(April 9, 2019 / JNS) The elections headquarters of the Blue and White Party in Tel Aviv became filled to the brim with media outlets from Israel and around the world in the hours ahead of the first elections exit poll on Tuesday evening, and party sources expressed hope that the evening would bring with it news of victory.
“What we feel is not pressure, but rather, there is a sense of this being a historic day. We have seen many people get behind the party. The media presence here is something I have not seen in other party headquarters in previous elections. The atmosphere is one of a close battle,” Andrey Kozhinov, a Blue and White Party spokesman, told JNS. “The feeling at this point in time is one of change, although we do not yet know what the results will be.”
Kozhinov said that the party was able to break down traditional political barriers to quickly become Israel’s biggest opposition party. “At first, people did not believe it was possible,” he said. “They were used to regular politics. Then, connections were made between the party leaders, and suddenly, the momentum began to build.”
He described how former Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Benny Gantz came together with former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, Yesh Atid Party head Yair Lapid and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, adding that they were able to find “common ground on 90 percent of the burning issues” facing the country today.
“We started talking about corruption. About ethics. And we saw people like Dan Meridor, once called the ‘prince of the Likud Party,’ suddenly express support for us, and saying that the country cannot be vandalized,” said Kozhinov.
After the elections, he added, it will be critical to look ahead at the many challenges that face Israel.
During the campaign, he described how party leaders encountered support in the streets, including from sections of the population that were traditionally affiliated with other political parties. “We saw support from religious people who might have been expected to vote for Shas,” he said
Kozhinov provided a glimpse into the packed schedule party operatives have had. He recalled a working day that finished at 1 a.m. the previous night, and which resumed at 6 a.m. the next morning.
“There were lots of media preparations to. We began with video reports near Gantz’s home in Rosh HaAyin,” he said.
Describing the last day of the campaign trail, he noted that “all of the senior party members crisscrossed the country. Moshe Ya’alon began at 4:30 a.m. with the sunrise in the Arava region [of southern Israel], before heading to Beersheva. Benny Gantz traveled to Ashdod, and Gabi Ashkenazi was in the north.”
Some 15,000 party activists were deployed across the country, nearly 6,000 of them at voting stations.
The party also encountered some problems during election day.
As the anticipation mounted, party sources expressed concern over what they said were a number of cases of vandalization of the back side of Blue and White voting slips. They said it was designed to get votes for the party disqualified during the count.
The party launched a petition to Israel’s Central Voting Committee, whose chairman, Judge Hanan Melzer, then decided to allow the vandalized votes to be counted. The party welcomed the decision.
In addition, party sources said that false claims had emerged during the day, alleging that flyers in Arabic had been distributed in Palestinian areas of eastern Jerusalem, calling on residents to get Israeli-Arab family members to vote for the party in exchange for future citizenship. The party sources described those reports as “fake news.”
Party sources also accused Netanyahu of trying to “steal the elections,” and of “spreading millions of false messages, as well as manipulation.”