(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) The election for the 19th Knesset got underway on Tuesday. More than 5.5 million Israelis can exercise their democratic right this year by casting their ballot at more than 10,000 polling stations spread all over the country. According to the Jerusalem Post, by 6 p.m. 55.5 percent of eligible voters had already cast their ballots in an election that will likely yield the reelection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but an uncertain government coalition.
Netanyahu arrived at the Paula Ben-Gurion Elementary School in Jerusalem shortly after voting began Tuesday accompanied by his family. "I have always said the Likud-Beytenu [the joint Likud and Yisrael Beytenu Knesset candidate list] represents the entire nation, and in this case, the whole family," he said in a press conference at the school according to Israel Hayom.
Habayit Heyehudi leader Naftali Bennett voted in his hometown of Raanana. "When I see everyone joining Habayit Hayehudi I know that something new is about to begin among the Jewish people,” he told reporters. "It feels rather strange to vote for yourself; but it is exciting and joyful,” said Yair Lapid, who heads Yesh Atid (There is a Future), after voting in an elementary school in northern Tel Aviv.
The spiritual leader of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, arrived at the polling station Tuesday. After voting Yosef issued a blessing to Shas supporters, saying, "those who like God, may he be blessed, will rise and reach the skies." President Shimon Peres, who voted in Jerusalem Tuesday morning, said “Israelis were given a day off (for voting), and it represents an opportunity that encapsulates liberty — the right to vote in a free, democratic and beautiful country.”