With less than 24 hours to the election, party leaders on Monday were making final efforts to woo undecided voters.
Zionist Union pulled a final rabbit from its hat late Monday evening, when it officially announced that Tzipi Livni won’t insist on rotating with Isaac Herzog in the role of prime minister.
While the move drew swift reactions from across the political spectrum, political analysts assessed that it would likely have only a marginal effect on the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped his own bombshell in announcing that, if reelected, he would refrain from establishing a Palestinian state.
The Times of Israel blogged events as they unfolded.
Tibi denies Qatari money funding Arab list
Joint (Arab) List candidate Ahmad Tibi says in the Ynet studio that his new party will not join an Isaac Herzog-led coalition because of “collective responsibility.”
During a debate with Jewish Home’s Ayelet Shaked, Tibi says joining the coalition cannot happen “in the current conditions of occupation and estrangement.” Being part of a bloc that would prevent a right-wing government, Tibi says, “is something else.”
At one point in the debate, Shaked asks Tibi, “Is a large amount of Qatari money, funneled by Azmi Bishara, thrown in the campaign in order to increase voting numbers in the Arab sector?”
Tibi responds that “this is a vile and ridiculous lie. We are barely making it financially. But this is not what’s important, what is important is that we are heading for a historic victory.”
Bishara is a former Balad MK who was disgraced after the Second Lebanon War for passing intelligence information to Hezbollah. Bishara fled Israel and lives today in Qatar.
Zoabi in Knesset for ‘Palestinian national project’
MK Hanin Zoabi from the Joint (Arab) List says she and her colleagues are in the Knesset as part of a Palestinian national project.
Speaking on Lebanese TV station Al Miadin, Zoabi says that the presence in the Israeli parliament of the Arab legislators is intended to show the world who the victims are in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Israel wants Arabs in the Knesset, but only those who will accept Israeli-ness or have found their place in Zionist parties,” Zoabi says, according to Army Radio.
Asked about calls from the Jewish Israeli public that she be sent to Gaza or Jenin, Zoabi says, “First of all, we do not ‘get sent’ to Gaza. Gaza is part of our homeland. In one of the latest demonstrations they also called ‘Hanin to Jenin.’ Jenin is also part of my homeland, like Nazareth, Haifa and Umm el-Fahem.”
Kahlon, in attack mode, invokes housing
Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon slams candidates from other parties for “remembering” to tackle social issues only in the last few days leading up to the elections.
“We managed to sustain a socioeconomic agenda. There were great forces trying to pull us to right or left but we persevered – look at what is happening today,” Kahlon says on Army Radio.
“Netanyahu speaks about housing, Herzog speaks about housing, Lapid speaks about housing, Bennett speaks of the cost of living. Three weeks ago they didn’t speak of these things, they didn’t remember they existed.”
Netanyahu warns of coming ‘Hamastan B’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is touring the Har Homa neighborhood in Jerusalem in an effort to sweep some right-wing votes on his last chance before the election.
“The truth is so simple and so sharp – if Tzipi and Buji [Isaac Herzog] establish the next government, here on these hills Hamastan B will be established. We prevented it and we keep on preventing it and we are committed to it and we will continue doing it – but they will give in,” Netanyahu is quoted by Army Radio as saying.
Har Homa is a neighborhood in the southeast of Jerusalem just outside the Green Line.
Lapid slams opponents on ties with Haredim
Sixteen hours to the elections and it’s knives out all around. Yair Lapid criticizes both PM Netanyahu and prime ministerial hopeful Herzog for making deals with the ultra-Orthodox and avoiding talking about an equal share of the military burden – an issue dear to his party.
On a tour of Netanya, Lapid says that “politics are intended to help people make their lives better, not so that fellas can close dirty deals behind our backs. Both Bibi and Buji [Netanyahu and Herzog] are selling the equal share of the burden, returning budgets to yeshivot and closing deals with the ultra-Orthodox – all at our expense.”
Yishai writes to Aryeh Deri, seeks truce
Yachad leader Eli Yishai writes a letter to Shas leader Aryeh Deri calling on him to set aside the two parties’ differences and work together, Army Radio reports.
It was not clear whether Yishai was simply calling for a truce in criticism from both sides. Legally the two parties cannot merge their lists.
It may be that Yishai, a staunch right-winger, wants to make a deal with Deri that they recommend the same candidate for the role of prime minister.
Deri hinted he would prefer Netanyahu as prime minister, explaining that the Shas electorate is right wing. But when he and Yishai served in Shas together, he was considered more moderate on diplomatic issues.
Rivlin eulogizes Lia van Leer
At a ceremony in Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin eulogizes Lia van Leer, who passed away on Saturday.
Van Leer, who died at 90, founded the Jerusalem Cinematheque and was an Israel Prize laureate.
“Family members, dear Lia. The white hair, the simple dress and sandals – this is how your image is etched in the minds of those who knew you. A woman of vision, a dreamer with a prophetic spirit marching here in the streets of Jerusalem, intent on realizing her dream. In the name of that belief, you chose to give Jerusalem the cultural treasure in all its glory.
“Dear Lia, for residents of Jerusalem, you were a woman who is an idea, a woman who is an institution… a true ray of light lighting the skies of the city.
You believed in cinema as an unusual instrument for dialogue between different populations and supported Israeli cinema as an endeavor expressing every facet of Israeli life. The cultural world of Israel and Jerusalem owes you a huge debt, and you will be missed by lovers of culture and residents of Jerusalem wherever they are.”
Rabbi Druckman says Jewish Home ‘only option’
Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the Bnei Akiva yeshivot and a prominent leader of the settler movement, says following the right-wing rally held on Sunday that “there is only one Zionist-religious list and this is Jewish Home.”
Druckman, quoted by Israel National News, says he felt optimism following the rally but that voters “must not get confused” on whether to vote for Likud or Jewish Home. “A vote for Jewish Home is a vote for Mr. Netanyahu as prime minister, but it guarantees the government’s position on issues relating to the Land of Israel.”
“Those who hold dearly the land of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the people of Israel should see the complete picture, and in order to guarantee that the land of Israel will be part of the government, Jewish Home needs to be strong,” says Druckman.
“Jewish Home will take care of our educational institutions, the Jewish identity of the country and the wholeness of the land of Israel. You need to vote [for Jewish Home] and this is in any case a vote for Netanyahu,” he adds.
Haifa U. archaeologists find bronze mask of Pan
A bronze mask of Pan, the Greek mythology god of shepherds and flocks and companion of the nymphs, was found during excavations by Haifa University archaeologists in the National Park of Sussita in the north of the country.
According to Dr. Michael Eisenberg, bronze masks this big – larger than life-size – are extremely rare regardless of the figure represented.
“Most known bronze masks from the Greek and Roman periods are miniature. Curators of the world’s largest museums that I turned to all said they had no knowledge of another mask like the one we found in Susita,” he says.
The Pan mask found recently is the first of its kind in the world and unique in size.
Prominent Haredi rabbi urges election boycott
Some 20,000-30,000 ultra-Orthodox will boycott the election and not vote for any party, after a statement was issued on behalf of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, leader of the Lithuanian branch of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Israeli, saying “there is no instruction or recommendation to vote in this election for any party in the world, and there is no intention to issue such an instruction. Any word saying there was or will be – is a lie.”
His lack of support for a specified party is commonly understood to be a recommendation not to vote at all.
On Sunday, NRG reports, it became known that Auerbach was planning to boycott United Torah Judaism, but close associates of the rabbi said he was considering supporting Eli Yishai’s Yachad party.
Despite this, some members of the community may decide to vote for either Yachad or Shas, but most are likely to refrain from voting. Sources close to Auerbach said he will stay home tomorrow. Today’s statement may mean that United Torah Judaism and Yachad may lose up to a Knesset seat each. This is particularly critical for Yachad, which is polling near the electoral threshold. Losing a seat would mean the party does not make it into the next Knesset.
PM says no Palestinian state under his watch
Netanyahu says in an interview to NRG that so long as he is prime minister, a Palestinian state will not be established.
Netanyahu says he objects to the establishment of a Palestinian state and adds that Israel is facing a series of international initiatives meant to return it to pre-1967 lines and to divide Jerusalem.
Asked, “If you are PM there will be no Palestinian state?” he replies, “Indeed.”
“I think anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state and to evacuate territory, is giving radical Islam a staging ground against the State of Israel,” Netanyahu says.
In a speech at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009, Netanyahu said that “if we receive a guarantee for security arrangements needed for Israel and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the home of the Jewish people, we will be willing in a future peace deal to reach a solution of a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”
PM says, I’m the last line of defense
Netanyahu further says: “I think that anyone going to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate land is giving radical Islam a staging ground against the state of Israel. This is the reality that was created here over the past few years. Whoever ignores it is burying their heads in the sand. The left is doing this, burying its head in the sand time after time.
“We are realistic and we understand. The real test is who will build the next government. I am not going to fold. They would not be concentrating efforts against me if they didn’t understand that I am the last line of defense. They understand this. We faced tremendous pressures and we will continue to work.”
Netanyahu vows to build more in E. Jerusalem
Netanyahu vows that if reelected he will build thousands of homes in East Jerusalem to prevent future concessions to the Palestinians.
Speaking on a tour of Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Netanyahu vows he would never allow the Palestinians to establish a capital in the city’s eastern sector.
“I won’t let that happen. My friends and I in Likud will preserve the unity of Jerusalem,” he says of his party, vowing to prevent any future division of the city by building thousands of new homes.
“We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units, and in the face of all the (international) pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital,” he adds.
EU to appoint new Mideast peace envoy
The European Union is expected to appoint an Italian-born diplomat as the group’s new chief envoy to the Middle East peace process, The Times of Israel has learned.
Fernando Gentilini, who previously served as the EU’s special representative in Kosovo, has never been directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but sources say the Europeans appointed him because he’s an expert on mediation and conflict resolution.
Gentilini’s appointment is to be announced by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, today at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.
Read the full story here.
Bennett tells Netanyahu, ‘Enough!’
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett attacks Netanyahu’s attempt to woo religious Zionist voters a day before ballots open. In an interview to Israel National News, Bennett warns that “there are less than 24 hours and we are fighting for our home,” paraphrasing a Likud slogan from the last election.
“If we will be small, there is [a possibility of] a Bibi-Buji-Tzipi [unity] government and this is the worst recipe of all. This thing, where Netanyahu goes full throttle against one party, Jewish Home — again he is going full throttle for Zionist religious [voters], those who say that for ideological reasons they give up on their own party for Likud, so that they don’t waste a chance of having a right-wing government,” Bennett says.
“Last time they said we’re like [Yitzhak Rabin assassin] Yigal Amir and now again, all they can lash out against is religious Zionism. Enough! We need to be big and strong so that one day after [the election] there will not be a Bar-Ilan speech sequel and the evacuation of territories.”
A snapshot of Israeli voters — one day to go
The Times of Israel’s Sarah Tuttle-Singer goes out to meet voters on the streets of Tel Aviv, one day before ballots open in Israel’s most confusing elections to date. Watch:
Tzipi Livni forgoes prime minister role
The Zionist Union’s number 2 candidate, Tzipi Livni, will gives up rotating with leader Isaac Herzog in the role of prime minister, the party announces.
Livni joined her Hatnua party with Isaac Herzog’s Labor to form the Zionist Union ahead of tomorrow’s election in return for a rotation deal that would have seen her — in the event of a victory — take on the premiership two years into the term.
On Sunday, Haaretz reported that during a Zionist Union campaign meeting, Livni said she was willing to forgo the rotation, but strategist Reuven Adler opined that, so close to the election, the change could bring more harm than good.
Aryeh Deri rejects Eli Yishai’s advances
Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri rejects Eli Yishai’s call to collaborate.
Earlier, Yachad chairman Yishai called on Deri to avoid confrontations so as not to lose votes. “The parties hold similar views and share the same struggle,” Yishai wrote in his letter.
Deri tells Israel Radio that he is “tired of spins,” after a long period of struggles and slanders from Yishai against him.
Yachimovich defends Livni decision
Zionist Union candidate Shelly Yachimovich defends Tzipi Livni’s decision to forgo rotating with Isaac Herzog on the role of prime minister.
Asked by Channel 2 whether the decision was made — less than 12 hours before ballots open — out of stress, Yachimovich says: “I think when you are fighting for such a crucial issue, if you’re not in some stress it means something’s wrong with you.”
The rotation has been “a constant dilemma for the past month; it is no secret that this deal was not received with a lot of love,” Yachimovich says, adding that “there is a great chance our list will establish the government.”
When asked whether the move hurts the credibility of the party, having been made so late in the race, Yachimovich says that it actually “testifies to humane behavior, gentlemanliness and keeping to agreements.”
Katz slams announcement by Livni, Herzog
The Likud’s Yisrael Katz tells Channel 2 that Herzog “failed his first leadership test,” referring to Tzipi Livni’s decision to forgo her deal with Herzog to rotate the role of prime minister.
Katz says the last-minute decision reflects Herzog’s fickleness. “What will happen when he has to make decisions about Iran? Or face pressure from the international community?” Katz asks.
Channel 2 analyst Amit Segal says that “none of the 120 MKs ever thought for a second that Livni will serve as prime minister,” but adds that the deal proved itself as a campaigning trump card, “since the party grew from 12 seats in the polls to more than double that.”
Herzog denied a few hours ago that deal was off
Two hours before the announcement, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog emphatically denied that he and Tzipi Livni were set to cancel the rotation agreement.
“There was no discussion about [whether to cancel the rotation] in the past week. It’s not on the agenda. Period. The partnership between Livni and I brought us to [where we are] today. It is an important partnership,” Herzog tells Army Radio.
— Marissa Newman
Netanyahu says Livni moves ‘shows panic’
Netanyahu, in his first reaction to the news that Livni has given up the rotation agreement, tells Channel 2 that the move shows “panic, due to the narrowing gap [between the parties].”
Netanyahu adds that Livni and Herzog “are either lying now, or have lied before.”
Asked by anchor Yonit Levi whether the same could be said of him — Netanyahu appeared to backtrack Monday on his previous conditional endorsement of a Palestinian state — the prime minister claimed that “circumstances have changed.”
Herzog says move not meant as nod to unity gov’t
Isaac Herzog says Livni’s giving up on rotation “shows how much our [Livni and Herzog’s] partnership is a winning move; the alliance today is stronger than ever.”
Herzog rejects Netanyahu’s accusation that the move stems from panic, saying that Livni, in the past, has already suggested forgoing the rotation deal.
Herzog dismisses talk that this move is meant as a nod to unity with the Likud — this was suggested by Lapid and Bennett speaking to Channel 2 — calling it “nonsense.”
He says. “I retain flexibility since we depend on the results.”
In a campaign first, Herzog called on Yesh Atid voters to “vote for the Zionist Union headed by Herzog,” omitting Livni’s name.
Lapid and Bennett both say Herzog readying for unity gov’t
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett both react to the news of Livni giving up on the rotation agreement.
“This is proof they are putting together a government by Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties with Zionist Union.”
Lapid said it would be very sad “if, at the end of this, we end up with two more years of Netanyahu, this time with the sponsorship of the Zionist Union.”
Bennett says that “Likud overtook the Zionist Union, but what happened tonight is that they established the Bibi-Bougie-Tzipi unity government. Tzipi gave up rotation to pave the way for a unity government.”
Arab list head says he may recommend Herzog after all
Chairman of the Joint (Arab) List Ayman Odeh tells Israel Radio that he does not reject the possibility of recommending to President Rivlin that Isaac Herzog establish the government.
Odeh also says his party — polling as the third largest — will not seek a place on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee but rather on the Finance Committee and other operative committees, in order to improve the situation of Arab voters.
UTJ’s Litzman plays hardball, says Lapid can ‘be in opposition for one term’
United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman tells Israel Radio that his party will decide only after the election who to recommend as prime minister.
“I owe nothing to no one,” says Litzman, when asked about a potential partnership with Yair Lapid in any future government. “Yair Lapid can sit in the opposition for one term, we will cancel the problematic clauses in the equality-of-burden law, and then we’ll talk.”
Litzman speaks after his party HQ is in a slight panic over rumors that Lithuanian branch leader Shmuel Auerbach instructed his followers to vote for Yachad.
Auerbach later denied the rumor, but his associates say he himself has no intention of voting at all — not even for UTJ.
Hikers beware — IDF training as usual on Election Day
The IDF will continue training as usual on Election Day, Israel Radio reports.
The notice is meant especially for the many Israeli hikers who take advantage of the day, which is a public holiday in Israel, to tour the country.
The military says entry to training areas — apart from being a felony, since it constitutes trespassing — endangers hikers’ lives.
Liberman wants ‘national government, not wimps’
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman tells Israel Radio that he feels no commitment to announce in advance who, in his opinion, is most worthy of establishing a government.
“What matters is that it will be a national government and not a government of wimps,” says Liberman.