Politicians on Tuesday launched last-minute bids to shore up support for their parties, claiming high levels of support for their rivals in a bid to drive their voters to the polls.
Known as a “gevalt” tactic, the issuing of dire warnings about purportedly low rates of voter turnout among their supporters has become a fixture of parties’ campaigns in recent elections.
In a series of apparently live “emergency broadcasts” on his Facebook page, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued repeated warnings of alleged apathy among Likud supporters and high turnout among left-leaning and Arab voters.
“This is not a trick,” Netanyahu said of his assertion that Likud voters weren’t going to the polls.
He went on to claim, without presenting evidence, that the Palestinian Authority called for Arab Israelis to vote for parties that oppose him.
“The Palestinian Authority put out an official message calling on Arab Israelis to go out and vote in order to topple Netanyahu,” he said.
Claims that leftists and Arabs were voting “in droves” have characterized Likud’s last three campaigns, including when the figures showed the claim to be incorrect.
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main election rival, sought to energize his supporters by claiming the premier was telling his supporters he seemed to have the elections in the bag.
“Netanyahu is saying that he already has a majority. We can’t allow this disaster to happen,” Gantz tweeted, though the prime minister had in fact said that Likud was narrowing the gap from Blue and White, not overtaking it.
Education Minister Rafi Peretz of the right-wing Yamina alliance, which has warned that Netanyahu’s “gevalt” threatened to eat into its final vote tally, echoed Likud by telling supporters of supposedly high voting levels among left-wingers and Arabs.
“Friends, the situation is not good,” he said.
Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said in a video message there was a risk of a secular government that would put an end to Israel as “a traditional Jewish state.”
“We’re in a war for the Jewish state,” he said.
MK Itzik Shmuli of the Labor-Gesher electoral slate, which has been hovering slightly above the minimum voting threshold, warned there was a risk the party could fail to enter the Knesset.
“There’s a real danger to the Labor Party. Not only may Labor be wiped off the map but with us four seats will be erased and Gantz won’t be the next prime minister,” he said in a video statement.
Most polls were set to close at 10 p.m.
Surveys have put the Likud and Blue and White parties at neck and neck, with neither able to put together a 61-strong coalition, but with Netanyahu only two or three seats away from being able to do so.