UPDATES 6 pm Israel time Sunday:
Voting is now underway in the Israeli election even though election day is officially tomorrow. As of 45 minutes ago, more than 60 polling stations were open for IDF soldiers to vote, and there are reports that more than 3000 votes have already been cast by soldiers on the Golan Heights and at the General Command in Tel Aviv.
Tomorrow morning all 690 polling stations will be open for voting. Early indications are that there may be a high turnout. Interestingly, Ben Gurion airport–which is usually full of Israelis departing for overseas locations–has been much emptier than usual as people stay in the country to vote.
The time has come for your fearless humble servant to make his prognostications about the outcome of the Israeli elections. As reported yesterday, it has been a strange election season with all polls reporting that at least 20% of Israeli voters are still undecided.
Nevertheless, herewith are my predictions:
Likud Beiteinu (Netanyahu and Lieberman): 32 seats and trending downward
With Likud’s misguided attacks on Bennett and Netanyahu’s boneheaded appointment of Moshe Kahlon yesterday, this number might go as low as 30 seats. On the other hand, if there is a backlash against Obama’s comments, and Likud’s heavy advertising kicks in, Likud might win as many as 35 seats.
Labor (Yachimovich): 17 seats and trending upward
Yachimovich has emerged from this campaign as a likeable lightweight. She has made social issues her only talking point–refusing to talk about foreign affairs or security issues. There is the sense among the electorate that she sincerely cares about people.
Jewish Home (Bennett): 15 seats and trending steady
Bennett has absorbed withering attacks from all sides. His strength is with Israel’s younger voters. His task is to make sure that these voters vote–traditionally, younger voters are less likely to actually get to the polling stations. If teenagers and 20/30 somethings turn out in large numbers, Bennett’s seat total could rise.
Yesh Atid (Lapid): 12 seats and trending upward
In your humble servant’s opinion, Lapid is suddenly catching fire. He has successfully portrayed himself as the defender of the middle class and as the candidate of the center. His seat total could rise as high as 15 seats.
Shas (Sephardic Orthodox): 10 seats and trending downward
Shas always wins around 10 seats. Their recent attacks on Bennett indicate that their internal polling has them trending downward.
Livni Party: 7 seats and trending downward
Livni, never very high in the polls, has seemingly plummeted of late.
Meretz: 6 seats and trending upward
Meretz has remained true to its leftist principles. It is taking away voters from Tzipi Livni and may win as many as 7 seats.
United Torah Judaism: 6 seats and trending steady
Hadash: 4 seats and trending steady
United Arab List: 4 seats and trending steady
Balad: 3 seats and trending steady
Am Shalem: 2 seats and trending upward
Strong Israel: 2 seats and trending upward
Tomorrow’s blog will simply be updates of what is happening in Israel. By late in the evening Israel time, we should be able to get a sense of where things stand and this blog will report returns as they are available.