As Tuesday’s Knesset election approaches, election officials and candidates are making their final appeals and preparations.
The Central Election Committee has printed 262 million ballot slips representing the 34 parties running in the elections, at a cost of 1.3 million shekels ($350,000). As required by law, 7.5 million slips were printed for each party, despite there being only 5.6 million eligible voters. The law stipulates that 30 percent more slips than the number of eligible voters must be printed for each party so that no one runs out of slips. In addition, 7.5 million blank slips were printed, which voters can use to write in the name of their choice.
One party has already canceled its participation: the Netzach Party, a breakaway faction of the ultra-Orthodox Degel Hatorah party.
Over the weekend, soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces began placing their votes early at some 60 polling stations set up at bases around the country. The first IDF voting booth opened at the Kirya, the General Staff headquarters in Tel Aviv. Those voting on Sunday include sailors in Haifa and Ashdod as well as fighters from the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. On Monday, soldiers in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley will vote.
On Tuesday, election day, some 150 mobile polling stations will be set up for soldiers in the field, along with an additional 600 stationary polling stations all those in the military. Soldiers can vote at any booth on election day, regardless of where they live. When soldiers vote they use double envelopes; the external envelope has their name on it to ensure they do not vote twice. Incidents of double voting will be referred to the army's criminal investigation division.
Meanwhile, Election Committee Chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein has criticized the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which continues to distribute amulets to the public as part of its election campaign, despite having promised not to do so.
"I am sorry that after they agreed to my decision of Jan. 3, Shas has continued to find ways to distribute blessings as part of its propaganda, each time in a different guise," Rubinstein said. But he said he would not take punitive measures because Shas’ representatives told him that they had decided to stop distributing the kits. At the same time, he decided to have the issue examined by the attorney-general.
In the meantime, the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne’eman attacked Habayit Hayehudi candidate Ayelet Shaked's declaration that her party would demand control over the conversion process as part of coalition talks.
"Already today the fictitious conversion process in Israel is sinking to new lows,” the newspaper said. “Everyone acknowledges that the overwhelming majority of converts do not become fully observant Jews."
Two days before elections, Labor leader MK Shelly Yachimovich stepped up efforts to persuade more women voters to cast their ballots in her favor.
On Friday afternoon, Yachimovich took to the streets, visiting Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv in a last-ditch effort to persuade passers-by to vote for her. The slogan of the last week of Labor's campaign has been: "You can beat Bibi! 500,000 undecided women will decide the elections." Yachimovich said that according to recent surveys, "500,000 women have still not decided for whom to vote. Many of them are considering voting for Labor."
According to Labor, focus groups conducted throughout the campaign show that women from all parties respond, to a greater degree than men, very positively to Yachimovich’s economic and social messages and were also personally supportive of her.
Yachimovich would also like to garner the votes of those intending to vote for parties not expected to pass the 2 percent threshold required for a Knesset seat.
On Friday night on Channel 2's "Meet the Press" program ,Yachimovich admitted that her chances of replacing Netanyahu were not great but called on citizens not to give up the fight.
On Saturday morning, however, Yachimovich said, “Netanyahu has been weakened, and the gap between the blocs is only three mandates. Replacing Netanyahu's government is no fantasy. I call on the public to go out and vote, not to waste votes on parties that will not pass the threshold of 2 percent of the vote, or that plan to enter Netanyahu's government under humiliating conditions. Any vote for such a party is like voting for Netanyahu."
The Yesh Atid party, which surveys predict will receive a double-digit number of Knesset seats in Tuesday's elections, is feeling the positive momentum. On Saturday, party leader Yair Lapid said that he was not in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pocket.
"I will not be part of a government that does not push for equality in sharing the military burden, and if need be we will form a fighting and uncompromising opposition," Lapid said.
Lapid also tried to distance himself from the embrace of Habayit Hayehudi after candidate Ayelet Shaked recently mentioned a resemblance between Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid. "We have similar programs and I think we could be excellent partners," she said.
The Yesh Atid chairman said he understood Bennett's attempt to appeal to centrist voters. "Bennett realizes he has extracted the most he can from right-wing voters and so now he is also trying to take votes from the center, but he won't succeed because everyone knows what party we're dealing with," said Lapid.
Over the weekend, Lapid wrote to his supporters: "Just one year has passed since Yesh Atid was established and we are the third-largest party. This is an amazing accomplishment. Let's just make one last effort, persuade three people who are still on the fence, knock on the door of your neighbor who hasn't decided yet. Get someone who was planning not to vote at all and convince them to get out of the house."