Likud-Beytenu officials expressed concern Monday and Tuesday as the polls opened and high voter turnout was reported, that their party would receive even less seats than forecast in the latest polls. On Monday night, the atmosphere at Likud elections headquarters was tense and there was a general sense of disappointment. Regardless, despite the dip in recent polls, it remains highly unlikely that anyone but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be tasked with assembling the next government and serving as the next prime minister.
According to a senior Likud-Beytenu official, "even though we expected better results, there is no sense of crisis because it is clear that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister. There were a few external variables that could not be controlled during the campaign, like the deficit announcement and a few other items. In any case, the decision to unite with [Avigdor] Lieberman proved itself in that it has promised Netanyahu another term."
Commenting on the high voter turnout, which by 12 noon had reached 26.7%, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is also his party's election day campaign chief, said he was worried about the high voter turnout in areas of strong left wing support. "We are working to raise the voter turnout in areas where there are Likud supporters. We are certainly concerned that in areas where the left is strong there is higher voter turnout. We can see that there is generally a higher voter turnout in areas that have concentrations of left wing voters. And so what we are doing now is that we are working to raise the voter turnout amongst Likud and Yisrael Beytenu voters," Sa'ar said.
Likud ministers and supporters arrived at their party's headquarters on Monday to make last minute phone calls to undecided voters. Likud election day staff head and former Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi began to oversee over 20,000 Likud activists on Tuesday.
Netanyahu visited the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem on Monday, with his newly appointed chairman of the Israel Land Administration, outgoing Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon. Netanyahu was accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who voiced his support for the prime minister.
At the Begin Center in Jerusalem, Netanyahu referred to Kahlon's appointment, saying "he is the right man in the right place. When you vote for a large ruling party, you are voting for a united Jerusalem, a strong economy and for the power to lower housing prices. I appeal to every citizen — decide whether you want to vote for a divided and weak, or a united and strong Israel. I have no doubt that many will choose to come back home to Likud-Beytenu, there is no other ruling party."
Meanwhile, Central Elections Committee Chairman Justice Elyakim Rubinstein prohibited Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich's press conference from being broadcast on TV on Monday, on the grounds that it constituted elections propaganda. Only a day before, on Sunday, Rubinstein prevented Netanyahu's press conference announcing Kahlon's appointment from being aired for similar reasons.
During the Labor press conference, Yachimovich attacked Netanyahu's Kahlon appointment: "Just how much can one mislead and spin [the public]? Netanyahu is worried, and rightfully so."
Meanwhile, Shas co-leader Aryeh Deri said he was offended by Netanyahu's decision to appoint Kahlon. "Netanyahu's appointment of Kahlon may have succeeded in convincing Kahlon to vote Likud. I am hurt by my friend Avigdor Lieberman and the treatment my friends get from the prime minister — just like that, in a live broadcast you take the Israel Land Administration from one of your favored ministers, Ariel Atias, without even notifying him?!" Deri exclaimed.
Likud campaign chairman, Education Minister Gidon Sa'ar, responded on Monday to claims that Kahlon's appointment was "a gimmick," and that Netanyahu made the appointment out of pressure that his party's poll numbers were sliding, as many in the political system and media had suggested. Sa'ar said he was "surprised by the other parties' panic, when only a month ago they praised Kahlon when he announced his resignation."