Israelis cast their votes Tuesday for more than 35 parties in an historic fourth election in two years. What did they have to say about this election? Will there be a fifth?
With just a few hours to go, voter turnout was at its lowest level since 2009, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to run at the head of the Likud party.
And there’s something else that also has made it a first-time event: all the preparations to prevent the elections from becoming a COVID-19 super spreader.
Of course, everyone wore masks, poll workers were positioned behind plastic shields and hand sanitizer was available in the voting booths.
And to make sure that everyone who wanted to vote could do so, there were special polling stations at the airport for those returning from abroad, voting units where those in quarantine could vote from their cars, and special free transportation to those booths for those who are actually sick.
In the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israelis’ views spanned the political spectrum.
“Don’t tell my wife but I voted for Avoda, for Labor,” Jonathan told CBN News. “I made Aliyah 12 years ago, the only Rosh HaMemshela, the only Prime Minister I’ve had is Bibi, and I feel like it’s time for a change.”
Jonathan said in previous elections he voted for various anti-Bibi parties that he thought would win.
“I felt like this time I want to vote for who I believe is the right move forward for the country, more my morals,” he said.
The Labor Party, led by Merav Michaeli, has been around in one form or another since the founding of the state and boasted a connection with every prime minister until 1977. But it has been on the decline for decades. The left-wing group is expected to enter the Knesset but not with many seats.
Jonathan, like many, had words of praise for Netanyahu but still thought it was a time for a change. However, he didn’t think it would happen as a result of this election.
“Hopefully, in a couple years when Bibi finally retires or whatever moves on and maybe we have a chance to move things forward.
“I think there’s hope in general in day to day life with the vaccines, it’s been amazing what Bibi did and I think the country has made great strides under Bibi but I think it’s time for us to move forward. So yes, I feel hopeful, but it might take a few years,” Jonathan said.
Lida, who lived here as a child and moved back to Israel 3-1/2 years ago from California, didn’t want to say for which party she voted.
“[The] most important thing to me is supporting and helping to develop egalitarian, democratic society where every group and every ethnic group and every religion has a voice in our society,” Lida said.
“We are a very young country and Israel is only 75-years-old and compare that to another very young country, the United States, which is relatively a young country. It takes hundreds of years to develop a democratic, political system. So, we’re still very much working on it,” she said.
Despite her preferences, she said there’s one issue that takes precedence.
“Other issues that are extremely important to me are the environment and education. But security has to come first, and we have no choice,” Lida said.
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“I’m a Zionist. I’m Jewish. I love the Land. I love Jerusalem. Jerusalem is ours – our chief joy,” said Nissim Levy from Jerusalem. “We have one of the greatest among the greats, that Blessed be He, blessed us with and that’s Bibi Netanyahu.”
Levy noted that Netanyahu is connected to and has the respect of many world leaders.
“This man brought us this time the vaccines and brought us life. He’s big, he’s a giant. No one is more giant than Bibi Netanyahu,” he said.
Levy said he didn’t think any of Netanyahu’s competitors could compete with his accomplishments. “They can’t replace the popular prime minister that all the people love.”
Carol Goldberg, who immigrated six-and-a-half years ago from the US, said she voted for Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party.
“Yamina because I think he stands for the values we stand for – on the right, he’s articulate. It just felt right,” Goldberg told CBN News.
Bennett, Netanyahu’s former defense minister, has not said that he wouldn’t join a government with Netanyahu as other parties on the right have. So, some are calling him the “kingmaker.”
“I have actually voted for Bibi every other election, I think that we need a bit of a change, although my voting for Bennett is not going to change the election but I think it [strengthens the idea] that the Likud has to make some compromises along the way,” Goldberg said.
Unfortunately, Goldberg and many others believe this election will not resolve Israel’s political woes and won’t likely be the last in this series of elections.
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