Netanyahu Warns Right Could Lose Election; ex-Likud Ministers Back Gantz | Live Updates

Israelis will be heading to the polls on Tuesday to cast their vote in the national election that is widely seen as a referendum on incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu. 

>> Israel election 2019: Full coverage

As the parties scramble to rally last-minute voters, the final poll before the election, published Friday, gave the right-wing bloc a solid lead over the center left, headed by Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 21

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 21Haaretz

>> Your comprehensive guide to the Israeli election ■ All the news, features and analyses as Israelis head to the polls ■ FULL LIST: The parties and candidates running in Israel’s election


8:37 A.M. Feiglin ready to talk with both Netanyahu and Gantz

Far-right Zehut Chairman Moshe Feiglin, who is predicted 5-7 Knesset seats in recent polls, told Kan Bet public radio he’d been approached by both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz. “We’ll talk to both sides and decide,” he said. “Once we understand the reality created by the Israeli voter, we’ll sit with both sides and decide.”

8:36 A.M. Far-right slate warns of ‘left-wing government if Likud gets too big’

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Rafi Peretz, chairman of the Union of Right-Wing Parties told Kan Bet public radio that “if Likud is gets too big, we risk a left-wing government,” urging voters to support smaller right-wing parties.

8:35 A.M.: Labor ‘trying to steal votes from us,’ Lapid says

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, now co-leader of the Kahol Lavan alliance, told Kan Bet public radio “the fight is about which party will be the biggest. That’s what we have to focus on, because that’s what will decide the election.”

Lapid also said he has no intention of backing off from his rotation agreement with Benny Gantz for prime minister, arguing it has no effect on public support, despite opinion polls suggesting most Israelis would like ot see the agreement annuled. “It’s a spin Labor Party has invented, because [Chairman Avi] Gabbay is trying to steal votes from us,” Lapid said.

5 A.M. Women’s rights party in final campaign push, despite poor poll showings

Orli Levi-Abekasis, formerly a member of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and now at the head of her new Gesher party, is convinced she will make it into Knesset after April 9, despite poor showings in public opinion polls, which predict she is several thousand votes short of the 3.25-percent electoral threshold.

As party activists try to persuade voters, party sources say internal polls predict it seven out of 120 Knesset seats. In a final campaign push, the party showcased Levi-Abekasis’ achievements in parliament over the past decade, in a video focusing on healthcare and other social issues.

4:33 A.M. Gabbay says Gantz stutters on West Bank annexation

Looking to sway the left-wing vote, Labor Chairman Avi Gabbay blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

“Netanyahu said if he wins he’s going to take Israel on the most dangerous adventure in its history,” Gabbay told a press conference, arguing the entire opposition “was expecting to hear clear-cut statements from Kahol Lavan … Instead, we’ve heard Kahol Lavan chairman saying something like ‘annexation is not a matter of for or against.’ Do you want to be a second Likud or an alternative? Have you given in to the wanton vision of Netanyahu and [far-right leader Bezalel] Smotrich?,” Gabbay said.

3 A.M. Netanyahu convenes emergency meeting of Likud ministers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Likud ministers for an emergency meeting in his Jerusalem residence, urging them to do more to ensure the party has the upper hand in Tuesday’s election.

"It’s not clear at all that we have 61" Knesset seats to form a governing coalition, Netanyahu told ministers, referring to his party’s seats put together with those of other right-wing parties, according to recent public opinion polls.


11:15 P.M. Netanyahu asks settler leaders to only support Likud

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Sunday with several dozen local municipality heads associated with the right in an attempt to convince them to support his party.

According to sources who attended the meetup, Netanyahu claimed he fears that his regime is in danger and tried to dissuade them from supporting other right-wing parties, in particular far-right Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut.

Efrat local council head Oded Ravivi, a Likud member considered high-up in the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements, said that Netanyahu told the council heads that he fears losing the election: "We learned from the prime minister that he thinks there is currently no bloc, despite the media’s attempts to draw a different picture. The prime minister does not trust Feiglin and as long as he doesn’t declare that he is part of a right-wing bloc, we cannot consider him as such," Ravivi said.

Another source who attended the meeting said that Netanyahu’s central goal was to cause those affiliated with the settler right to support the Likud. According to the source, Netanyahu did not directly refer to his statements on annexing the West Bank.

10:57 P.M.: Gantz invokes “Pretty Woman” to thank party activists

Benny Gantz told a party convention in Tel Aviv: “Netanyahu is panicking. We’ll be the biggest government, the president will call us,” asking Kahol Lavan to lead the next government, “and we’ll take it from there.”

However, Gantz raised some eyebrows when thanking his supporters. “In the movie ‘Pretty Woman,’ which is worth watching, they go out to dinner and right after stepping out of the elevator he tells his girlfriend: If by the end of the evening I forget to thank you, because I’ve had a great time, I’m doing it now. Thank you for all you’ve done.”

30 years on, assuming Gantz is Richard Gere as the acclaimed businessman in the movie – hardly befitting of the MeToo era – does that make Kahol Lavan activists Julia Roberts as an escort? One of the candidates on his slate pushed back: “Was that the best example he could find, of a man and a prostitute?”

10:40 P.M.: Former Likud minister, ex-military chief, ex-Likud minister back Gantz

Benny Gantz flanked by fellow Kahol Lavan candidates and ex-ministers Shaul Mofaz and Dan Meridor Moti Milrod

Former military chief and defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who started his political path with Likud only to later join former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Kadima and quit politics before the 2015 election, publicly endorsed the Kahol Lavan slate at a party event in Tel Aviv.

Mofaz was joined by former senior military officials Amos Yadlin and Avi Mizrahi, but the most surprising high-profile supporter must have been former Justice Minister Dan Meridor, longtime Likud member. “I struggle with what is happening to my movement,” he said, blasting Netanyahu’s attack against the justice system and other state institutions. “Where have we got to? … The prime minister must set a moral example.”

7:04 P.M. Israeli army soldiers begin casting votes

Israeli army soldiers have begun casting their votes in 640 ballot boxes across Israel. 130 of the ballot boxes will be mobile ones placed in remote army outposts (Yaniv Kubovich)

4:34 P.M. LISTEN: Netanyahu’s only ideology is staying in power

With just hours to go before voting begins in one of the most the closest, bitterest and most contentious elections in recent Israeli history, host Simon Spungin is joined by Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn and columnist Anshel Pfeffer. They try to answer one question: Is there nothing that Bibi won’t do, say or promise to remain in power? 

2:17 P.M.: Netanyhau tells LGBTQ leaders Likud would keep education portfolio

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told representatives of Israeli LGBTQ organizations that the education portfolio would remain in Likud’s hands and not be handed over to one of its potential conservative coalition partners. Netanyahu said before he would appoint an education minister from his own party, but in February told far-right Habayit Hayehudi they would get the education and housing portfolios if they unite with Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit, which they did.

His wife, Sara, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel and Likud lawmakers Amir Ohana, who is openly gay, and Yoav Kish, also attended Sunday’s meeting. Heads of the organizations represented in the meeting said in a statement that Netanyahu refused to commit to promoting equal rights as a precondition for any potential coalition government, but told them he is personally committed to LGBTQ rights.

Netanyahu’s last meeting with LGBTQ representatives was in 2009, after a deadly shooting at a Tel Aviv LGBTQ youth center.

1:59 P.M. Palestinian foreign minister issues warning over Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation promise

Riad Malki said Israel’s leader will face a "real problem" if he follows through with his election campaign promise to annex Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Malki added that the Palestinians would resist such a policy if carried out.

11:32 A.M. Netanyahu is competing against an old version of himself, writes Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn

Benn adds: "The fact that the right rose to power 42 years ago and that Netanyahu has ruled for a decade doesn’t stop them from arguing the real power remains in the hands of their political opponents."

9:11 A.M. Netanyahu says he will begin annexing West Bank if he wins Israel election

Netanyahu told Channel 12 that he will not "evacuate any community" nor divide Jerusalem: "A Palestinian state will endanger our existence," he said. 

6:32 A.M. With days before election, Netanyahu hits the panic button, writes Anshel Pfeffer.

"We’ve seen it all before in 2015. But will a last-minute ‘The Arab voters are moving in droves’ strategy be as effective for Netanyahu in 2019?" he asks.

WATCH: Lawmaker Ahmad Tibi says Netanyahu killed the two-state solution

– Trump’s peace plan and the Arab vote in the Israeli election: A talk with lawmaker Ahmad Tibi