We’re in that liminal phase of election day in Israel which is always so difficult for political obsessives because we simply do not know what is happening. Polls stay open until 10 PM local time in Israel (4 PM eastern). The big news of the day is a final day series of racist invocations from Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud campaign begging right-wing voters to turn out because of a purported wave of Arab-Israeli voters voting ‘en masse’, helped along by foreigners, leftists, NGOs and the media, intent on driving him from office. Over the course of the day, Netanyahu sorta kinda tried to amend these statements slightly. But not really. And then not at all. After stating definitively yesterday that he will never allow a Palestinian state to come into existence on the West Bank, Netanyahu has decided to close out hard-right, racist and dark.
One thing I am watching is the turnout numbers, which are the only real data we have until polls close at 10 PM. As a general matter, high turnout is seen as weighing against the right, since its voters are more regular voters. But the numbers so far say turnout is running just slightly behind the numbers from 2013.
Here’s a chart from Haaretz. Since this chart was created the 6 PM numbers came out at 54.6%. As you can see, 2013 was still relatively high compared to 2011 and 2006. It’s also hard to say necessarily what it means since we have been at least hearing about demoralized voters on the right and more energized ones in the center and left. Still, it’s perhaps a small warning sign, along with hints and rumors that Likud is closing the gap between the two major parties.
If Netanyahu closes the gap and pieces together a new government, it is worth noting that this will, in all likelihood, be a narrowly right-wing coalition with the thin majority, headed by a newly weakened Netanyahu. It will not be pretty. As Barak Ravid puts it here, if Netanyahu holds on, it will likely only postpone for a year or two the end of the Netanyahu era.
Meanwhile, Ynet says Netanyahu’s fearmongering about the Arab vote is not even accurate in the narrow sense, as this election’s turnout in the Arab sector is comparable to recent elections.