Rivlin votes, saying sustained elections make him ‘anxious citizen’

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday urged the public not to be saddened by the fourth round of elections in just two years, and called on citizens to exercise their right to try to break through. political.

Rivlin, who voted at a ballot station set up in a school in Beit Hakerem district of Jerusalem, stressed the importance of the democratic process.

“I am doing this for the last time as president, but also as a concerned citizen,” he said. “Even in the midst of the great difficulties in which we find ourselves, elections for the holy Knesset are holy. our democracy. ”

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The president lamented that four rounds of relatively quick voting “were damaging the public’s faith in the democratic process, but the power to influence is only in your own hands. There is no other way. ”

“For the last time, from the heart of a president to your heart, take a vote,” he said.

Many party leaders and prominent politicians voted early and also urged the public to take part in the election, with some warning of the dire consequences of their parties’ failure.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted at another school polling station in Jerusalem, where he called on everyone to vote but refused to predict the results.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will vote, along with his wife, Sara Netanyahu, at a polling station in Jerusalem, at the Knesset elections, on March 23, 2021 (Mark Israel Sellem / POOL)

“This is a festival of democracy,” Netanyahu said with his wife, Sara. “This is a happy country.” Israel is a country where people laugh. ”

“Hopefully this is the last election,” he said.

Sarah, whose appendix was removed last week, thanked the health workers who dealt with her and the Israelis who expressed a desire to get over it.

Earlier, the main man went live on Facebook, speaking to supporters across the country to persuade Likud voters to go to the polls. He reiterated his recent claim that his Likud party was “losing” two sets to win to gain a 61-strong majority.

Among the first to vote was English party leader Aryeh Deri, in the Har Nof area of ​​Jerusalem. Deri called on voters to show up and “achieve a sure result,” saying, “We can’t go to a fifth election.”

Ultra-Orthodox Companion MK Yaakov Litzman, the former director and No. 2 of the Torah United Judaism, voted in Jerusalem.

“Haredi Jewel and all that is sacred to the nation of Israel hangs in the balance,” Litzman said, referring to the ultra-direct community.

English party leader Aryeh Deri will cast his vote in the general elections in Jerusalem, 23 March 2021. (Yonatan Sindel / FLASH90)

UTJ director MK Moshe Gafni cast his ballot in the largely rectangular city of Bnei Brak.

MK Avigdor Liberman, director of hAwkish vote, Yisrael Beytenu’s secular party, in his home community, Nokdim settlement, and reiterated his claim that the elections were called because of Netanyahu’s desire to “avoid” his ongoing corruption trial on allegations of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

Other right-wing party leaders will also vote in the hours after polling booths open at 7am.

Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism, voting in the West Bank settlement in Kedumim, hoped that a right-wing government with Netanyahu was above reach.

Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich casts his ballot at a polling station in Kedumim, at the Knesset elections, on March 23, 2021. (Sraya Diamant / Flash90)

Yamina director MK Naftali Bennett – who is also celebrating his birthday – voted in Raanana, urging the public to vote “until finally, we create a government that cares.”

MK Ayelet Shaked, the Yamin No. 2, put her ballot in Tel Aviv, saying that the party can “this time stop this endless election loop.”

“I promise if you don’t vote for us there will be no fifth election,” she said.

Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat Bennett will cast their ballots at the Knesset elections at a polling station in Ra’anana, March 23, 2021. (Gili Yaari / Flash90)

Gideon Sa’ar, who swore that his The New Hope party will not join the Netanyahu government, voted in Tel Aviv by supporters, saying it was “a moving event for me, three and a half months after I created New Hope. We have clear direction and high hopes for the future. “

The top member of Likud’s ruling Netanyahu party for an early vote was Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who cast his ballot in Herzliya and announced he would go to other cities to campaign for high support.

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party, the second largest after the vote, is expected to cast his ballot in Tel Aviv.

“This is the time of reality for the State of Israel and ultimately everything comes down to two choices – a strong Yesh Atid or a strong, dangerous, racist and homophobic government that takes money from hardworking people. and give it to people who will be the workers, “he said.

New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar and his wife Geula cast their ballots at a polling station in Tel Aviv at the Knesset elections, March 23, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton / Flash90)

Blue and white party leader Benny Gantz, voting in Rosh Ha’ayin, warned that Netanyahu would push a “different regime” if he won. Gantz entered a unity government with Netanyahu after the last election which was supposed to see him turn prime, but the coalition collapsed after failing a state budget, a development that is widely seen. as an invention by Netanyahu to prevent Gantz from becoming prime minister.

Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing party Meretz, called the vote “the most impressive choice in Israeli elections for several years” while voting in Tel Aviv.

The leader of the center-left Labor party, Merav Michaeli, began this morning with a visit to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where former Labor prime minister and leader Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995. She was to ‘vote later in the day.

“These are very important elections, they are open and in our hands,” she told reporters. “I came here to the place where he was stopped, because I promise to return to the path of Rabin.”

“We cannot ignore it,” she said, referring to the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Labor leader MK Merav Michaeli will cast his ballot at a polling station in Tel Aviv, at the Knesset Elections, on 23 March 2021. (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

MK Ayman Odeh, who dominates the largely Israeli Arab List party, voted in Haifa.

Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist Ra’am’s party, which broke away from the Allied List, voted in a quiet school square in the town of Maghar in northern Israel.

“We are looking for meaningful representation for Arab Israelis, a representation that will influence decisions,” Abbas told reporters, adding that he would not deny the possibility of entering a Netanyahu-led government. .

Itamar Ben Gvir, a non-Kahanist faction candidate Otzma Yehudit in the Religious Zionism party, voted at a polling station in the Southwest Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.

He told the Israeli Times that he was particularly confident that he would cross the election stage in this round of voting after failing in the previous three, when he ran either independently or in conglomerate of farthest parties.

Itamar Ben Gvir casts his ballot in the Knesset elections on March 23, 2021. (Jacob Magid / Times of Israel)

Ben Gvir said Netanyahu’s attempt to link Otzma Yehudit to the Smotrich National Union and the farthest Noam party had only squandered his chances into the Knesset.

“We’re going to celebrate this evening, God willing,” he told supporters as he entered the polling station.

The General Elections Committee said the turnout at 10m was 14.8%, slightly higher (by 0.3%) than last year’s vote.

Voter turnout has been steadily rising over the last three races in the last two years.

Polling stations close at 10pm

Israeli Times employees contributed to this report.