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With Israel Election Results Too Close to Call, Netanyahu Appears in Peril

JERUSALEM — Israel’s election was too close to call early Wednesday, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main rival, the former army chief Benny Gantz, a centrist, immediately commanding enough support to form a majority coalition, according to exit polls.

But Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party appeared to have come out ahead of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud, giving a small third party the power to decide the outcome. And his avowed desire to force a unity coalition including both their parties made it likely that, if the projections held, Mr. Gantz would be given the first chance of forming a government.

The murky outcome itself was a humiliating blow to Mr. Netanyahu, 69, the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, who forced the do-over election when he failed to assemble a coalition in May, rather than let Mr. Gantz have a try. For the second time in a row, his onetime deputy, Avigdor Liberman, denied Mr. Netanyahu a majority, this time urging the formation of a unity government.

“According to the current results, Netanyahu did not complete his mission,” Mr. Gantz told a crowd of cheering supporters in Tel Aviv early Wednesday. “We did.”

“Israeli society is strong,” he added, “but it is wounded, and the time has come to heal it.”

Long renowned as a political magician, Mr. Netanyahu campaigned frenetically right up until the polls closed Tuesday night, warning right-wing Jewish voters that Arabs were turning out in large numbers and flouting Election Day bans on campaign propaganda to spur his supporters into action.

Looking visibly deflated and sipping frequently from a glass of water, Mr. Netanyahu told a small but loud crowd in Tel Aviv that he would wait for the actual results, but planned to enter negotiations to establish “a strong Zionist government and prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government.”

“There won’t be, there can’t be a government that relies on the anti-Zionist Arab parties, parties that deny Israel’s very existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said. “Parties that glorify and praise bloodthirsty terrorists who murder our soldiers, our citizens and our children. That simply cannot be.”

With indictments against him looming in three corruption cases, the election’s less-than-vindicating apparent outcome would put his future in grave jeopardy. As prime minister, he could stay in his post even if indicted, under Israeli law. And he could press his coalition to grant him immunity from prosecution. But as a lesser minister or ordinary lawmaker, he would have to resign if charged.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160979850_6b9c9798-0684-4799-8ed0-6c3d79bce67f-articleLarge With Israel Election Results Too Close to Call, Netanyahu Appears in Peril Netanyahu, Benjamin Likud Party (Israel) Lieberman, Avigdor Joint List (Israel) Israel Gantz, Benny elections Blue and White (Israeli Political Party)

The party leaders of Blue and White, Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon at their headquarters in Tel Aviv.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

Israeli exit polls have often proven unreliable, and the official results, expected to trickle in overnight, could change the picture sharply. Many Israelis recalled the election of 1996, when they went to bed with the Labor leader Shimon Peres as the winner and woke up in the morning with Mr. Netanyahu as their next prime minister.

The two main contenders had offered Israelis starkly different choices.

Mr. Netanyahu was aiming for a narrow coalition with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, who had promised to grant him immunity as he vowed to annex a large swath of the occupied West Bank. His heavy reliance on the ultra-Orthodox parties would only perpetuate and even expand what many see as their disproportionate influence over matters of religion and state.

Mr. Gantz pledged to forge a broad, secular government aimed at curbing the influence of the ultra-Orthodox, protecting the institutions of democracy and rule of law and healing internal divisions. He pledged to govern “from the center out,” saying 80 percent of Israelis agreed on 80 percent of the issues.

But in the hours after the election, Israel was effectively on hold, suspended between those two visions and unclear about its path forward.

Just five months after the last inconclusive ballot, the country could now face weeks of feverish coalition negotiations, political paralysis, brinkmanship and instability. A new government could take until November to be formed, marking a full year in campaign mode, a first for Israeli politics.

The process will begin in a few days when President Reuven Rivlin invites party representatives to recommend their choice for prime minister. Mr. Rivlin will give the mandate to the candidate with the best chance of forming a viable coalition, and has pledged to move as quickly as possible and do all he can to avoid a deadlock and a third election.

He could also bring Mr. Gantz and Mr. Netanyahu together for informal talks even before the final, official results are in.

The clearest winner on Tuesday, according to exit polls, was Mr. Liberman, the longtime Netanyahu ally turned nemesis who leads an ultranationalist secular party.

Avigdor Liberman, a onetime Netanyahu ally.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Liberman immediately moved to play the role of kingmaker, urging the formation of a “broad government, not a government that fights for its survival week to week, from one no-confidence motion to another.”

Speaking after exit polls came out on Tuesday night, he insisted he would stick to his campaign promise that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would not join a right-wing government that depended on ultra-Orthodox support.

“We only have one option,” he told supporters. “A broad, liberal, national government made up of Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Blue and White.”

Had Mr. Netanyahu come away with a clear victory, Mr. Liberman would have put the country through a costly, unwanted and exhausting second election for nothing. Instead, it appeared that he had triggered the do-over ballot, set the agenda for the contest and emerged from it in strong position to help decide Israel’s next leader.

For Mr. Gantz, 60, the preliminary results held the promise of a great achievement. A newcomer to politics, his first run in April ended in a tie for Likud and Blue and White. Now he is positioned to potentially take over as prime minister.

A late wave of exit polls showed Blue and White with a slight edge over Likud in two polls and the two coalitions tied in another poll. None of the surveys gave either man a governing majority.

The center-left had been waiting for many years for a candidate with the security credentials and stature to be a standard-bearer against Mr. Netanyahu, who has presented himself as the only leader capable of protecting Israel.

But the path to forming a unity government could be complicated. Mr. Gantz has pledged not to join a government with a prime minister who is facing indictment, while Mr. Netanyahu is not likely to give up easily on another chance at the helm.

The leader of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, and his wife, Revital, leaving a polling station in Rosh Haayin, Israel.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

“Someone is going to have to fold,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in an interview late Tuesday night. “Either Likud goes into a government without Netanyahu, or Gantz goes into a government with Netanyahu. It’s anybody’s guess. And right now, there’s no incentive for either of them to do it.”

Younger Likud leaders have signaled their desire for the chance to succeed Mr. Netanyahu. But his allies were in a defensive crouch on Tuesday.

“There won’t be an ousting of Netanyahu,” said Miri Regev, his culture minister and a Likud firebrand popular with the party’s grass roots. “We are all behind Netanyahu.”

Still, some rank-and-file Likud members gathered at the party’s election-night headquarters in Tel Aviv said bluntly that he had become a liability.

“I think Likud would have done far better with someone else at the top,” said Haim Guterman, 26, of Petach Tikva.

Mr. Netanyahu’s desperate-sounding campaign appeals had become a mainstay of Israeli elections, but if the exit polls were right, for the first time all of them may be proved true: His own voters were indeed being outnumbered, and right-wing votes were indeed being wasted on a small extremist party, Otzma Yehudit, that did not clear the threshold to be seated in Parliament.

In perhaps the most cutting twist, the Arabs did indeed flock to the polls “in droves,” Israeli news outlets reported: Turnout among Arab citizens appeared to surge past 60 percent, up from just 49 percent in April.

“Netanyahu discovered that incitement has a heavy price,” said Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu preparing to vote in Jerusalem on Tuesday.CreditPool photo by Heidi Levine

Mr. Liberman’s fight with the ultra-Orthodox brought to the center of the election campaign an issue that has divided Israelis as long as they have had a country: the tension between secular Israelis, who once were a majority of Jewish citizens, and religious Israelis.

Mr. Liberman found himself aligning with liberals from the left and center in calling to curtail the financial and social burdens that the very religious impose on other Israelis. They demanded more pluralistic options for marriages and conversions, now dominated by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. And they expressed fury at the growing influence of a group of ultrareligious nationalist Jews who espouse anti-feminist, anti-gay views and a far-right, messianic ideology.

But Mr. Netanyahu had forged an ironclad bond with the ultra-Orthodox, and for good reason: They vote en masse, and at rates that are the envy of other parties. And with secular leaders singling them out as targets, ultra-Orthodox leaders said it was easier than ever to rally their voters to the ramparts.

Even Mr. Netanyahu’s biggest comfort zones — national security and diplomacy — were a source of unexpected headwinds.

President Trump pressured him into barring two Democratic members of Congress from entering Israel, setting off a political firestorm. Then Mr. Trump broached the idea of opening talks with Iran, which Mr. Netanyahu opposed. And Mr. Netanyahu’s staunchest advocate in the White House, John Bolton, the hawkish and fiercely anti-Iran national security adviser, was forced out.

In the end, Mr. Trump’s only election-eve gift to Mr. Netanyahu was a Twitter message on Saturday in which he talked of a United States-Israel defense treaty. National-security professionals in both countries have long opposed such a pact.

Mr. Netanyahu was battling on two fronts as his political timetable converged with his legal one.

Facing possible indictment in three corruption cases on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he has a last chance to avoid prosecution in a special hearing with the attorney general set for Oct. 2. Gaining parliamentary immunity may offer his best chance of avoiding prosecution.

One of the biggest surprises of the election was the apparent strength of the Arab vote. According to the exit polls, the Arab bloc may have gained up to three new seats in Parliament.

Only 49 percent of Arab voters cast their ballots in April, as many punished Arab lawmakers for splintering into rival factions. The politicians took the hint, and reunited into a single Joint List.

Mindful that Arab citizens want to see tangible improvements in their lives and to exert influence befitting one-sixth of the voting-age population, the Joint List’s leader, Ayman Odeh, broached the possibility of entering a center-left government under Mr. Gantz.

Mr. Gantz, for his part, gave interviews to Arabic-language news organizations, and Blue and White and other Jewish parties promised to fight crime, build housing and add hospital beds in Arab areas. Turnout among Arab voters was expected to approach 60 percent.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

In Tight Israeli Election, Netanyahu’s Tenure Appears in Peril

JERUSALEM — Israel’s election was too close to call early Wednesday, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief rival, the former army chief Benny Gantz, a centrist, immediately commanding enough support to form a majority coalition, according to exit polls.

But Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party appeared to have come out ahead of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud, giving a small third party the power to decide the outcome. And his avowed desire to force a unity coalition including both their parties made it likely that, if the projections held, Mr. Gantz would be given the first chance of forming a government.

The murky outcome itself was a humiliating blow to Mr. Netanyahu, 69, the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, who forced the do-over election when he failed to assemble a coalition in May, rather than let Mr. Gantz have a try. For the second time in a row, his onetime deputy, Avigdor Liberman, denied Mr. Netanyahu a majority, this time urging the formation of a unity government.

“According to the current results, Netanyahu did not complete his mission,” Mr. Gantz told a crowd of cheering supporters in Tel Aviv early Wednesday. “We did.”

“Israeli society is strong,” he added, “but it is wounded, and the time has come to heal it.”

Long renowned as a political magician, Mr. Netanyahu campaigned frenetically right up until the polls closed Tuesday night, warning right-wing Jewish voters that Arabs were turning out in large numbers and flouting Election Day bans on campaign propaganda to spur his supporters into action.

Looking visibly deflated and sipping frequently from a glass of water, Mr. Netanyahu told a small but loud crowd in Tel Aviv that he would wait for the actual results, but planned to enter negotiations to establish “a strong Zionist government and prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government.”

“There won’t be, there can’t be a government that relies on the anti-Zionist Arab parties, parties that deny Israel’s very existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said. “Parties that glorify and praise bloodthirsty terrorists who murder our soldiers, our citizens and our children. That simply cannot be.”

With indictments against him looming in three corruption cases, the election’s less-than-vindicating apparent outcome would put his future in grave jeopardy. As prime minister, he could stay in his post even if indicted, under Israeli law. And he could press his coalition to grant him immunity from prosecution. But as a lesser minister or ordinary lawmaker, he would have to resign if charged.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160979850_6b9c9798-0684-4799-8ed0-6c3d79bce67f-articleLarge In Tight Israeli Election, Netanyahu’s Tenure Appears in Peril Netanyahu, Benjamin Likud Party (Israel) Lieberman, Avigdor Joint List (Israel) Israel Gantz, Benny elections Blue and White (Israeli Political Party)

The party leaders of Blue and White, Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon at their headquarters in Tel Aviv.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

Israeli exit polls have often proven unreliable, and the official results, expected to trickle in overnight, could change the picture sharply. Many Israelis recalled the election of 1996, when they went to bed with the Labor leader Shimon Peres as the winner and woke up in the morning with Mr. Netanyahu as their next prime minister.

The two main contenders had offered Israelis starkly different choices.

Mr. Netanyahu was aiming for a narrow coalition with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, who had promised to grant him immunity as he vowed to annex a large swath of the occupied West Bank. His heavy reliance on the ultra-Orthodox parties would only perpetuate and even expand what many see as their disproportionate influence over matters of religion and state.

Mr. Gantz pledged to forge a broad, secular government aimed at curbing the influence of the ultra-Orthodox, protecting the institutions of democracy and rule of law and healing internal divisions. He pledged to govern “from the center out,” saying 80 percent of Israelis agreed on 80 percent of the issues.

But in the hours after the election, Israel was effectively on hold, suspended between those two visions and unclear about its path forward.

Just five months after the last inconclusive ballot, the country could now face weeks of feverish coalition negotiations, political paralysis, brinkmanship and instability. A new government could take until November to be formed, marking a full year in campaign mode, a first for Israeli politics.

The process will begin in a few days when President Reuven Rivlin invites party representatives to recommend their choice for prime minister. Mr. Rivlin will give the mandate to the candidate with the best chance of forming a viable coalition, and has pledged to move as quickly as possible and do all he can to avoid a deadlock and a third election.

He could also bring Mr. Gantz and Mr. Netanyahu together for informal talks even before the final, official results are in.

The clearest winner on Tuesday, according to exit polls, was Mr. Liberman, the longtime Netanyahu ally turned nemesis who leads an ultranationalist secular party.

Avigdor Liberman, a onetime Netanyahu ally.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Liberman immediately moved to play the role of kingmaker, urging the formation of a “broad government, not a government that fights for its survival week to week, from one no-confidence motion to another.”

Speaking after exit polls came out on Tuesday night, he insisted he would stick to his campaign promise that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would not join a right-wing government that depended on ultra-Orthodox support.

“We only have one option,” he told supporters. “A broad, liberal, national government made up of Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Blue and White.”

Had Mr. Netanyahu come away with a clear victory, Mr. Liberman would have put the country through a costly, unwanted and exhausting second election for nothing. Instead, it appeared that he had triggered the do-over ballot, set the agenda for the contest and emerged from it in strong position to help decide Israel’s next leader.

For Mr. Gantz, 60, the preliminary results held the promise of a great achievement. A newcomer to politics, his first run in April ended in a tie for Likud and Blue and White. Now he is positioned to potentially take over as prime minister.

A late wave of exit polls showed Blue and White with a slight edge over Likud in two polls and the two coalitions tied in another poll. None of the surveys gave either man a governing majority.

The center-left had been waiting for many years for a candidate with the security credentials and stature to be a standard-bearer against Mr. Netanyahu, who has presented himself as the only leader capable of protecting Israel.

But the path to forming a unity government could be complicated. Mr. Gantz has pledged not to join a government with a prime minister who is facing indictment, while Mr. Netanyahu is not likely to give up easily on another chance at the helm.

The leader of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, and his wife, Revital, leaving a polling station in Rosh Haayin, Israel.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

“Someone is going to have to fold,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in an interview late Tuesday night. “Either Likud goes into a government without Netanyahu, or Gantz goes into a government with Netanyahu. It’s anybody’s guess. And right now, there’s no incentive for either of them to do it.”

Younger Likud leaders have signaled their desire for the chance to succeed Mr. Netanyahu. But his allies were in a defensive crouch on Tuesday.

“There won’t be an ousting of Netanyahu,” said Miri Regev, his culture minister and a Likud firebrand popular with the party’s grass roots. “We are all behind Netanyahu.”

Still, some rank-and-file Likud members gathered at the party’s election-night headquarters in Tel Aviv said bluntly that he had become a liability.

“I think Likud would have done far better with someone else at the top,” said Haim Guterman, 26, of Petach Tikva.

Mr. Netanyahu’s desperate-sounding campaign appeals had become a mainstay of Israeli elections, but if the exit polls were right, for the first time all of them may be proved true: His own voters were indeed being outnumbered, and right-wing votes were indeed being wasted on a small extremist party, Otzma Yehudit, that did not clear the threshold to be seated in Parliament.

In perhaps the most cutting twist, the Arabs did indeed flock to the polls “in droves,” Israeli news outlets reported: Turnout among Arab citizens appeared to surge past 60 percent, up from just 49 percent in April.

“Netanyahu discovered that incitement has a heavy price,” said Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu preparing to vote in Jerusalem on Tuesday.CreditPool photo by Heidi Levine

Mr. Liberman’s fight with the ultra-Orthodox brought to the center of the election campaign an issue that has divided Israelis as long as they have had a country: the tension between secular Israelis, who once were a majority of Jewish citizens, and religious Israelis.

Mr. Liberman found himself aligning with liberals from the left and center in calling to curtail the financial and social burdens that the very religious impose on other Israelis. They demanded more pluralistic options for marriages and conversions, now dominated by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. And they expressed fury at the growing influence of a group of ultrareligious nationalist Jews who espouse anti-feminist, anti-gay views and a far-right, messianic ideology.

But Mr. Netanyahu had forged an ironclad bond with the ultra-Orthodox, and for good reason: They vote en masse, and at rates that are the envy of other parties. And with secular leaders singling them out as targets, ultra-Orthodox leaders said it was easier than ever to rally their voters to the ramparts.

Even Mr. Netanyahu’s biggest comfort zones — national security and diplomacy — were a source of unexpected headwinds.

President Trump pressured him into barring two Democratic members of Congress from entering Israel, setting off a political firestorm. Then Mr. Trump broached the idea of opening talks with Iran, which Mr. Netanyahu opposed. And Mr. Netanyahu’s staunchest advocate in the White House, John Bolton, the hawkish and fiercely anti-Iran national security adviser, was forced out.

In the end, Mr. Trump’s only election-eve gift to Mr. Netanyahu was a Twitter message on Saturday in which he talked of a United States-Israel defense treaty. National-security professionals in both countries have long opposed such a pact.

Mr. Netanyahu was battling on two fronts as his political timetable converged with his legal one.

Facing possible indictment in three corruption cases on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he has a last chance to avoid prosecution in a special hearing with the attorney general set for Oct. 2. Gaining parliamentary immunity may offer his best chance of avoiding prosecution.

One of the biggest surprises of the election was the apparent strength of the Arab vote. According to the exit polls, the Arab bloc may have gained up to three new seats in Parliament.

Only 49 percent of Arab voters cast their ballots in April, as many punished Arab lawmakers for splintering into rival factions. The politicians took the hint, and reunited into a single Joint List.

Mindful that Arab citizens want to see tangible improvements in their lives and to exert influence befitting one-sixth of the voting-age population, the Joint List’s leader, Ayman Odeh, broached the possibility of entering a center-left government under Mr. Gantz.

Mr. Gantz, for his part, gave interviews to Arabic-language news organizations, and Blue and White and other Jewish parties promised to fight crime, build housing and add hospital beds in Arab areas. Turnout among Arab voters was expected to approach 60 percent.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

After Tight Israeli Election, Netanyahu’s Tenure Appears in Peril

JERUSALEM — Israel’s election was too close to call early Wednesday, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief rival, the former army chief Benny Gantz, a centrist, immediately commanding enough support to form a majority coalition, according to exit polls.

But Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party appeared to have come out ahead of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud, giving a small third party the power to decide the outcome. And his avowed desire to force a unity coalition including both their parties made it likely that, if the projections held, Mr. Gantz would be given the first chance of forming a government.

The murky outcome itself was a humiliating blow to Mr. Netanyahu, 69, the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, who forced the do-over election when he failed to assemble a coalition in May, rather than let Mr. Gantz have a try. For the second time in a row, his onetime deputy, Avigdor Liberman, denied Mr. Netanyahu a majority, this time urging the formation of a unity government.

“According to the current results, Netanyahu did not complete his mission,” Mr. Gantz told a crowd of cheering supporters in Tel Aviv early Wednesday. “We did.”

“Israeli society is strong,” he added, “but it is wounded, and the time has come to heal it.”

Long renowned as a political magician, Mr. Netanyahu campaigned frenetically right up until the polls closed Tuesday night, warning right-wing Jewish voters that Arabs were turning out in large numbers and flouting Election Day bans on campaign propaganda to spur his supporters into action.

Looking visibly deflated and sipping frequently from a glass of water, Mr. Netanyahu told a small but loud crowd in Tel Aviv that he would wait for the actual results, but planned to enter negotiations to establish “a strong Zionist government and prevent a dangerous anti-Zionist government.”

“There won’t be, there can’t be a government that relies on the anti-Zionist Arab parties, parties that deny Israel’s very existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said. “Parties that glorify and praise bloodthirsty terrorists who murder our soldiers, our citizens and our children. That simply cannot be.”

With indictments against him looming in three corruption cases, the election’s less-than-vindicating apparent outcome would put his future in grave jeopardy. As prime minister, he could stay in his post even if indicted, under Israeli law. And he could press his coalition to grant him immunity from prosecution. But as a lesser minister or ordinary lawmaker, he would have to resign if charged.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160979850_6b9c9798-0684-4799-8ed0-6c3d79bce67f-articleLarge After Tight Israeli Election, Netanyahu’s Tenure Appears in Peril Netanyahu, Benjamin Likud Party (Israel) Lieberman, Avigdor Joint List (Israel) Israel Gantz, Benny elections Blue and White (Israeli Political Party)

The party leaders of Blue and White, Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon at their headquarters in Tel Aviv.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

Israeli exit polls have often proven unreliable, and the official results, expected to trickle in overnight, could change the picture sharply. Many Israelis recalled the election of 1996, when they went to bed with the Labor leader Shimon Peres as the winner and woke up in the morning with Mr. Netanyahu as their next prime minister.

The two main contenders had offered Israelis starkly different choices.

Mr. Netanyahu was aiming for a narrow coalition with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, who had promised to grant him immunity as he vowed to annex a large swath of the occupied West Bank. His heavy reliance on the ultra-Orthodox parties would only perpetuate and even expand what many see as their disproportionate influence over matters of religion and state.

Mr. Gantz pledged to forge a broad, secular government aimed at curbing the influence of the ultra-Orthodox, protecting the institutions of democracy and rule of law and healing internal divisions. He pledged to govern “from the center out,” saying 80 percent of Israelis agreed on 80 percent of the issues.

But in the hours after the election, Israel was effectively on hold, suspended between those two visions and unclear about its path forward.

Just five months after the last inconclusive ballot, the country could now face weeks of feverish coalition negotiations, political paralysis, brinkmanship and instability. A new government could take until November to be formed, marking a full year in campaign mode, a first for Israeli politics.

The process will begin in a few days when President Reuven Rivlin invites party representatives to recommend their choice for prime minister. Mr. Rivlin will give the mandate to the candidate with the best chance of forming a viable coalition, and has pledged to move as quickly as possible and do all he can to avoid a deadlock and a third election.

He could also bring Mr. Gantz and Mr. Netanyahu together for informal talks even before the final, official results are in.

The clearest winner on Tuesday, according to exit polls, was Mr. Liberman, the longtime Netanyahu ally turned nemesis who leads an ultranationalist secular party.

Avigdor Liberman, a onetime Netanyahu ally.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Liberman immediately moved to play the role of kingmaker, urging the formation of a “broad government, not a government that fights for its survival week to week, from one no-confidence motion to another.”

Speaking after exit polls came out on Tuesday night, he insisted he would stick to his campaign promise that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would not join a right-wing government that depended on ultra-Orthodox support.

“We only have one option,” he told supporters. “A broad, liberal, national government made up of Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Blue and White.”

Had Mr. Netanyahu come away with a clear victory, Mr. Liberman would have put the country through a costly, unwanted and exhausting second election for nothing. Instead, it appeared that he had triggered the do-over ballot, set the agenda for the contest and emerged from it in strong position to help decide Israel’s next leader.

For Mr. Gantz, 60, the preliminary results held the promise of a great achievement. A newcomer to politics, his first run in April ended in a tie for Likud and Blue and White. Now he is positioned to potentially take over as prime minister.

A late wave of exit polls showed Blue and White with a slight edge over Likud in two polls and the two coalitions tied in another poll. None of the surveys gave either man a governing majority.

The center-left had been waiting for many years for a candidate with the security credentials and stature to be a standard-bearer against Mr. Netanyahu, who has presented himself as the only leader capable of protecting Israel.

But the path to forming a unity government could be complicated. Mr. Gantz has pledged not to join a government with a prime minister who is facing indictment, while Mr. Netanyahu is not likely to give up easily on another chance at the helm.

The leader of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, and his wife, Revital, leaving a polling station in Rosh Haayin, Israel.CreditSebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

“Someone is going to have to fold,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in an interview late Tuesday night. “Either Likud goes into a government without Netanyahu, or Gantz goes into a government with Netanyahu. It’s anybody’s guess. And right now, there’s no incentive for either of them to do it.”

Younger Likud leaders have signaled their desire for the chance to succeed Mr. Netanyahu. But his allies were in a defensive crouch on Tuesday.

“There won’t be an ousting of Netanyahu,” said Miri Regev, his culture minister and a Likud firebrand popular with the party’s grass roots. “We are all behind Netanyahu.”

Still, some rank-and-file Likud members gathered at the party’s election-night headquarters in Tel Aviv said bluntly that he had become a liability.

“I think Likud would have done far better with someone else at the top,” said Haim Guterman, 26, of Petach Tikva.

Mr. Netanyahu’s desperate-sounding campaign appeals had become a mainstay of Israeli elections, but if the exit polls were right, for the first time all of them may be proved true: His own voters were indeed being outnumbered, and right-wing votes were indeed being wasted on a small extremist party, Otzma Yehudit, that did not clear the threshold to be seated in Parliament.

In perhaps the most cutting twist, the Arabs did indeed flock to the polls “in droves,” Israeli news outlets reported: Turnout among Arab citizens appeared to surge past 60 percent, up from just 49 percent in April.

“Netanyahu discovered that incitement has a heavy price,” said Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties.

Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu preparing to vote in Jerusalem on Tuesday.CreditPool photo by Heidi Levine

Mr. Liberman’s fight with the ultra-Orthodox brought to the center of the election campaign an issue that has divided Israelis as long as they have had a country: the tension between secular Israelis, who once were a majority of Jewish citizens, and religious Israelis.

Mr. Liberman found himself aligning with liberals from the left and center in calling to curtail the financial and social burdens that the very religious impose on other Israelis. They demanded more pluralistic options for marriages and conversions, now dominated by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. And they expressed fury at the growing influence of a group of ultrareligious nationalist Jews who espouse anti-feminist, anti-gay views and a far-right, messianic ideology.

But Mr. Netanyahu had forged an ironclad bond with the ultra-Orthodox, and for good reason: They vote en masse, and at rates that are the envy of other parties. And with secular leaders singling them out as targets, ultra-Orthodox leaders said it was easier than ever to rally their voters to the ramparts.

Even Mr. Netanyahu’s biggest comfort zones — national security and diplomacy — were a source of unexpected headwinds.

President Trump pressured him into barring two Democratic members of Congress from entering Israel, setting off a political firestorm. Then Mr. Trump broached the idea of opening talks with Iran, which Mr. Netanyahu opposed. And Mr. Netanyahu’s staunchest advocate in the White House, John Bolton, the hawkish and fiercely anti-Iran national security adviser, was forced out.

In the end, Mr. Trump’s only election-eve gift to Mr. Netanyahu was a Twitter message on Saturday in which he talked of a United States-Israel defense treaty. National-security professionals in both countries have long opposed such a pact.

Mr. Netanyahu was battling on two fronts as his political timetable converged with his legal one.

Facing possible indictment in three corruption cases on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he has a last chance to avoid prosecution in a special hearing with the attorney general set for Oct. 2. Gaining parliamentary immunity may offer his best chance of avoiding prosecution.

One of the biggest surprises of the election was the apparent strength of the Arab vote. According to the exit polls, the Arab bloc may have gained up to three new seats in Parliament.

Only 49 percent of Arab voters cast their ballots in April, as many punished Arab lawmakers for splintering into rival factions. The politicians took the hint, and reunited into a single Joint List.

Mindful that Arab citizens want to see tangible improvements in their lives and to exert influence befitting one-sixth of the voting-age population, the Joint List’s leader, Ayman Odeh, broached the possibility of entering a center-left government under Mr. Gantz.

Mr. Gantz, for his part, gave interviews to Arabic-language news organizations, and Blue and White and other Jewish parties promised to fight crime, build housing and add hospital beds in Arab areas. Turnout among Arab voters was expected to approach 60 percent.

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After Tight Israeli Election, Netanyahu’s Tenure Appears Perilous

JERUSALEM — Israel’s election was too close to call early Wednesday, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief rival, the former army chief Benny Gantz, a centrist, immediately commanding enough support to form a majority coalition, according to exit polls.

But Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party appeared to have come out ahead of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud, giving a small third party the power to decide the outcome. And his avowed desire to form a unity government including both their parties made it likely that, if the projections held, Mr. Gantz would be given the first chance of forming a government.

The murky outcome itself was a humiliating blow to Mr. Netanyahu, 69, the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, who forced the do-over election when he failed to assemble a coalition in May, rather than let Mr. Gantz have a try. For the second time in a row, his onetime deputy, Avigdor Liberman, denied Mr. Netanyahu a majority, this time urging the formation of a unity government.

“According to the current results, Netanyahu did not complete his mission,” Mr. Gantz told a crowd of cheering supporters in Tel Aviv early Wednesday. “We did.”

“Israeli society is strong,” he added, “but it is wounded, and the time has come to heal it.”

Long renowned as a political magician, Mr. Netanyahu campaigned frenetically right up until the polls closed Tuesday night, warning right-wing Jewish voters that Arabs were turning out in large numbers and flouting Election Day bans on campaign propaganda to spur his supporters into action.

With indictments against him looming in three corruption cases, the election’s less-than-vindicating apparent outcome puts his future in grave jeopardy. As prime minister, he could stay in his post even if indicted, under Israeli law. And he could press his coalition to grant him immunity from prosecution. But as a lesser minister or ordinary lawmaker, he would have to resign if charged.

Israeli exit polls have often proven unreliable, and the official results, expected to trickle in overnight, could change the picture sharply. Many Israelis recalled the election of 1996, when they went to bed with the Labor leader Shimon Peres as the winner and woke up in the morning with Mr. Netanyahu as their next prime minister.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160978839_0fdbaaf0-efbc-4297-a008-58cecda0e982-articleLarge After Tight Israeli Election, Netanyahu’s Tenure Appears Perilous Netanyahu, Benjamin Likud Party (Israel) Lieberman, Avigdor Joint List (Israel) Israel Gantz, Benny elections Blue and White (Israeli Political Party)

Benny Gantz arriving at the Blue and White party’s headquarters after the polls closed.CreditCorinna Kern/Reuters

The two main contenders had offered Israelis starkly different choices.

Mr. Netanyahu was aiming for a narrow coalition with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, who had promised to grant him immunity as he vowed to annex a large swath of the occupied West Bank. His heavy reliance on the ultra-Orthodox parties would only perpetuate and even expand what many see as their disproportionate influence over matters of religion and state.

Mr. Gantz pledged to forge a broad, secular government aimed at curbing the influence of the ultra-Orthodox, protecting the institutions of democracy and rule of law and healing internal divisions. He pledged to govern “from the center out,” saying 80 percent of Israelis agreed on 80 percent of the issues.

But in the hours after the election, Israel was effectively on hold, suspended between those two visions and unclear about its path forward.

Just five months after the last inconclusive ballot, the country could now face weeks of feverish coalition negotiations, political paralysis, brinkmanship and instability. A new government could take until November to be formed, marking a full year in campaign mode, a first for Israeli politics.

The process will begin in a few days when President Reuven Rivlin invites party representatives to recommend their choice for prime minister. Mr. Rivlin will give the mandate to the candidate with the best chance of forming a viable coalition, and has pledged to move as quickly as possible and do all he can to avoid a deadlock and a third election.

He could also bring Mr. Gantz and Mr. Netanyahu together for informal talks even before the final, official results are in.

The clearest winner on Tuesday, according to exit polls, was Mr. Liberman, the longtime Netanyahu ally turned nemesis who leads an ultranationalist secular party.

Mr. Netanyahu has forged an ironclad bond with ultra-Orthodox Israelis.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Liberman immediately moved to play the role of kingmaker, urging the formation of a “broad government, not a government that fights for its survival week to week, from one no-confidence motion to another.”

Speaking after exits polls came out on Tuesday night, he insisted he would stick to his campaign promise that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would not join a right-wing government that depended on ultra-Orthodox support.

“We only have one option,” he told supporters. “A broad, liberal, national government made up of Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Blue and White.”

Had Mr. Netanyahu come away with a clear victory, Mr. Liberman would have put the country through a costly, unwanted and exhausting second election for nothing. Instead, it appeared that he had triggered the do-over ballot, set the agenda for the contest and emerged from it in strong position to help decide Israel’s next leader.

For Mr. Gantz, 60, the preliminary results held the promise of a great achievement. A newcomer to politics, his first run in April ended in a tie for Likud and Blue and White. Now he is positioned to potentially take over as prime minister.

A late wave of exit polls showed Blue and White with a slight edge over Likud in two polls and the two coalitions tied in another poll. None of the surveys gave either man a governing majority.

The center-left had been waiting for many years for a candidate with the security credentials and stature to be a standard-bearer against Mr. Netanyahu, who has presented himself as the only leader capable of protecting Israel.

Avigdor Liberman, a onetime Netanyahu ally.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

But the path to forming a unity government could be complicated. Mr. Gantz has pledged not to sit join a government with a prime minister who is facing indictment, while Mr. Netanyahu is not likely to give up easily on another chance at the helm.

“Someone is going to have to fold,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in an interview late Tuesday night. “Either Likud goes into a government without Netanyahu, or Gantz goes into a government with Netanyahu. It’s anybody’s guess. And right now, there’s no incentive for either of them to do it.”

Younger Likud leaders have signaled their desire for the chance to succeed Mr. Netanyahu. But his allies were in a defensive crouch on Tuesday.

“There won’t be an ousting of Netanyahu,” said Miri Regev, his culture minister and a Likud firebrand popular with the party’s grass roots. “We are all behind Netanyahu.”

Still, some rank-and-file Likud members gathered at the party’s election-night headquarters in Tel Aviv said bluntly that he had become a liability.

“I think Likud would have done far better with someone else at the top,” said Haim Guterman, 26, of Petach Tikva.

Mr. Netanyahu’s desperate-sounding campaign appeals had become a mainstay of Israeli elections, but if the exit polls were right, for the first time all of them may be proved true: His own voters were indeed being outnumbered, and right-wing votes were indeed being wasted on a small extremist party, Otzma Yehudit, that did not clear the threshold to be seated in Parliament.

In perhaps the most cutting twist, the Arabs did indeed flock to the polls “in droves,” Israeli news outlets reported: Turnout among Arab citizens appeared to surge past 60 percent, up from just 49 percent in April.

“Netanyahu discovered that incitement has a heavy price,” said Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties.

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Israel Election Live Updates: Netanyahu and Gantz in Tight Race

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160967040_5335c2d4-fa1e-4f12-9c66-6b3113c551df-articleLarge Israel Election Live Updates: Netanyahu and Gantz in Tight Race Peretz, Amir Otzma Yehudit Netanyahu, Benjamin Likud Party (Israel) Legislatures and Parliaments Labour Party (Israel) Jews and Judaism Israel Gantz, Benny elections Blue and White (Israeli Political Party)

Gantz supporters watching exit poll results at Blue and White party headquarters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.CreditAmir Cohen/Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist challenger, the former army chief Benny Gantz, appeared to be neck and neck as Israel’s second election in five months drew to a close Tuesday night, according to initial surveys of voters leaving the polls.

It was too early to tell if Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party or Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party would emerge with enough seats in Parliament to form a governing coalition.

In three exit polls, Mr. Gantz held a slight edge. None of the surveys gave either man a governing majority.

The last voters were still lining up to cast their ballots at 10 p.m. when the exit polls were reported.

Adding to the uncertainty, Israeli exit polls have been inaccurate and unreliable in the past.

Actual results were expected to trickle in overnight. And the winner of the contest for prime minister could end up being decided not by the final vote count but in weeks of coalition talks.

Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, narrowly won the vote in April but was unable to form a government with his usual right-wing and religious coalition partners. He dissolved Parliament, triggering Tuesday’s do-over election, rather than let Mr. Gantz or another rival be given the chance to form a coalition.

The exit polls had other bad news for Mr. Netanyahu.

All three showed the umbrella Arab party, the Arab Joint List, improving on its 10-seat current representation, with gains of up to three seats. Arab citizens were eager to end the Netanyahu era, and any increase in their representation in Parliament takes seats away from a possible Netanyahu coalition.

The exit polls also all showed a far-right anti-Arab party, Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, failing to gain enough votes to be seated in Parliament. If that result holds it could prove costly to Mr. Netanyahu, because the party’s votes — which could have gone to other right-wing parties that would have joined his coalition — will have been wasted.

A guide to the major voting blocs.
A Mosaic of Groups Competes in Israel’s Election
Israeli politics can be tribal, with loyalties to ethnic groups, religious factions and ideologies as strong a factor in voting as views on particular issues. Here’s a guide in words and pictures.

Sept. 17, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 16israel-photos-fader1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Israel Election Live Updates: Netanyahu and Gantz in Tight Race Peretz, Amir Otzma Yehudit Netanyahu, Benjamin Likud Party (Israel) Legislatures and Parliaments Labour Party (Israel) Jews and Judaism Israel Gantz, Benny elections Blue and White (Israeli Political Party)
Avigdor Liberman urged the formation of a unity government after exit polls showed he won enough seats to deny Mr. Netanyahu a majority.CreditOren Ben Hakoon/Reuters

The clearest winner late Tuesday appeared to be Avigdor Liberman, the longtime Netanyahu ally turned nemesis who leads an ultranationalist secular party.

After forcing the repeat election by refusing to join a Netanyahu coalition in the spring, he appeared to have picked up enough seats to again deny Mr. Netanyahu a majority after Tuesday’s ballot, exit polls showed.

Mr. Liberman immediately moved to play the role of kingmaker, urging the formation of a “broad government, not a government that fights for its survival week to week, from one no-confidence motion to another.”

He urged President Reuven Rivlin to call Mr. Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the Blue and White leader, in for talks on forming a coalition even before the election results have been finalized, saying the country was in an “emergency situation.”

He insisted he would stick to his campaign promise that his Yisrael Beiteinu party would not join a right-wing government dependent on ultra-Orthodox support.

“We only have one option,” he told supporters. “A broad, liberal, national government made up of Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Blue and White.”

Alluding to the likelihood that Mr. Netanyahu would try to entice him anyway, Mr. Liberman said that “no proposals, no tempting offers will help, neither an alternating premiership arrangement or budgets or portfolios.” He added: “Everything we said, we continue to say.”

The kind of unity government he is proposing, however, would have another obstacle. Mr. Gantz has said he would not sit in a government with a prime minister facing possible indictment, as Mr. Netanyahu is. He has said that he would be open to joining a coalition with the Likud party without Mr. Netanyahu at its head.

Mr. Liberman’s career seemed endangered when he quit as defense minister last November, helping to force the April elections. His political base of fellow immigrants from the former Soviet Union was dwindling, and his party only won five seats.

But he seized on a dispute with the ultra-Orthodox parties over a bill to require more religious school students to perform military service, fashioning himself a champion of secular Israelis impatient with the rabbinate’s monopoly on many aspects of Jewish life.

He ran an effective campaign, prompting Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party to join him in taking on the ultra-Orthodox and right-wing ultrareligious parties.

Tuesday’s vote carried tremendous risk for Mr. Liberman: Had Mr. Netanyahu come away with a clear victory, Mr. Liberman would have put the country through a costly, unwanted and exhausting second election for nothing.

Instead, it appeared that he had triggered the do-over ballot, set the agenda for the contest, and emerged from it in strong position to help decide Israel’s next leader.

Voting in Rosh Haayin, Israel, on Tuesday.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Snap a selfie at the ballot box, earn a discount at the gym or a cocktail bar. That student-inspired initiative was just one of many efforts being made to get Israelis to vote.

They seemed to be having some effect.

As of 8 p.m., officials said 63.7 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, up from 61.3 percent at the same time during the April election, and 62.4 percent at the same time in 2015.

Concerned about election fatigue so soon after the last campaign, the parties appearing on Tuesday’s ballot, election officials and even a group of Israeli celebrity chefs made videos, took to the airwaves and sent recorded messages to voters’ cellphones with increasingly frantic pleas for them to go to polling stations.

Election Day is a day off in Israel and Tuesday was ideal beach weather. So some party leaders hit the sand.

Experts said which blocs of voters had the strongest turnout would most likely determine the outcome.

In April, by the close of voting, 68.5 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, down from more than 72 percent in 2015. Turnout in Arab districts was 49 percent, one of the lowest on record.

Analysts say a lower turnout generally favors fringe and ultra-Orthodox parties, whose supporters are more ideologically committed or driven by narrow interests.

A higher turnout among Arab voters could increase the opposition’s chances of blocking the formation of another right-wing, religious coalition led by Mr. Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arriving at a polling station in Jerusalem to vote on Tuesday.CreditPool photo by Heidi Levine

Mr. Netanyahu was leaving nothing to chance in seeking victory, and seemingly no rule unbroken.

His Facebook account’s chatbot was suspended for several hours midday on Tuesday at the request of Israeli officials, after it violated regulations barring the publishing of voter surveys on Election Day. The bot was reinstated after a Likud leader, the lawmaker David Bitan, promised it would not repeat the offense.

It was the second time in a week that Facebook shut down Mr. Netanyahu’s messenger bot: On Thursday it was disabled for 24 hours for violating hate speech rules after it sent a message saying that Israel’s Arab politicians “want to destroy us all.”

Mr. Netanyahu also broke an election law prohibiting candidates from promoting themselves from 7 p.m. on Election Eve through the end of voting tonight, Israeli media reported. He gave at least two radio interviews, according to Ynet, one of them after being warned not to by the Central Elections Committee.

Likud operatives also persuaded an Israeli television station to report that the party was installing surveillance cameras at “dozens” of polling places in Arab areas, The Times of Israel reported, an apparent effort to suppress Arab turnout.

The station at first reported that the cameras were capable of facial recognition, but other news outlets cast doubt on that and noted that the station only showed two men setting up one camera in a village near Nazareth.

It appeared that coverage of the stunt was the primary goal, in the hopes of discouraging Arab citizens from turning up to vote, The Times of Israel concluded.

Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party said that its website had been the victim of a “significant cyberattack.” It said a so-called distributed-denial-of-service attack mounted from “various servers abroad” had made more than 500 attempted breaches.

That type of cyberattack involves disrupting or blocking traffic to a website by overwhelming it with traffic. The attack shut down the party’s website, leaving it with a blank screen for a time.

At this time, the perpetrator is unknown.

Israel Election
President Reuven Rivlin will choose a candidate to form a government.CreditIlia Yefimovich/Getty Images

With exit polls showing no clear winner in the election, the spotlight is likely to swing to President Reuven Rivlin.

The presidency is largely ceremonial, but one of its few powers is the authority to assign a candidate to form a government. That privilege usually goes to the leader of the party with the most votes, or alternatively, to the candidate with the best chance of building a coalition with at least 61 of the 120 seats in Parliament. Under the law, that can be any elected legislator.

Given that the last election failed to produce a new government, there is tremendous pressure on Mr. Rivlin to choose someone who can assemble governing majority and to do it quickly.

In a video message on the eve of Tuesday’s election, Mr. Rivlin pledged that he would do all he could, within the law, to ensure the speedy formation of a government and to prevent a third election.

And after polls closed on Tuesday night, he tweeted that he would begin the process “as soon as possible.”

He is also under pressure to be transparently fair, given his thorny history with Mr. Netanyahu.

Before Mr. Rivlin was elected president in 2014, Mr. Netanyahu, a fellow Likud party member, did little to hide his distaste for him. Mr. Netanyahu tried for months to block Mr. Rivlin’s candidacy, and even examined the possibility of abolishing the presidency.

Given their background of deep, mutual loathing, the prospect that Mr. Rivlin could use his discretionary powers to bypass Mr. Netanyahu has alarmed the prime minister. Before the April election, he accused Mr. Rivlin of conspiring to replace him.

Mr. Rivlin, a former Parliament speaker, has used his presidential perch to rebuke Mr. Netanyahu on several occasions, championing democratic values, a free press, and law enforcement officials even as Mr. Netanyahu, facing possible indictment in three corruption cases, has tried to undermine them.

After the April election, and as the late May deadline for forming a government approached, Mr. Netanyahu, one lawmaker short of a majority, deprived Mr. Rivlin of the opportunity to offer someone else a chance to form a government by moving swiftly to dissolve Parliament and force a new election.

If there is a similar deadlock this time, Mr. Rivlin may find a way to move faster — possibly by not granting the traditional two-week extension for coalition negotiations, or by working to forge a unity government including the main rivals, Likud and Blue and White. That, in turn, could increase Mr. Gantz’s leverage in demanding that Mr. Netanyahu step aside.

Voting in Bnei Brak, Israel.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Israelis are voting on Tuesday for the second time in five months in parliamentary elections that may end the storied career of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or deliver him a new lease on power.

Mr. Netanyahu won a plurality in April but was unable to muster a governing coalition, forcing an unprecedented do-over vote on Tuesday.

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu, 69, has promised to keep Israel safe by battling Iran’s proxies across the region and promoting his close relationship with President Trump. The American president has showered him with political favors, including moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr. Netanyahu has had to fend off corruption charges. With an indictment expected within weeks, he has extracted promises from his right-wing and ultrareligious allies to support legislation granting him immunity from prosecution if he is able to form a new government.

His opponents — led by Benny Gantz, 60, a centrist former army chief from the Blue and White party — have urged Israelis to send Mr. Netanyahu into retirement and promised to heal social divisions that they say he has exploited for political gain.

A major issue in this contest is whether Israelis want their country to become more or less religious.

Avigdor Liberman, a Netanyahu ally-turned-nemesis, has attacked the prime minister’s reliance on ultrareligious parties and styled himself a champion of Israel’s many nonreligious Jews. Mr. Liberman has positioned himself to be a kingmaker in coalition talks, offering to support whichever candidate agrees to cut the ultrareligious parties out of power.

Mr. Netanyahu meeting Jewish settlers in Hebron this month.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

If Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign boiled down to two arguments — his own indispensability to Israel, and the danger that his defeat would bring to power a “weak, left-wing” government with the participation of Arab politicians — his approach grew increasingly frenzied as Election Day drew near.

Spreading fear about Arab citizens, he mounted a campaign against voter fraud and tried unsuccessfully to enact a law allowing Likud members to take video at polling places. Opponents called it a transparent attempt at intimidation and vote suppression.

Faced with damaging reports about his corruption cases, he tried to stage a boycott of Channel 12, Israel’s most popular broadcaster, though he relented and gave the station an interview on Saturday.

And in an attempt to siphon off right-wing votes, he staged a live television announcement of what amounted to no more than a campaign promise, saying he would push to annex the Jordan Valley, a swath of Palestinian territory that makes up a good portion of the West Bank. But even some supporters rolled their eyes, pointing to other breathless campaign promises that were never fulfilled.

On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu released a barrage of new ads and personal video appeals, delivering messages that seemed to bracket the sacred and the profane for each audience. An ad aimed at young secular Tel Aviv residents noted that Election Day was a day off from work, and warned that if they lolled around in bed and didn’t vote, the left would use that time to seize power.

Hours later, Mr. Netanyahu was on Facebook Live from the Western Wall — for Jews, one of the holiest places on Earth — wearing a kipa and declaring himself “overcome with emotion” as he touched its stones and sought to “continue and work for a glorious country.”

Benny Gantz, a centrist former army chief from the Blue and White party, at a polling station in Rosh Ha-ain on Tuesday.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Mr. Netanyahu is known for his “gevalt” tactics in the final days of a campaign, in which he warns his supporters that all will be lost if they don’t race to the polls. But even as his rivals dismissed his dire warnings as both false and desperate, they were sounding their own alarms.

Yamina, a right-wing party, objected to Mr. Netanyahu’s effort to “drink up” the votes of its supporters, but also acknowledged that it was working and pleaded with conservative Israelis to vote Yamina to hold Mr. Netanyahu to his promises of annexing West Bank land and building new settlements. Labor warned that it was in danger of vanishing from Parliament if its supporters failed to go to the polls.

For the left-wing Democratic Union, the election was the “last chance to save Israeli democracy.” And for the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, Mr. Gantz and his running mate, Yair Lapid, were “the destroyers and annihilators of religion who want to bring about a holocaust,” according to one aged rabbi who spoke at a mass rally on Sunday. (Mr. Lapid said that his grandfather was murdered in Hitler’s gas chambers, and demanded that Mr. Netanyahu condemn the remark.)

Mr. Gantz, for his part, framed the election as a choice between “an extreme government” in which the racist fringe party Otzma Yehudit is granted a cabinet seat, or a “secular, broad-based unity government.” He also promised to heal the divides in Israeli society, saying, “Eighty percent of the country’s citizens agree on 80 percent of the issues.”

An open-air gym on the beach in Tel Aviv. It was good beach weather, so some party leaders hit the sand.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The path into a girls’ religious school near the beach in Tel Aviv was a gauntlet of activists from half a dozen parties offering stickers and fliers along with last-minute campaign pleas.

Election Day in Israel is decidedly low-tech. Voters step behind a tall cardboard screen, choose a paper slip with the name of a political party, seal it inside an envelope and then slide it into a ballot box.

There is no absentee voting. Benchail Yefet, 75, flew in from London early Tuesday, cutting short a trip. “I came here to save Labor from falling below the electoral threshold,” he said.

His brother Yossi Yefet, 56, was still wavering, but settled on the right-wing Yamina party.

“It will be a miracle if we see a change today,” said their sister, Agada Yefet, 69, also a Labor voter.

The siblings, who planned to watch the results together Tuesday night, expressed concern that nothing would be resolved. “I think we’ll have a third election,” Ms. Yefet said.

Outside the school, activists from the Democratic Union cheered, waving rainbow and Israeli flags and banging on drums as they ushered in a party leader, Stav Shaffir, 34, who is a rock star among young left-wingers.

After Ms. Shaffir had voted and left with her entourage, Ana Lobuznova, 21, rolled up on a bike. Fresh out of the army, this was her first time voting.

“I moved to Israel from Russia seven years ago, and there you don’t vote because, you know, Putin,” she said. “Your vote doesn’t actually matter.”

“I thought it was the same here, but now I understand: I can make a difference,” she added. Ms. Lobuznova said she had backed the centrist Blue and White party, “because they have the best chance of getting rid of Bibi.” — Yardena Schwartz

Friday Prayer this month at a mosque in Jisr al-Zarqa, a predominantly Arab town on the Mediterranean coast.CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

In Nazareth, the unofficial capital of Israel’s Arab minority, voters said they were backing the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties because that was the only slate that represented their interests.

Many said they hoped greater Arab representation in Parliament would lead to more effective policies for Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of Israel’s population.

The wish list includes a crackdown on crime, violence and illegal weapons in Arab towns, an end to house demolitions and the cancellation of the Nation-State Law that the Parliament passed last year. The law enshrined the right of national self-determination as “unique to the Jewish people” — not all Israel’s citizens — and effectively downgraded the status of the Arabic language. It was denounced by liberal Israelis as anti-democratic and racist.

But most of all, Arab voters appeared to be hoping their ballot would help oust Mr. Netanyahu.

Nassim Mussalam, 60, a projects engineer, said he wanted “to stop seeing or hearing Netanyahu,” as well as the prime minister’s family, and to bring an end to his government’s “racist laws.”

In April’s election, Arab turnout was 49 percent, one of the lowest on record. The parties making up the Joint List ran separately and won a total of 10 seats in the short-lived Parliament. Having reunited into the Joint List, its leader, Ayman Odeh, hoped for a much larger turnout that could help topple Mr. Netanyahu.

Arriving to vote with his family in the Kababir neighborhood of Haifa on Tuesday morning, Mr. Odeh said being “first-class voters” would help the Arabs become “first-class citizens.” — Mohammed Najib

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Israeli Election Hinges on a Mosaic of Competing Groups

Israeli politics can be tribal, with loyalties to ethnic groups, religious factions and ideologies as strong a factor in voting as views on particular issues. Here’s a guide in words and pictures.

By

Photographs by

Sept. 17, 2019


JERUSALEM — Tuesday’s do-over election in Israel may not, by itself, decide who will be the next prime minister. That could take weeks of arduous coalition negotiations.

But the vote will almost certainly provide fresh evidence that the United States has nothing on this country when it comes to identity politics.

The April election was the first I’d covered as a foreign correspondent in Israel, and it shocked me that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly expressed desperation in the campaign’s final days and hours. At 11:25 p.m. on the night before votes were cast, he even had his American pollster join him on camera to declare, gravely, “Right now, we’re losing the race.”

In the United States, political candidates are programmed never to let the voters see them sweat, no matter how abysmal the poll numbers. In Israel, Mr. Netanyahu has perfected the art of setting his hair on fire and dialing 911 to get his voters to put out the flames.

There’s a reason this works so well for him. Israeli politics in many ways is tribal, and when a member of your tribe sounds the alarm, your instinct is to run to their aid.

Unlike the biblical tribes of Israel, these groups do not spring so much from bloodlines, but from loyalties to ethnic groups, religious brethren or ideology, and they erupt into plain view during election seasons.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160539459_ac35fea8-8400-44b0-a984-0a5352c20b29-articleLarge Israeli Election Hinges on a Mosaic of Competing Groups Zionism Voting and Voters Race and Ethnicity Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Legislatures and Parliaments Jews and Judaism Israel elections

An Israeli settler schoolgirl in the West Bank town of Hebron.

A rooftop bar in Tel Aviv, a bastion of secular liberalism.

President Reuven Rivlin took a stab at defining Israel’s tribes in a landmark speech in 2015, noting that secular Zionist Jews, once a majority, had dwindled to a large minority, as three other groups had grown: the ultra-Orthodox, the national-religious and Arab citizens.

“Israeli politics to a great extent is built as an intertribal zero-sum game,” he warned, urging all four groups to figure out a way to work in partnership. (They haven’t.)

A new book by Camil Fuchs and Shmuel Rosner, “#IsraeliJudaism,” categorizes the Jewish population along two axes: how strictly they follow religious tradition, or how Jewish they are; and how much they embrace Israel’s nationalist symbols and rites, or how Israeli they are. A majority, they find, strongly identifies with both, but many ultra-Orthodox reject nationalism and many secular Israelis reject Jewish religious practice.

What has made Mr. Netanyahu so formidable a force over the years is his melding of nationalists and the religious into a single, right-wing political bloc.

But Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the influential Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, identifies no fewer than 17 tribes in present-day Israel, breaking down the ultra-Orthodox according to their attitudes toward Zionism and modernity, so-called traditional Jews according to how much they adhere to Jewish ritual, and Arabs according to religion and whether they take pride in being citizens of Israel, among other cohorts.

“That’s why coalition government is so important,” Rabbi Hartman said. “Because when you have all of this, each group sees itself as a persecuted minority.”

Israel’s Do-Over Election: Déjà Vu or a Chance for Change?

Sept. 16, 2019

Just as President Trump relies on support from white, working-class Americans, Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party draws much of its political strength from working-class Israelis, many of them Jews living in the so-called development towns on Israel’s periphery, where immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa were resettled beginning in the 1950s. These Mizrahi, or eastern, and Sephardic Jews, who account for around half the Jewish population of Israel, have long harbored resentments toward the European-descended, Ashkenazi liberal elite, who discriminated against them while governing Israel from its founding until the 1970s, when Likud first came to power.

Likud is not the only party that caters to Mizrahim: Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party, also attracts some of the many Mizrahi Jews who are “traditional” in their religious practice — a broad range of people who may not attend synagogue regularly but are perfectly at home there when they do, Rabbi Hartman said. And Labor’s Moroccan-born leader merged the party with one led by the daughter of a Moroccan-born former Likud leader, but its politics remain anathema to most Mizrahi voters.

Mizrahi, or eastern, Jews at the Tomb of Baba Sali in Netivot, Israel.
A Mizrahi child receives the ritual first haircut at the tomb of Baba Sali.
A weekend market in the largely Mizrahi city of Sderot.

To tourists who enjoy Tel Aviv’s beaches and nightclubs and never venture farther afield, Israel can seem a bastion of ultraliberalism that is difficult to reconcile with the country’s right-wing national politics.

And to Tel Aviv’s largely secular population, the election is a battle to stop Mr. Netanyahu from undermining Israeli democracy for the sake of retaining power and from allowing the ultrareligious, through their influence on government agencies, to try to brainwash their children into becoming observant Jews. Secular Israelis have been sounding the alarm to preserve an open-minded, live-and-let-live Israel before it is too late.

A major problem for secular Israelis, who are no longer the political force they once were, is that their votes are being split among too many parties. For the first time, what remains of the storied Labor Party may not clear the threshold to be seated in Parliament. The fledgling left-wing Democratic Union is in similar shape. Both have been threatened by Blue and White, the centrist party that is vying to topple Mr. Netanyahu but is vacuuming up the votes of many on the left.

To tourists who never venture past  Tel Aviv’s beaches and nightclubs, it can be difficult to reconcile the city’s liberalism with the country’s right-wing national politics. 
Israelis wait to meet political candidates at a bar in Tel Aviv.
People enjoy a sunset on the beach in Tel Aviv.

The most outwardly recognizable tribe because of their traditional black-and-white attire, the ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredi Jews, vote en masse, generally heeding the instructions of their rabbis — which means that Sephardic ultra-Orthodox back Shas and the Ashkenazi support United Torah Judaism.

Their ability to turn out the vote is the envy of other tribes: Bnei Brak, a Haredi city, reported a stunning 77 percent turnout in the April election. And it is the source of their political power, which among other things has given them exemptions from military service, financial subsidies and rabbinical control of marriage, divorce and religious conversions.

In a small country, having a party that represents the ultra-Orthodox means being able to seek help from someone in power who shares a similar worldview, said Binyamin Rose, a U.T.J. voter who is editor at large of Mishpacha Magazine. “If I need something, who am I going to go to?” he said. “If I go to Likud, they’ll take one look at me and say, ‘Why should we help you?’”

A growing number of ultra-Orthodox are stepping out of their insular, yeshiva-centered communities, serving in the army or taking jobs at technology companies, and engaging with broader society. But the current battle between secular politicians and the religious is driving many back to the fold.

“We’re closing ranks,” Mr. Rose said. “They say, ‘This is who represents me.’

Ultra-Orthodox Jews at a rally for the United Torah Judaism party. 
Ultra-Orthodox Jews rally in Jerusalem for United Torah Judaism, the main party for Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The ulta-Orthodox, or Haredim, tend to vote as blocs, generally heeding the instructions of their rabbis.

Perhaps the most interesting tribal warfare of this campaign has been for the votes of religious Zionists, about 12 percent of the Jewish population. These Sabbath-observant Israelis encompass a broad range of views, but most tilt to the right, and include the ideological foot soldiers of the settlement enterprise.

By promising last week to annex a large portion of the West Bank, Mr. Netanyahu was making a play for these voters, whose natural home is the Yamina, or rightward, party. Yamina argues that it needs a large contingent in Parliament to force Mr. Netanyahu to keep his promises.

But Yamina is also having to protect its own right flank from an even more extreme faction, Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power — an overtly anti-Arab party whose leaders call themselves disciples of Meir Kahane, the Brooklyn-born militant who was assassinated in 1990 and whose Kach party was outlawed in Israel and declared a terrorist group by the United States.

The leader of Otzma Yehudit, Itamar Ben Gvir, is demanding a cabinet post if the party makes it into Parliament and delivers its support to Mr. Netanyahu.

The Jewish settlement of Efrat, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. National-religious Jews tend to support West Bank settlements.
Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron at an election rally for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A farm in the Jewish settlement of Itamar, near the West Bank city of Nablus. 

The wild card in this election, Arab citizens of Israel make up about one-sixth of the eligible voting population, and they vote in large numbers in municipal elections. But only 49 percent voted in April, a record low, and turnout is not expected to rise dramatically on Tuesday.

Arabs give plenty of reasons for not participating in the Israeli political system: in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, in reaction to Zionist parties’ refusal to consider including Arab parties in a governing coalition, or out of impatience with Arab lawmakers’ focus on the Palestinians’ problems rather than their own voters’ needs. But Arab and center-left Jewish politicians are at least making an effort to woo them, by promising to address crime, housing shortages and other tangible problems in their communities.

Arab citizens of Israel at a wedding in Baqa al Gharbiye.
A mosque in Jisr al Zarqa, an Israeli Arab town on the Mediterranean coast.
Arab Israelis make up about one sixth of eligible voters. 

For a while, it seemed as if the premiership might be decided in places like Bat Yam, a seaside town heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Mr. Netanyahu has tried to make inroads with supporters of Avigdor Liberman, the Moldova-born leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, after Mr. Liberman refused to join Mr. Netanayhu’s coalition after the April election. Mr. Liberman’s refusal to compromise with the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox allies prevented Mr. Netanyahu from forming a government and precipitated the new elections.

Mr. Liberman’s Russian-speaking supporters, who have backed him for more than 20 years, do not appear to be deserting him. But they are aging, and their children are fully Israeli and vote for a variety of parties, prompting Mr. Liberman to reinvent himself as a champion of secular Israelis, whatever their native tongues.

One hot-button issue, among many: the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, including many former Soviet immigrants and their offspring, who are considered Jewish by the state but not by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate, meaning they cannot get married in Israel.

Israel Ditman, 94, a World War II veteran from Russia who emigrated to Israel in 1995, at his home in Rehovot.
Israelis of Russian origin at a cultural gathering in Tel Aviv. 
A Russian bookshop in Tel Aviv. 

Not every tribe in Israel can muster enough votes to gain representation in Parliament through its own party. The roughly 130,000 Ethiopian-Jewish Israelis have yet to wield much muscle in politics, despite the election of a handful to the Knesset since the waves of immigration in the 1980s and in 1991.

But after a string of fatal police shootings, they are working hard to assert themselves politically, with frequent protests against police brutality aimed at forcing a national reckoning with what black Israelis say is a history of racism.

Ethiopian Israelis protested police violence and discrimination in Netanya.
Ethiopian women at a sewing class in  Sderot. 

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Israeli Vote Hinges on a Mosaic of Competing Groups

Israeli politics can be tribal, with loyalties to ethnic groups, religious factions and ideologies as strong a factor in voting as views on particular issues. Here’s a guide in words and pictures.

By

Photographs by

Sept. 17, 2019


JERUSALEM — Tuesday’s do-over election in Israel may not, by itself, decide who will be the next prime minister. That could take weeks of arduous coalition negotiations.

But the vote will almost certainly provide fresh evidence that the United States has nothing on this country when it comes to identity politics.

The April election was the first I’d covered as a foreign correspondent in Israel, and it shocked me that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly expressed desperation in the campaign’s final days and hours. At 11:25 p.m. on the night before votes were cast, he even had his American pollster join him on camera to declare, gravely, “Right now, we’re losing the race.”

In the United States, political candidates are programmed never to let the voters see them sweat, no matter how abysmal the poll numbers. In Israel, Mr. Netanyahu has perfected the art of setting his hair on fire and dialing 911 to get his voters to put out the flames.

There’s a reason this works so well for him. Israeli politics in many ways is tribal, and when a member of your tribe sounds the alarm, your instinct is to run to their aid.

Unlike the biblical tribes of Israel, these groups do not spring so much from bloodlines, but from loyalties to ethnic groups, religious brethren or ideology, and they erupt into plain view during election seasons.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160539459_ac35fea8-8400-44b0-a984-0a5352c20b29-articleLarge Israeli Vote Hinges on a Mosaic of Competing Groups Zionism Voting and Voters Race and Ethnicity Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Legislatures and Parliaments Jews and Judaism Israel elections

An Israeli settler schoolgirl in the West Bank town of Hebron.

A rooftop bar in Tel Aviv, a bastion of secular liberalism.

President Reuven Rivlin took a stab at defining Israel’s tribes in a landmark speech in 2015, noting that secular Zionist Jews, once a majority, had dwindled to a large minority, as three other groups had grown: the ultra-Orthodox, the national-religious and Arab citizens.

“Israeli politics to a great extent is built as an intertribal zero-sum game,” he warned, urging all four groups to figure out a way to work in partnership. (They haven’t.)

A new book by Camil Fuchs and Shmuel Rosner, “#IsraeliJudaism,” categorizes the Jewish population along two axes: how strictly they follow religious tradition, or how Jewish they are; and how much they embrace Israel’s nationalist symbols and rites, or how Israeli they are. A majority, they find, strongly identifies with both, but many ultra-Orthodox reject nationalism and many secular Israelis reject Jewish religious practice.

What has made Mr. Netanyahu so formidable a force over the years is his melding of nationalists and the religious into a single, right-wing political bloc.

But Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the influential Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, identifies no fewer than 17 tribes in present-day Israel, breaking down the ultra-Orthodox according to their attitudes toward Zionism and modernity, so-called traditional Jews according to how much they adhere to Jewish ritual, and Arabs according to religion and whether they take pride in being citizens of Israel, among other cohorts.

“That’s why coalition government is so important,” Rabbi Hartman said. “Because when you have all of this, each group sees itself as a persecuted minority.”

Israel’s Do-Over Election: Déjà Vu or a Chance for Change?

Sept. 16, 2019

Just as President Trump relies on support from white, working-class Americans, Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party draws much of its political strength from working-class Israelis, many of them Jews living in the so-called development towns on Israel’s periphery, where immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa were resettled beginning in the 1950s. These Mizrahi, or eastern, and Sephardic Jews, who account for around half the Jewish population of Israel, have long harbored resentments toward the European-descended, Ashkenazi liberal elite, who discriminated against them while governing Israel from its founding until the 1970s, when Likud first came to power.

Likud is not the only party that caters to Mizrahim: Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party, also attracts some of the many Mizrahi Jews who are “traditional” in their religious practice — a broad range of people who may not attend synagogue regularly but are perfectly at home there when they do, Rabbi Hartman said. And Labor’s Moroccan-born leader merged the party with one led by the daughter of a Moroccan-born former Likud leader, but its politics remain anathema to most Mizrahi voters.

Mizrahi, or eastern, Jews at the Tomb of Baba Sali in Netivot, Israel.
A Mizrahi child receives the ritual first haircut at the tomb of Baba Sali.
A weekend market in the largely Mizrahi city of Sderot.

To tourists who enjoy Tel Aviv’s beaches and nightclubs and never venture farther afield, Israel can seem a bastion of ultraliberalism that is difficult to reconcile with the country’s right-wing national politics.

And to Tel Aviv’s largely secular population, the election is a battle to stop Mr. Netanyahu from undermining Israeli democracy for the sake of retaining power and from allowing the ultrareligious, through their influence on government agencies, to try to brainwash their children into becoming observant Jews. Secular Israelis have been sounding the alarm to preserve an open-minded, live-and-let-live Israel before it is too late.

A major problem for secular Israelis, who are no longer the political force they once were, is that their votes are being split among too many parties. For the first time, what remains of the storied Labor Party may not clear the threshold to be seated in Parliament. The fledgling left-wing Democratic Union is in similar shape. Both have been threatened by Blue and White, the centrist party that is vying to topple Mr. Netanyahu but is vacuuming up the votes of many on the left.

To tourists who never venture past  Tel Aviv’s beaches and nightclubs, it can be difficult to reconcile the city’s liberalism with the country’s right-wing national politics. 
Israelis wait to meet political candidates at a bar in Tel Aviv.
People enjoy a sunset on the beach in Tel Aviv.

The most outwardly recognizable tribe because of their traditional black-and-white attire, the ultra-Orthodox, also known as Haredi Jews, vote en masse, generally heeding the instructions of their rabbis — which means that Sephardic ultra-Orthodox back Shas and the Ashkenazi support United Torah Judaism.

Their ability to turn out the vote is the envy of other tribes: Bnei Brak, a Haredi city, reported a stunning 77 percent turnout in the April election. And it is the source of their political power, which among other things has given them exemptions from military service, financial subsidies and rabbinical control of marriage, divorce and religious conversions.

In a small country, having a party that represents the ultra-Orthodox means being able to seek help from someone in power who shares a similar worldview, said Binyamin Rose, a U.T.J. voter who is editor at large of Mishpacha Magazine. “If I need something, who am I going to go to?” he said. “If I go to Likud, they’ll take one look at me and say, ‘Why should we help you?’”

A growing number of ultra-Orthodox are stepping out of their insular, yeshiva-centered communities, serving in the army or taking jobs at technology companies, and engaging with broader society. But the current battle between secular politicians and the religious is driving many back to the fold.

“We’re closing ranks,” Mr. Rose said. “They say, ‘This is who represents me.’

Ultra-Orthodox Jews at a rally for the United Torah Judaism party. 
Ultra-Orthodox Jews rally in Jerusalem for United Torah Judaism, the main party for Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The ulta-Orthodox, or Haredim, tend to vote as blocs, generally heeding the instructions of their rabbis.

Perhaps the most interesting tribal warfare of this campaign has been for the votes of religious Zionists, about 12 percent of the Jewish population. These Sabbath-observant Israelis encompass a broad range of views, but most tilt to the right, and include the ideological foot soldiers of the settlement enterprise.

By promising last week to annex a large portion of the West Bank, Mr. Netanyahu was making a play for these voters, whose natural home is the Yamina, or rightward, party. Yamina argues that it needs a large contingent in Parliament to force Mr. Netanyahu to keep his promises.

But Yamina is also having to protect its own right flank from an even more extreme faction, Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power — an overtly anti-Arab party whose leaders call themselves disciples of Meir Kahane, the Brooklyn-born militant who was assassinated in 1990 and whose Kach party was outlawed in Israel and declared a terrorist group by the United States.

The leader of Otzma Yehudit, Itamar Ben Gvir, is demanding a cabinet post if the party makes it into Parliament and delivers its support to Mr. Netanyahu.

The Jewish settlement of Efrat, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. National-religious Jews tend to support West Bank settlements.
Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron at an election rally for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A farm in the Jewish settlement of Itamar, near the West Bank city of Nablus. 

The wild card in this election, Arab citizens of Israel make up about one-sixth of the eligible voting population, and they vote in large numbers in municipal elections. But only 49 percent voted in April, a record low, and turnout is not expected to rise dramatically on Tuesday.

Arabs give plenty of reasons for not participating in the Israeli political system: in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, in reaction to Zionist parties’ refusal to consider including Arab parties in a governing coalition, or out of impatience with Arab lawmakers’ focus on the Palestinians’ problems rather than their own voters’ needs. But Arab and center-left Jewish politicians are at least making an effort to woo them, by promising to address crime, housing shortages and other tangible problems in their communities.

Arab citizens of Israel at a wedding in Baqa al Gharbiye.
A mosque in Jisr al Zarqa, an Israeli Arab town on the Mediterranean coast.
Arab Israelis make up about one sixth of eligible voters. 

For a while, it seemed as if the premiership might be decided in places like Bat Yam, a seaside town heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Mr. Netanyahu has tried to make inroads with supporters of Avigdor Liberman, the Moldova-born leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, after Mr. Liberman refused to join Mr. Netanayhu’s coalition after the April election. Mr. Liberman’s refusal to compromise with the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox allies prevented Mr. Netanyahu from forming a government and precipitated the new elections.

Mr. Liberman’s Russian-speaking supporters, who have backed him for more than 20 years, do not appear to be deserting him. But they are aging, and their children are fully Israeli and vote for a variety of parties, prompting Mr. Liberman to reinvent himself as a champion of secular Israelis, whatever their native tongues.

One hot-button issue, among many: the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, including many former Soviet immigrants and their offspring, who are considered Jewish by the state but not by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate, meaning they cannot get married in Israel.

Israel Ditman, 94, a World War II veteran from Russia who emigrated to Israel in 1995, at his home in Rehovot.
Israelis of Russian origin at a cultural gathering in Tel Aviv. 
A Russian bookshop in Tel Aviv. 

Not every tribe in Israel can muster enough votes to gain representation in Parliament through its own party. The roughly 130,000 Ethiopian-Jewish Israelis have yet to wield much muscle in politics, despite the election of a handful to the Knesset since the waves of immigration in the 1980s and in 1991.

But after a string of fatal police shootings, they are working hard to assert themselves politically, with frequent protests against police brutality aimed at forcing a national reckoning with what black Israelis say is a history of racism.

Ethiopian Israelis protested police violence and discrimination in Netanya.
Ethiopian women at a sewing class in  Sderot. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Women’s March Fires Anti-Semites, Immediately Hires More Anti-Semites

Westlake Legal Group linda-sarsour-620x414 Women’s March Fires Anti-Semites, Immediately Hires More Anti-Semites Women's March Tamika Mallory racists Politics New Anti-Semites media bias Louis Farrakhan Linda Sarsour Israel Hired Front Page Stories Front Page fired Featured Story democrats board members

It’s almost like the organization itself has issues and their connections to anti-Semitism haven’t just been mistakes?

As my colleague Brandon Morse shared earlier today, the Women’s March, famous for their delusional hatred of Trump and vaginal hats, finally cut ties with Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory (among others). The former board members had carried with them a long history of anti-Semitism and support for radical ideologies. Sarsour is of course a “Palestinian activist,” which means she rails against Jews and shills for Hamas. Mallory’s ties centered on Louis Farrakhan, where as recently as this year she refused to condemn his vile, racist rhetoric.

So what’s the Women’s March do after kicking out a group of women famous for their anti-Semitism? Hire more anti-Semites of course.

Bonus points for supporting Hamas I guess.

And just to be safe, they also brought on Sarsour ally Samia Assed, who’s shilled for Palestinian terrorists and doesn’t think Israel has a right to exist.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. The brilliant hires just kept on coming.

Apparently being a rabid anti-Semite and a fan of Louis Farahkan is a prerequisite for being on the board of the Women’s March. Clearly, they weren’t serious about reforming their dumpster fire of a movement. The best thing that could happen is for it shut down completely. The country is a better place given their loss of influence over the last few years.

Meanwhile, you won’t hear a peep about any of this in the major press despite the fact that they ran non-stop live coverage anytime there was a march by these people in the past. Imagine if a tea party group brought on a bunch of open white supremacists. You think CNN would mention it? You bet they would.

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Netanyahu: Israel did not plant listening devices near the White House

Westlake Legal Group trump-netanyahu Netanyahu: Israel did not plant listening devices near the White House The Blog political interference Israel espionage elections Benjamin Netanyahu

Did Israel plant “stingrays” around the Beltway to intercept cell-phone transmissions by Donald Trump and his inner circle? That’s the claim made by a “former senior intelligence official” from the Trump administration to Politico, which claims to have confirmed it with other sources. According to Daniel Lippman, the US intel community have concluded that it’s part of an elaborate Israeli intel operation — but that doesn’t concern Trump much:

The U.S. government concluded within the last two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cell-phone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, D.C., according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

But unlike most other occasions when flagrant incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel’s behavior, one of the former officials said. …

“The reaction … was very different than it would have been in the last administration,” this person said. “With the current administration, there are a different set of calculations in regard to addressing this.”

The first question one might ask when reading this is … why? Not only is Trump regularly indiscreet about his thoughts and plans — especially on Twitter — he’s also closer to Israel than most of his predecessors. He and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu are personal friends, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been working closely with the Israelis on their issues with the Palestinians. The only potential blind spot for them would be Trump’s famously capricious approach to policy and any attempts to engage Iran, which Trump would almost certainly keep quiet from Israel in the planning stages. Even then, though, their legitimate access to Trump would probably serve them better than covert operations against their biggest patron and oft-times only ally.

Reading onward, the second question one might ask is … who?

Beyond trying to intercept the private conversations of top officials — prized information for any intelligence service — foreign countries often will try to surveil their close associates as well. With the president, the former senior Trump administration official noted, that could include trying to listen in on the devices of the people he regularly communicates with, such as Steve Wynn, Sean Hannity and Rudy Giuliani.

“The people in that circle are heavily targeted,” said the former Trump official.

Wynn’s on the outs at the moment, presumably, while he’s dealing with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. Rudy Giuliani is, if anything, more indiscreet these days than Trump, although usually only on Trump’s legal matters. Sean Hannity has the top-rated prime-time talk show in the nation and isn’t exactly known for holding back, especially when it comes to talking about what Trump might have in mind. You don’t need Stingrays to collect that data; all you need is a DVR.

Still, nations conduct intelligence gathering on friends and foes alike, even those allies with whom their intel services work. The first rule in these situations is to deny it, and the second rule is to strenuously deny it:

Netanyahu’s office shot down allegations his country was spying on U.S. soil as “a blatant lie.”

“There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the U.S.,” it said in a statement. “This directive is strictly enforced without exception.”

Er, sure. But there are at least a few reasons for some skepticism about this particular report. First off, Stingray tracking devices are hardly exotic, and are not at all limited to espionage work — at least not in the common understanding of it. The ACLU has been researching these devices for years, and last November reported that “75 agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia that own stingrays.” Those were only the agencies that they could confirm. (Everyone else was following Rules 1 & 2, apparently.) Among just the federal agencies identified with their use was naturally the FBI, which has the writ for domestic intel collection. But it also includes the NSA, three branches of the military, the National Guard, and the IRS, which has no particular need to collect “intelligence” in the common sense of the word. Finding Stingrays in DC sounds like shooting fish in a barrel, with or without the Israelis

Next, the timing of this report is awfully curious. Netanyahu’s standing for election next week and his relationship with the Trump administration is a big part of his appeal. It’s an odd time for US intelligence sources to leak this information to the press. One has to wonder what the motive for the leak was, especially since the previous administration had a history of interfering in Israeli elections. The parallels here are at least curious, especially given the somewhat contentious relationship between the US intel community and Trump.

In other words, while one can treat Netanyahu’s claim of zero intel operations in the US with some skepticism, we can also treat Politico’s sources with a significant level of skepticism as well. Someone has an agenda behind this leak, perhaps more than one, and it’s not to protect us from the Israelis.

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Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Tuesday that he would move swiftly to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if voters returned him to power in the election next week, seizing what he called a historic opportunity from a sympathetic White House to give Israel “secure, permanent borders.”

His plan to annex territory along the Jordan River would reshape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would reduce any future Palestinian state to an enclave encircled by Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu’s rivals on the left and right largely greeted the announcement, made in the heat of a campaign in which he is battling for survival, as a transparent political ploy.

Mr. Netanyahu said he planned to annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and that he would move immediately after forming a new government to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic and fertile strip of territory along the border with Jordan that runs from Beit Shean in northern Israel to the shores of the Dead Sea.

He said he wanted to capitalize on what he called the “unique, one-off opportunity” afforded him by the Trump administration, which has expressed openness to Israeli annexation of at least parts of the West Bank.

“We haven’t had such an opportunity since the Six Day War, and I doubt we’ll have another opportunity in the next 50 years,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a news conference in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. “Give me the power to guarantee Israel’s security. Give me the power to determine Israel’s borders.”

Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war. Most of the world considers it occupied territory and Israeli settlements or annexations there to be illegal.

Mr. Netanyahu, who is in a dead heat or slightly behind in the polls against Benny Gantz, a centrist former army chief of staff, has tried mightily to shift the focus of the election from the corruption cases against him to his strong suit: national security.

Westlake Legal Group map-720 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

Mediterranean Sea

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Westlake Legal Group map-460 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

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Westlake Legal Group map-335 Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

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Source: Government of Israel

By The New York Times

But Tuesday’s announcement was a daring bid to bring the Palestinian conflict back to center stage in the election campaign. The issue has largely receded from Israeli electoral politics because few voters believe a peace process has any chance.

This was not the first time Mr. Netanyahu has promised annexation days before an election. Before the previous election, in April, in which he was also fighting to shore up right-wing support, he announced his intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, but he gave no specifics and no timetable.

This time, Mr. Netanyahu boasted that thanks to “my personal relationship with President Trump, I will be able to annex all the settlements in the heart of our homeland.”

The White House said in a statement that there was “no change in United States policy at this time,” and confirmed that the administration’s long-promised Middle East peace plan would be released after the election.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime chief Palestinian negotiator, warned Tuesday night that if Mr. Netanyahu manages to put through his plan, he will have “succeeded in burying even any chance of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

He added that unilateral annexation of occupied territory was a war crime. “The Israeli, the international community must stop such madness,” he said. “We need to end the conflict and not to keep it for another 100 years.”

In a possible sign of Palestinian displeasure, rockets fired from Gaza later Tuesday night set off alarms in southern Israel, including in Ashdod, where Mr. Netanyahu was hustled offstage by bodyguards to take cover in the middle of a campaign speech.

Reaction to Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement was muted in the Arab world, where the Palestinian cause no longer stirs the passions it once did.

[Why the Arab world isn’t outraged by Netanyahu’s West Bank vow.]

Palestinians see the Jordan Valley as their future breadbasket. Israel’s critics say it has been steadily uprooting Arab farmers and herders from the area.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160556991_963f6286-799f-4c92-89ef-add42b0970c8-articleLarge Netanyahu, Facing Tough Israel Election, Pledges to Annex a Third of West Bank West Bank Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Palestinians Netanyahu, Benjamin Jerusalem (Israel) Israel elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said that he wants to swiftly annex the Jordan Valley, which accounts for nearly a third of the occupied West Bank.CreditOded Balilty/Associated Press

Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former United States ambassador to Israel under Republican and Democratic administrations, said there was a consensus within Israel’s national-security establishment that Israel should retain control of the valley for some period after a peace treaty is signed, to ensure that the Palestinians continue to cooperate with Israel to maintain security.

But unilateral annexation was another thing, he said.

“If Netanyahu now says forever,” Mr. Kurtzer said, “this clearly will not be acceptable to any present or future Palestinian leader.”

As for the American support, Daniel B. Shapiro, the former ambassador to Israel under President Obama, warned that any celebration of a Trump recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank could be short-lived. “A Democratic successor to Trump would certainly withdraw U.S. recognition,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu’s gambit also met deep skepticism among Israeli analysts, who said he has frequently made election-eve promises that went unfulfilled, and noted that earlier right-wing attempts at annexing parts of the West Bank were blocked by none other than him.

But his career could end if he does not siphon enough votes from parties to his right in the campaign’s final days, and his announcement was clearly aimed at tempting Israelis who support annexing the West Bank into giving him the benefit of the doubt.

His main opponents from the center — Mr. Gantz and the other former army chiefs who are running in his Blue and White party — have said publicly that Israel must not yield the Jordan Valley for security reasons, leaving them little room to challenge his plan.

In a speech late Tuesday, Mr. Gantz looked past the specific proposal to assail Mr. Netanyahu for damaging the long-term relationship with the United States by exploiting it for short-term political needs.

“Netanyahu is using and hurting the ties between Israel and the U.S.” he said. “He is harming our ties with the Jewish community in the U.S. He is linking our politics with the Americans, and this is wrong. Our ties are strategic, these connections are deep and vital and are based on shared interests and not on election-time deals.”

Several American Jewish groups supporting a two-state solution immediately condemned Mr. Netanyahu’s plan.

Mr. Netanyahu visiting an Israeli army post overlooking the Jordan Valley in June with John R. Bolton, then President Trump’s national security adviser.CreditAbir Sultan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“These are unilateral moves endangering Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and further limiting the possibility of a two-state solution,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “Such serious pronouncements don’t belong in the final week of a heated campaign.”

[Why is the Jordan Valley strategically important? A closer look.]

In Israel, nearly half of Jewish Israelis have said they would favor annexation if it were supported by the Trump administration, one recent poll found. Fewer than three in 10 said they were opposed.

Settler groups welcomed Mr. Netanyahu’s call for a mandate to annex territory, but they too were dubious. “The true test will be in actions, not announcements,” Regavim, a pro-settlement group that fights Palestinian construction on the West Bank, said in a statement.

Yamina, the right-wing party led by Mr. Netanyahu’s former justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, challenged Mr. Netanyahu to bring his annexation plan before the current government within hours, “otherwise everyone in Israel will know this is nothing but a cheap political spin.”

The election on Tuesday is taking place because Mr. Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition after the April ballot when a onetime ally, Avigdor Lieberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, refused to join him.

Mr. Lieberman mocked Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement afterward in a two-word tweet alluding to how it had been advertised: “Dramatic statement,” he said, adding two emojis showing tears of laughter.

Advocates of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict, who have been warning that annexation would ultimately be disastrous for Israel, said Tuesday that a move like the one Mr. Netanyahu was proposing could be enough to drive the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, either to abandon its security cooperation with Israel on the West Bank or to fold up its tents altogether.

Either action could lead to violence that could force Israel to send troops back into territory where Palestinians have largely policed themselves under the quarter-century-old Oslo peace accords, said Nimrod Novik, a veteran Israeli negotiator.

“Unlike many of his coalition colleagues, Netanyahu cannot get a pass for not understanding the potentially devastating consequences,” Mr. Novik said. “Consequently, risking chaos on the West Bank and likely spillover to Gaza is worse than reckless. It is stupid.”

“If it is just electioneering, it signals panic,” he added. “If there is a risk that he will make good on it, that is probably the most important reason to hope that he is not re-elected.”

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