• Israel Elections: Live Coverage of the Vote and Results

    In Close Race, Netanyahu Struggles to Hang On

    At the end of an increasingly energized campaign, the race in Israel is surprisingly close.Speaking after casting his ballot at a school here, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel pledged to unify the “national camp,” appealing to right-wing voters for help in fighting a serious challenge from Isaac Herzog, the Labor Party leader who is running on a center-left slate called the Zionist Union.Polls close at 10 p.m. — 4 p.m. E.D.T. — when Israel’s news media will publish initial exit polls. The actual count will continue through the night.New York Times correspondents in Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza, around the region and in Europe and Washington, will provide updates and analysis during the day, as Israelis decide whether to give Mr. Netanyahu of the conservative Likud Party a third consecutive term. – ISABEL KERSHNER in Jerusalem

    Mar 17, 2015
    Mar 17, 2015

    Isabel Kershner
    In Polling Data, Perils for Netanyahu and for Pundits

    JERUSALEM — When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly broke up his government coalition in early December and called for new elections, his conservative Likud Party led by a comfortable margin in initial polls, and he looked to be on his way to a third straight term in office and his fourth overall.But that was then.If the election had been held on Dec. 3, Likud would have won 23 of the 120 seats in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, compared with only 15 for the center-left Labor Party, which leads the opposition, according to Smith Consulting, a leading Israeli polling institute.Once you count the other rightist parties that would unquestionably join Likud in a new coalition, the right bloc appeared to be on course for 49 seats to 34 for the center-left bloc, with the remaining 37 seats divided among ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties and a new centrist party led by a former Likud minister, Moshe Kahlon.
    Events changed that picture quickly, though. Isaac Herzog, the Labor leader,
    joined forces with Tzipi Livni, a former cabinet minister. Her small centrist faction, Hatnua, did not seem likely to win more than a handful of seats on its own, but the Labor-Hatnua joint slate, named the Zionist Union, seemed to amount to more than the sum of its parts.
    By Jan. 1, when Smith Consulting conducted its next survey, the Zionist Union had overtaken Likud, with 24 projected seats to 23, and the overall margin between the right and left blocs had narrowed to just 6 seats. (Smith interviewed 500 people each time, with a margin of sampling error of 4.5 percent.)The final polls were published on Friday, and they were even worse for Mr. Netanyahu. They showLikud trailing the Zionist Union by four seats.The country’s splintered multiparty system can make it all but impossible to forecast just what government will emerge from a general election, especially when the campaign is as closely fought as the current one. Calculations of the leading parties’ prospects of assembling a governing coalition all appear to end in “tekko,” Hebrew for a tie. It may come down to whether one or two small parties manage to clear the minimum threshold for winning seats, which is now 3.25 percent of the total valid votes cast.Israeli political analysts urge caution. In the 1996 election, when the post of prime minister was directly elected (unlike today), exit polls on voting day initially indicated that Shimon Peres of Labor would defeat Mr. Netanyahu, but the final count had Mr. Netanyahu winning by slightly less than one percentage point. And in 2013, Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party, which had been projected to win about 12 seats, came in with 19.According to Rafi Smith of the Smith polling institute, more than one-third of voters who backed Yesh Atid in 2013 decided to do so on the day of the election, after the last advance polls had been completed and published.

    Mar 17, 2015
    Mar 17, 2015

    Gabby Sobelman
    Grandfather of Candidate Collapses and Dies After Voting

    The 90-year-old grandfather of a Likud candidate for the Knesset voted at a Jerusalem polling station on Tuesday and then collapsed and died shortly afterward, Maariv reports.Arcadi Warchovski was a World War II veteran, the newspaper says. His grandson Zeev Elkin is the No. 7 candidate on the Likud slate; he has served as deputy foreign minister and as chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Knesset.“My grandfather was active until his very last day,” Mr. Elkin is quoted as saying, “and during the past week he was still out convincing people in his neighborhood to vote for Likud.”