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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Google Doodle Today, Israel Elections 2019

Google Doodle Today, Israel Elections 2019

Israelis are voting Tuesday in parliamentary elections that could keep Benjamin Netanyahu, the polarizing, right-wing prime minister, in power, or turn control over to his main rival, Benny Gantz, a newcomer to electoral politics who is seen as a centrist. At stake is the future of both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The first indication of how the election went is expected after 3 p.m. Eastern Time, when voting ends in Israel and exit polls are released. Early analysis showed Arab voters headed for a historically low turnout.

If he wins a fourth consecutive term, Mr. Netanyahu, 69, could make history in a number of ways: In July, he would become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister; he has vowed to annex parts of the West Bank, reversing half a century of policy and setting back prospects for a Palestinian state; and he could also become the first sitting prime minister to be indicted.

While Mr. Netanyahu has appealed primarily to the right, Mr. Gantz, 59, a retired lieutenant general and former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, has reached out for allies across the political spectrum. He has sought to make Mr. Netanyahu’s expected indictment on corruption charges the main issue.


The Arab vote headed for historic low

Political analysts said the turnout in Arab areas of Israel, where citizens have become disillusioned with Israeli politics and with their own politicians, appeared to be headed for a historic low.

With turnout lagging and the fate of the election potentially swinging on one or two seats in a coalition, every party was pleading with its voters to race to the polls before it was too late.

But among Arab voters, where a boycott movement appeared to be having a strong effect, the haranguing was especially intense.

“The right is planning to crush the Arab parties, it wants to erase us off the political arena,” Mtanes Shehadeh, a spokesman for the struggling Ram-Balad party, wrote in a WhatsApp message to supporters. “This is Netanyahu’s dream.”

In Tamra, muezzins called to the faithful from a mosque: “ Go out to vote and support the Arab parties. They are in danger.”

Tamar Zandberg, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, which was in danger of falling short of the threshold to enter Parliament and enjoyed sizable Arab support, raced to Kfar Kassem, another populous Arab town.

“We are continuing with all our strength, going from house to house and calling people out to vote,” said Aymen Odeh, leader of Hadash-Taal, one of two predominantly Arab parties vying for seats in Parliament. “Our nightmare is the prime minister’s fantasy,” he added. “A Knesset without Arab representation is suddenly looking like a realistic option. I know gevalt is in Yiddish, but the concern for our children’s future is universal.”

Netanyahu’s party places hidden cameras at Arab polls

A boycott campaign wasn’t the only reason for poor turnout among Arab voters. Early Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party acknowledged sending more than 1,000 activists with cameras into polling places in Arab towns.

At least some of the Likud observers concealed the cameras, as online videos showed. Likud said the move was aimed at capturing evidence of any irregularities. But the Arab party Hadash-Ta’al filed a complaint, calling it voter intimidation, according to Israeli news reports.

Just before 9 p.m., the left-wing party Meretz, which is counting on Arab support to clear the threshold to be seated in Parliament, appealed to elections officials to keep the polls open in Arab villages an extra hour to allow in any voters who had initially been scared off by the cameras.

How it works

Voters cast ballots for parties, not candidates. Thirty-nine parties are participating. The percentage of the vote determines a party’s number of seats in the Knesset, or Parliament. Any party needs at least 3.25 percent of the vote for a seat.

Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party and Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White alliance are expected to gain more seats than any other group. But each will fall far short of achieving a 61-seat majority on its own, meaning that a new government will almost certainly be formed by a multiparty coalition.

[See our guide to the Israeli elections.]

Members of Israel’s military were allowed to vote up to 72 hours in advance. The rest of the country’s 6.3 million eligible voters can cast ballots at more than 10,700 polling stations across the country, including hospitals and prisons, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. (midnight to 3 p.m. Eastern).

Except for diplomats posted abroad, Israeli citizens cannot cast absentee ballots. Those who wish to vote must travel to Israel.

How it works-merlin-jumbo

Possible outcomes

Likud wins the most seats. Mr. Netanyahu’s party might be able to reach a majority with the help of smaller right-wing parties.

Blue and White wins the most seats. Mr. Gantz and his partners might be able to reach a majority with a combination of smaller parties on the left and right.

Unity government of Likud plus Blue and White. While Mr. Gantz has vowed never to serve in a government led by Mr. Netanyahu, there has been speculation that their parties might negotiate to form a unity government if neither can attain the sufficient number of seats. Such a possibility would increase if some smaller parties needed by Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz fail to make the 3.25 percent threshold.

Any party that wins at least 3.25 percent of the vote gets at least three seats in Parliament, but if parties don’t pass that threshold — and many smaller parties do not — their votes are discarded.

Possible outcomes-merlin-jumbo

Netanyahu’s ‘gevalt’ grenades

Mr. Netanyahu has shown a penchant for appealing to anti-Arab racism in the finales of Israeli elections, aimed at whipping up the extreme right to fend off challengers and protect his parliamentary majority.

During the 2015 election, Mr. Netanyahu beseeched right-wing voters to cast ballots after a coalition of Israeli Arab parties announced that early voter participation by its supporters had tripled. He posted a video on his Facebook page expressing alarm that Israeli Arabs were “being bused to the polling stations in droves” by left-wing groups.

In what critics are calling a similar appeal to the right in this election, Mr. Netanyahu unexpectedly promised to begin extending Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank if re-elected. The move would almost certainly doom a two-state solution.

[In seeking re-election, Mr. Netanyahu put the West Bank on the ballot.]

Late Monday, he even trotted out his American pollster to attest to his contention that the small number of Likud voters who fail to cast their ballots on Tuesday could cost him the election.

Israelis have a term for Mr. Netanyahu’s late surprises: the “gevalt campaign,” a reference to the Yiddish term for incredulity.

The clock ticks for undecided voters

At lunchtime in Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, Snir Moshe, 25, was still mulling his options.

“On the one hand it’s a country of Jews,” he said, expressing fear that a vote for Mr. Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party could lead to the removal of West Bank settlements territorial withdrawals.

On the other hand, said Mr. Moshe, who voted for Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party in 2015, “Blue and White could make social change, economic change. So I have a few more hours to decide.”

There was no reliable data on last-minute waverers, but Mr. Moshe was hardly alone.

Some deliberated between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz. Others deliberated between a strategic vote for a large party or an ideological vote for a smaller one, but in a neck-and-neck race, many felt they did not have the luxury of voting for a boutique party.

A Hebrew news website, Mako, offered help with an app that quizzed undecided voters about their positions and then offered political guidance.

Miriam Alarkry, 78, had been wavering between Likud and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which she usually voted for. In the end she went with Likud, she said, “because it’s the government.”

By 6 p.m. Tuesday, around 52 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballot, with four hours to go before polls closed. Voter turnout was slightly lower than the 2015 election, in which 54.6 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballot by that hour.

Taking advantage of the public holiday, many Israelis were out enjoying the sunshine, packing beaches and national parks. Mr. Netanyahu turned up at the seaside in Netanya and called on his supporters to go vote and swim later. Some said they would do so after sundown.

One Tel Aviv eatery was offering Election Day specials: a “hamburgantz” dedicated to Benny Gantz, served with Gouda cheese and a fried egg; and “Bibi cigars” — phyllo pastry rolls stuffed with lamb — a reference to the cigars that the police say Mr. Netanyahu accepted as gifts from wealthy businessmen who sought official favors.

In Gaza, imagining an election, with envy

In Gaza, imagining an election, with envy-merlin-jumbo

Mohammad al-Saptie, 28, has never voted. He envied Israel’s democratic system, he said in Gaza City, as people a few miles away cast their ballots for the fifth time since the last election in Gaza, in 2006.

Mr. al-Saptie, a deliveryman, daydreamed aloud about what a free election might mean for Gaza and how he might choose a party or a candidate to support.

He thought about his 20-month-old daughter, Warda, and about the three wars he has lived through — not counting the 2007 civil war in which the militant group Hamas seized control in Gaza.

“I would vote for a government that can negotiate, make peace and reach a solution with Israel,” Mr. al-Saptie said, “because we do not want blood, murder, death and destruction.”

Like many Palestinians here, Mr. al-Saptie said he was frustrated by Hamas, whose takeover precipitated the Israeli blockade of Gaza that continues to this day. He said he wished Gaza’s armed factions could be brought under the control of leaders with stronger public support.

His aspirations, he said, are simple: “Security, safety and jobs. We do not want more than this.”

In the West Bank, Palestinian officials were following the election closely but there was no shortage of cynicism.

“The two camps are competing with each other over how much they will take out of our lands and how brutal they should be with us,” said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official, in a telephone interview.

Google Doodle Today, Israel Elections 2019

Google Doodle Today, Israel Elections 2019
Google Doodle Today, Israel Elections 2019

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