After a nerve-wracking day in which I distracted myself with Pesach cleaning and then playing with my grandchildren to stop myself biting my nails to the quick with every opinion poll, the exit polls are in – and with all the caveats involved (exit polls are never accurate, the soldiers’ and expats’ votes have still to be counted) – we can breathe a small sigh of relief, at least for the moment.
The numbers are showing at the very least a dead heat to the finish for Likud and Zionist Union at 27 seats each. Other polls are showing a slight lead for Likud, 28-27, confounding all our ominous expectations. Unfortunately Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi seems to have lost several seats, from 12 down to 8 or 9, which may or may not be connected to Bennett’s ill-advised ploy to bring in former footballer Eli Ohana to a front-line position, to the great annoyance of the party’s supporters. Even though Ohana did the decent thing and resigned from the party list as soon as he understood how unpopular his appointment was, the damage was done. It could also be to do with the creation of former Shas leader Eli Yishai’s new very right-wing party Yachad, which although it might not have crossed the threshold, nevertheless “stole” votes from its nearest rival, Bayit Yehudi.
So here are the initial results. Please take them with all the caution necessary because nothing is certain until the military and absentee ballots are counted. And even then, until the horse-trading is finalised, the government coalition is anybody’s guess.
From the Times of Israel: TV exit polls show Netanyahu set to retain premiership.
Unlike years past, analysts had said the race between Likud and Zionist Union, the two leading factions, was too close to call with confidence; but the exit polls showed Netanyahu clearly better placed to build the next coalition.
Here is a useful pie chart of the exit polls:
Via Ynet, here is Channel 2’s exit poll results in graph form:
And Channel 10:
And here is Channel 1’s version:
The Ynet report comments:
The exit polls from Israel’s three main television stations showed the Zionist Union and Likud were tied at around 27-28 Knesset seats each in the 2015 Knesset elections. The tie leaves them both poised to try and muster a coalition, though pre-election polls gave the Zionist Union a lead on Netanyahu’s Likud.
The Yahad party, led by former Shas leader Eli Yishai, failed to cross the election threshold according to all three polls, a loss which could prove detrimental to the right wing coalition Netanyahu hopes to form.
However a Channel 20 exit poll suggests that Yahad might indeed cross the threshold – but then at whose expense will it be? Shas? Bayit Yehudi? Kahlon? Or Likud? The possibilities are almost endless.
A small item of good news is that Bennett and Netanyahu have agreed to cooperate, something which you might think was a given since both parties have similar platforms and outlook, but which in practice is not to be taken for granted as both leaders have bitter personal differences.
Some other interesting statistics: According to Ynet, the voter turnout was extremely high, even by the high Israeli standards
An estimated 65.7 percent of Israel’s eligible voters cast their ballots at polling stations throughout Israel by 8pm Tuesday, the highest since 1999, and forecasts predict Israel will cross the 70 percent turnout by 10 pm when polls close.
Earlier in the day, another new record turnout was recorded when some 13.7 percent voted in the first three hours of polling, the highest since the 1999 elections.
Voting closed at 8pm on Tuesday at the Israel Prison Service with 81.74 percent of the 10,000 eligible citizens serving time in prison carrying out their right to vote.
The Times of Israel has the final exact number and it is even higher:
Final voter turnout rose to 71.8%, according to final Central Election Committee data, higher than in the past five elections. It marks a five point rise from 2013’s 66.6%.
And to conclude for tonight, here are some final electioneering braggadocio remarks from the various “kingmaker” parties:
Naftali Bennett says that the religious Zionists carried the day despite the disappointing results.
“I was asked if I’m disappointed in our public, in the national-religious public,” Naftali Bennett tells his supporters in his post-exit poll speech, after coming in at a disappointing eight seats.
“And I tell you, the opposite. I’m proud of religious Zionism, because it’s a truly ideological public. It is called to settlement, and it comes through. It is called to national and social missions, and it comes through. This time it was called to a political mission, and it came through big time. Our public, as is its wont, got under the stretcher and carried the day.”
Yesh Atid are very proud of their 12-seat accomplishment:
MK Micky Levy was Yesh Atid’s first elected official to arrive at the party’s election night headquarters at Hangar 11 in the Tel Aviv Port. At #11 on a list that got 12 seats in exit polls, the former head of the Jerusalem Police appears to have made it into another Knesset.
“It’s an accomplishment, because they were talking about just seven seats a few months ago,” says Levy.
In a first, the Arabs’ Joint List are now the third biggest party:
The Arab Joint List came in third place in two of three exit polls, with 13 seats. It tied Yesh Atid at 12 in Channel 1’s poll.
The big question for the new Arab configuration is whether a slate composed of Palestinian nationalists, Muslim movements and atheist socialists can hold together for very long in the new Knesset.
This election’s dark horse, Moshe Kachlon’s Kulanu party, came in at a respectable 11 or so seats, no mean feat for an unknown party, although a repetition of a similar result for Yesh Atid in the last elections.
All the above should be taken with many bags of salt, as – I repeat – all bets are off while the horse trading begins and the coalition starts to take shape.
For now, we can all let out that breath we were holding, and hope that the right’s holding in place, if not outright victory, will spell more good news for the new government to be formed.