems certain right now is that Arab turnout is lower than we’ve seen in some time, and now mosques in Arab towns are calling on residents to go out and vote. (Still about two and a half hours to go.)

The Likud is making its post-vote plans for the Kvutzat Shlomo hall in Tel Aviv. The party was postponed from 8 PM to 11 PM due to the supposed low voter turnout. Netanyahu is not expected to attend unless Likud wins.

Yair Lapid, number two on the Blue and White list, is telling people that the polling between his party and Likud is close, and that they should go out and vote.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that “our hands remain extended in peace.” How he intends to make good on that sentiment, since he’s also insisting that he will have nothing to do with the Trump peace plan remains unclear.

In response to a question in the comments, may I recommend yesterday’s post on the election?

If you want a quick sense of the major parties and their platforms, read the overview provided by Lori Lowenthal Marcus. Or check out the more comprehensive analysis by Haviv Rettig Gur at Mosaic Magazine.
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10:30 AM EDT

The Times of Israel is reporting that a couple of pollsters found that voting in the Arab community is the lowest it’s been in decades. Exit polls cannot be reported until 10 PM in Israel (3 EDT), when the polls close.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the beach in Netanya to tell swimmers to get out of the water and vote.

Later, he was reported to have returned to Jerusalem to hold an “emergency” meeting with party leaders. The Times of Israel, though, later noted that this may be more of an attempt to galvanize the base, as other parties are doing, than a sign of panic.

A couple of tweets showing how easy Israel makes it to vote.

And Linda Sarsour uses the Israeli election to spread vile and false anti-Israel propaganda.

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9:00 AM EDT
How it went down four years ago.

How will it go down this year? If Israel’s former state archivist Yaacov Lozowick is reading body language correctly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is headed for defeat.

According to Israeli law, advertising and polling are banned a few days before the election, so the final polls of last week are it.

The final poll conducted by i24 NEWS shows the Blue and White coalition (headed by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid) leading Netanyahu’s Likud by 32 to 27. But the smaller parties of the Right would potentially allow Netanyahu to form a coalition of 64. But that assumes that the polling is accurate: and we can’t know if it was correct last week for certain, and the dynamics could have changed in subsequent days.

After the votes are tallied Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, will ask the leader of the party deemed to have the best chance to form a government to attempt to put together a coalition. A number of parties are near the minimum cutoff — a party needs to attain four seats to make it to the Knesset — so if any fail to meet the cutoff, it could affect the makeup of the Knesset as well as which leader will be chosen to form the next government.

[Photo: TheDC Shorts / YouTube ]

 
 
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