Israel’s election commission chief on Tuesday barred Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from broadcasting new appeals to his followers for their support as Israelis cast ballots in a surprisingly close election that threatens to unseat the prime minister. The commission ruled that a broadcast appeal – Netanyahu had planned two television interviews – would violate the country’s ban on political ads on election day. The rejection came as officials reported that turnout by 4 p.m., at 45.4 percent, was lagging slightly behind the rate of the election in 2013. Polls remain open until 10 p.m. In a last-minute video appeal to supporters on his Facebook page, Netanyahu warned that “the rule of the right is in danger” and that “Arab voters are going in droves to the polls” in buses provided by leftist groups. “Go to the polls, bring your friends and family, vote Likud to close the gap,” he said.
The leader of the unified Arab bloc, which polls show could become the third largest bloc in parliament, predicted that the comment would galvanize Arab voters.
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, accused Netanyahu in comments to McClatchy of “being afraid of the citizens.”
“Our response is to raise the voting participation so Bibi will not be prime minister,” he said.