With 2019’s second national election less than a day away, politicians were busy on Monday making their final appeals to the electorate, attacking their rivals and scaring up votes — literally — by warning of the dire consequences to the country should their party fail to win enough support at the ballot box.
Below is an assortment of statements from party leaders and representatives, several of whom were interviewed by Ynet’s video newsroom.
- The Democratic Camp’s Ehud Barak warned the Ynet news site that the party, polling at a steady 6-7 seats, was “in real danger of dropping below the electoral threshold.” He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “in a frenzy” to secure 61 supportive seats in the Knesset and said “his odds are better than some think, because he will tempt Liberman and try to tempt Gantz.” Barak warned that if “Netanyahu forms a government he won’t go to the hearing [on his criminal cases, set for October]. He’ll immediately pass the immunity law and then a [Supreme Court] override clause. The moment he has 61, Israeli democracy is over.”
- Culture Minister Miri Regev of Likud told Ynet a small number of seats could mean the difference between her party forming the next government and Blue and White doing so, and called on right-wing voters to support Likud. If Yamina “get five seats they’ll be in the Likud government. If we get 2-3 seats less, the one to form the government will be Benny Gantz. There won’t be a right-wing government.” Asked about Blue and White’s assertion that it is willing to form a government with Likud if it does not include Netanyahu, she said: “There is no Likud without Netanyahu.”
- Labor-Gesher chief Amir Peretz, whose party is hovering at around 5 seats, even less than its current record-low of 6, insisted that the party was “in a state of very significant strengthening.” He called on all Labor supporters not to stay home. “Tomorrow is a day of turbulence. Tomorrow it will be decided whether we live in the nation of [Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar] Ben Gvir or [Israel’s first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion. In the nation of Yigal Amir or the nation of Yitzhak Rabin.” He repeated his assertion that “we will not sit with Netanyahu. Period. We will not negotiate with Netanyahu. Period.”
- Blue and White chief Benny Gantz told Ynet he would like his party’s no. 4 candidate Gabi Ashkenazi to be the next defense minister, and no. 3 Moshe Ya’alon to be education minister. These portfolios, he said, were his top priority in any government he leads. “We want to unite Israeli society and not to fragment it” as Likud has done, he said. He vowed to take a hawkish approach on issues of security and diplomacy, a centrist approach on the economy, and “what is perceived as a leftist” approach to safeguarding the courts, institutions and democracy.
- Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman said his party “might not recommend anyone” to the president to be awarded the mandate to form the next government. “I hope both Netanyahu and Gantz rise above personal interests” and agree to form a secular unity government, he said. “The country needs a broad national government, a unity government without all the messianics, without extremists, without the ultra-Orthodox. We can’t face our challenges through any other framework. Whoever forms a narrow government will bring great misfortune upon Israel,” he added.
- United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman told Ynet that Liberman “is zigzagging. Two months ago… he ran to all the rabbis. I’ll bring you photos of a thousand rabbis he went to, and today he won’t.” He stood behind his claim that Blue and White’s no. 2 Yair Lapid was an anti-Semite for his stance against the Haredi parties. “Anyone who is against the ultra-Orthodox is an anti-Semite. He disqualifies an entire population,” he claimed. He stressed he would not back a Gantz-led government. “Should I help a secular government? We have no reason to go with Gantz. We’re going with Netanyahu.”
- In a video posted online, Joint List head Ayman Odeh said Arabs were “a persecuted minority” and called on Jewish voters to support his slate in the name of “peace, equality, democracy and social justice… Either we win together or lose apart,” he said.
- The Joint List’s Ahmad Tibi attacked Netanyahu’s policies towards the Arab population and his unsubstantiated claims of rampant fraud at Arab polling stations, saying: “I’m not ruling out the possibility that during his next term, if he is elected, he’ll ask [Likud MK] Miki Zohar to prepare a bill limiting the voting rights of Arabs who do not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”
- Democratic Camp chief Nitzan Horowitz told Army Radio his party would not commit to recommending Gantz. “We need to ask whether he is truly in our bloc,” he said, complaining that Blue and White was trying to “erase the left” through its efforts to pull in left-wing voters. He added that Gantz “doesn’t see us as natural partners. He says he’ll form a government with the right.”
- Education Minister Bezalel Smotrich of Yamina similarly accused Likud of seeking to vacuum up his party’s voters, saying Netanyahu was “trying to wipe out religious Zionism. He knows [we are] the only ones that will challenge him the day after the election.” Nevertheless he said his party would recommend Netanyahu to form the next government as he was the only viable right-wing candidate.