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CONNECT THE WORLD

Voters Cast Ballots with Netanyahu's Future On Line; Gantz Posing Strong Challenge to Netanyahu; Polls Show Tight Race Between Netanyahu and Gantz; Nir Barkat, Former Mayor of Jerusalem interviewed about Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu; Netanyahu Could Lose But Still Form Coalition Government; Isaac Herzog, Former Opposition Leader in Last Election, Interviewed on Current Election; Residents of West Bank and Gaza United in Desire to Vote; Palestinian Official Voices Concern Over Israel Elections. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired April 9, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Jerusalem, where prophets preached and the hand of God, billions believe, reaches from the heavens to shape

our destiny. If these walls could talk, they would whisper in ancient tongues how for 3,000 years the city beyond the portal of Jaffa Gate has

enchanted the whole world. And so from this place where biblical kings guarded their empires, we are watching how a new leader could be crowned,

"King Bibi."

I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome to what is a very special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD live for you tonight from Jerusalem. Well just four hours and

counting until the polls close in the toughest election battle of Benjamin Netanyahu's career. The Israeli Prime Minister trying to make history in

winning a record fifth term, despite the cloud of possible indictment hanging over him. He cast his ballot today in Jerusalem while his main

rival, Benny Gantz, voted in his home down near Tel Aviv, calling for a new dawn in Israel.

Polls show the race is neck and neck but those polls don't mean anything unless people actually get out and vote. So the key right now is turnout.

At last check, nearly 36 percent of Israel's 6 million eligible voters have cast their ballots. CNN's Oren Liebermann is heading to Tel Aviv but he

was out and about earlier on and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, there are now four hours until polls close in Israel and we're at one of those polling places here in

Jerusalem. There are of course thousands more across the country. Jerusalem a city that tends to lean to the right. And accordingly, most of

the political signs we see here are for right wing parties especially the big Blue and White ones. Those are for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's

Likud party.

We see some other signs as well, for some of the other right-wing parties. Parties that Netanyahu may look to when it comes to forming a coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had a furious get out the vote campaign not only today but in the final days of campaigning. He has

warned his supporters that he's in danger of losing. What he calls a strong right-wing government that would be replaced by what he says is a

week left-wing government if they don't get out the vote, bring their friends and their family to vote. We saw him say that yesterday at the

shokit makhani yojana (ph), not far from where we're standing right now. And it's a message he's put all over social media, on Facebook and on

Twitter in the closing days and closing hours of the campaign.

Netanyahu himself voted earlier today here in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, his rival, former chief of staff, Benny Gantz, who served under Netanyahu,

voted just north of Tel Aviv and it seems has focused most of his get out the vote efforts on more of the coastal cities, cities that tend to lean a

bit more to the left. As he tries to keep a lead that he had for most of the election campaign.

The final round of election polls this past weekend showed a very tight race. It seems neither of these leaders are taking that win for granted.

They're out there and they're trying to make sure that when polls close at 10 p.m. local time today on election day, it's either Netanyahu or Gantz

that has the biggest party. Then comes the question of forming a coalition. But no one is dealing with that yet. Right now it's all about

today. It's all about the final numbers when the polls close a little later on -- Becky.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: That's right. Let's get you then to Michael Holmes who is already in Tel Aviv. He's live at an election night center of Benny

Gantz's Blue and White party. So, as Oren suggested, Benjamin Netanyahu urging voters for Likud to get out, to not be complacent. Netanyahu though

as far as Gantz is concerned, running a desperate campaign in order to overcome his legal problems and we won't let him, the leader of the Blue

and White party says. What's the atmosphere like there -- Michael?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just getting underway here really, Becky. They are sort of doing all the mic checks and in just a couple of

hours from now people will start coming in here and preparing for the polls to close about four hours or so from now. And that's when we will get

those exit polls.

I was up in Jerusalem earlier today talking to voters as well and got an interesting mix of people. I remember one couple in particular that I

should mention, husband and wife, asked them who they were voting for. The husband said voting Likud. But we said, why? And his wife immediately

said I asked him that as well. So that gives you a sense of one family's divide on this.

[11:05:00] I want to bring in Yair Zivan, who is a spokesman for the Blue and White party and get your thoughts on how this day has gone. We've seen

Benjamin Netanyahu again, as he did in 2015, saying, quick, it's an emergency, everyone get out and vote. What is your party's position on the

vote as well? What are you hearing?

YAIR ZIVAN, SPOKESMAN, BLUE AND WHITE PARTY: Well we're hearing that it's very close. Voter turnout is a little bit down but not by a lot. We're

calling on everybody to go out and vote. We think every vote is going to count between now and when the polls close in four hours.

HOLMES: It's been discussed that because Benjamin Netanyahu and particularly with his comments on the settlements is trying to pull votes

from smaller right-wing parties. And that may work in the head to head but might end up pushing those parties below the threshold and cost him

coalition partners. Are you concerned that could happen with Blue and White?

ZIVAN: Well we're concerned with getting as many votes out as possible and getting voter turnout. I think the political calculations are too

difficult for anybody to predict. Every party has to do everything it can to maximize its votes, making sure our voters get out and make sure as many

people vote for us so that we're the biggest party. In the end, 19 out of 20 times in Israel's history, it's the largest party that's formed the

government. So for us, our goal is to make sure we're the largest party and we can form the next government. Benny Gantz can be the next Prime

Minister of Israel.

HOLMES: Benny Gantz could win head-to-head by three, four seats and it may not be enough when it comes to coalition building. Have conversations been

going on? I'm sure they have. What is the level of confidence about getting a coalition together were it to be that close?

ZIVAN: Well, like I said, we're focusing first of all on the next four hours. If you ask me back tomorrow, I'll talk to you about coalition

negotiations if we win. But were really focused just on that at the moment. But like I said, the largest party in Israel forms the government

almost every time with only one exception. So if we win even by three, or four or five seats we're confident that we'll can form the government.

Parties will come to us. It'll be very clear the Israeli public will have spoken and they want Benny Gantz to be the next Prime Minister.

HOLMES: You know, it's interesting because security is always the number one issue when it comes to Israeli politics. And this is an election where

Benjamin Netanyahu has not been able to say I'm Mr. Security, I alone can do it. Because there are three former army chiefs of staff in Blue and

White. What then are the other issues if Benny Gantz has blunted that aspect?

ZIVAN: I think the security side --

ANDERSON: All right, it sounds as if we've just lost Michael Holmes for a moment. I'll bring you back here to Jerusalem, to a man who, if elected,

will take a salary of just one shekel a year as a Knesset member for Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. As he did in his previous job as mayor

of the city of Jerusalem. Which he left just last December after a decade in charge. A decade which saw him introduce a marathon to the holy city

and carry a rifle while visiting an Arab neighborhood. At least Jerusalem which he urged all Israelis with gun licenses to do. The city, of course,

at the heart of conflict with Palestinians on both sides as they claim it is there capital too.

Nir Barkat joining me now. Sir, are you as concerned as the leader of the party that you hope to represent in the Knesset about complacency by voters

of Likud? It sounds like Benjamin Netanyahu is extremely concerned that he might lose tonight.

NIR BARKAT, FORMER MAYOR OF JERUSALEM: Well first of all, welcome to Jerusalem.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

BARKAT: Indeed that is the case and the reason is because the polls show that we have a slight advantage. So many, many of the right of center

voters are saying, OK, we're going to win anyway, why go and vote. That is the biggest fear we have. And so, we have to make sure that people

understand the threat that we could lose the elections and we could find ourselves with people that have very, very different ideologies than the

ideology that brought Israel to the success in the last decade. And they also have very different leadership, not skilled, not experienced.

Actually there is split to four. And so we're working very, very hard to make sure people turn out to vote.

ANDERSON: Sir, the problem is that there are many, many, many people out there who believe that ideology is just sort of getting a little bit old

and they're a little bit fed up of Benjamin Netanyahu. If today I believe is such a long time for him in leading this country. Like 18.5 percent of

Israel's history. That would be the equivalent of Donald Trump having led the U.S. for 44 years. People are a bit fed up with him.

BARKAT: I disagree. You can see by the polls the majority of Israelis believe that what has been accomplished in the last decade -- and Israel

has never been in such a better position. First, in terms of security, second, in terms of our economy -- fastest growing economy in the world --

and of course internationally.

[11:10:00] Prime Minister Netanyahu is practically the only leader in the world that knows how to work with Putin on the one side, President Trump on

the other, see the leaders of India and China and Europe and Africa. And when he speaks, when Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks, the world listens.

So when you look and integrate all these accomplishments together in the last decade, this is something that the people of Israel would like to see

continue. The left of center, the only way they can actually compete with our strategy and ideology is to try and go to negative campaigns against

Netanyahu.

ANDERSON: On his last stop on his campaign tour on Monday Benjamin Netanyahu urged voters here in Jerusalem to go out and vote for Likud.

This is specifically what he said. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The hour is very late. At the moment we are behind a few seats. Lapid and Gantz

are leading. The only way to close the gap and ensure with certainty that Likud will form the next government is to have a big Likud. Bring all the

people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: You say you share his concerns. Others say this is simply tactical on Benjamin Netanyahu's part. And they've heard it all before, he

did the same thing back in 2015.

BARKAT: Well, it's real. Good that he did it in '15. Because if microphone off what he wouldn't have done that in '15, then we would have

lost control and power in the country. And so the reality is that we have a majority of people that believe in us. Showing up and getting people to

vote is the key strategy right now for us in the last four hours we have.

ANDERSON: I know you have very strong views on the following. Following these elections, we are expecting the release of Mr. Trump's Middle East

Peace Plan, known as the deal of the century, probably sometime after the new government is formed. There are reports in Israeli media, not

confirmed by CNN, that the Trump Peace Plan will call for a Palestinian capital to be in parts of east Jerusalem, effectively dividing Jerusalem.

You say that won't work. Why?

BARKAT: It will never work. Look behind us. The wall is here. We're occupied by Jordan before 67. And if you've gone on the roof where we are

right now, we'd probably get sniper shot and we'd be in threat. We will never divide the city. Now when it's united undivided city, it functions

dramatically much, much better than any divided city in the world.

ANDERSON: As far as the Arab citizens of Israel are concerned --

BARKAT: Indeed they do. Because the reality is that the economy of Jerusalem Arabs are far superior. Their quality of life is far superior

than the West Bank or Gaza or even our neighbors in Jordan and Egypt and other places.

ANDERSON: Why can you not bring yourself the idea that you could share this city?

BARKAT: I will show the ideologically. 3,000 years ago when Jerusalem was actually developed by King David, it was not divided to tribes. It was

given to all tribes. And the idea of a united city of Jerusalem, that it has to function, ultra-orthodox and secular, Jews, Muslims and Christians,

right around us you'll find more in one square kilometer more churches, mosques and synagogues that function, that work and the respect between

them. That is the only way Jerusalem will ever function.

ANDERSON: Let me ask you this. Why doesn't Likud have a platform with a detailed plan for an Israeli/Palestinian peace process?

BARKAT: Well think -- the reality is there are three elements to the peace process we see with the Palestinians. And mind you that we're almost 25

years in peace with Jordan and four years in peace with Egypt. These are very big fierce enemies of Israel.

ANDERSON: Constant conflict with the Palestinians. Why isn't there a clear strategy --

BARKAT: There are three elements with the key strategies of the Likud platform.

First, 100 percent security by Israeli army, 100 percent. Never will we leave any inch because we saw what happened in Gaza. We have to be there

to make sure that they won't turn on us.

Second point is no problem giving the Arab big cities, big towns their autonomy. Let them have their own civil autonomy.

ANDERSON: And a state.

BARKAT: And the third element is mutual economy. You will find where Jews and Arabs work together, in Judea and Samaria, in Jerusalem and anywhere.

It is phenomenally for coexistence. So these are the three elements, coexistence on the economy, 100 percent security by Israel and autonomy for

the Arabs. And on side by side to that, civil life, apply Israeli law on all the Israelis living in the West Bank. So that is three elements that

you call it whatever you want. Some people call it state minus. Some call it autonomy plus.

ANDERSON: Nobody calls it a two-state solution because it's not.

BARKAT: You call it whatever you want.

ANDERSON: It's not a two-state solution.

BARKAT: The three elements that are the Likud platform.

ANDERSON: But they're not stated, they're not clear within the Likud platform.

[11:15:00] BARKAT: Of course they are. They've been said by Prime Minister Netanyahu and they've been by us all along. These are the three

elements of the Likud.

ANDERSON: Let me just close out with the following. You are vehemently anti-corruption. You are standing for a party with a leader who the

Attorney General here has cleared a path for indictment charges pending hearings. That is one issue that so many people here say it is the reason

that it is time for Benjamin Netanyahu to go. How can you stand on the same platform?

BARKAT: First of all, he's not been charged.

ANDERSON: No. I didn't say that. I said pending hearings.

BARKAT: Well, fine. But he is innocent until proven otherwise, first. And so, I've seen many ministers and people unfortunately as mayor I had to

sign on the chief of police that we had send home. And after six years he became -- he's been proven innocent. The Israeli law specifically talks

about a Prime Minister that may be indicted, that he stays as Prime Minister. That's the law. So as a law-abiding citizen, I am just

following the law. And if he gets indicted or not, we don't know.

ANDERSON: If he were to be indicted, your position would be what?

BARKAT: We'll see. If he gets indicted --

ANDERSON: I'm just asking.

BARKAT: We'll see what he gets indicted by.

ANDERSON: You're not going to answer that question.

BARKAT: I will answer once we see what the results of the courts will say. By the results of the court I'll make a decision. Prime Minister

Netanyahu, I trust him on so many things. I trust him on this as well.

ANDERSON: Thank you, sir. Always a pleasure.

BARKAT: Pleasure.

ANDERSON: It's very windy here today. I'm struggling, you're not.

Still to come, Benjamin Netanyahu almost lost power in the last general election four years ago. When we return, we will talk to the man who came

close to winning that race.

And later, Palestinians look at the Israeli election and wonder when will it all turn to elect new leaders. A look at what happened to Palestinian

democracy as CONNECT THE WORLD continues. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:20:00] IRIS LAVI, TEL AVIV RESIDENT: It's a beautiful day. This is a nice beach and I go to the restaurant and I want to come back to open the

television and know that everything is changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: People in Tel Aviv taking advantage of the election day holiday, an unusually hot election day.

Welcome back. You're watching a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD with me Becky Anderson live from Jerusalem for you.

With less than four hours left until polls close in Israel, one of the big questions is if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could lose and win at the

same time. Polls show Mr. Netanyahu's Likud trailing Benny Gantz's Blue and White party. But Likud could still partner with other right-wing

parties to form a coalition government. That would allow Mr. Netanyahu to win a record setting fifth term as Prime Minister.

My next guest the man who's come closest to ending the reign of "King Bibi," at this moment four years ago during Israel's last election polls

had him beating Mr. Netanyahu. In the end Mr. Netanyahu's party won by six seats. Well today Isaac Herzog voting without the battalions of

photographers, as he describes it. Now the head of the Jewish Agency. You tweeted earlier on -- and that's up on the screen -- as you voted with your

wife. I'm not can ask you how you voted that is your own business. But this must feel like Deja vu to you. Doesn't it? Just this weekend in sort

of closing embers, the dying embers of this campaign. Once again, Benjamin Netanyahu out rallying the troops. Calling for pro-annexation, if he were

to be elected. And telling his own party members, do not be complacent. This is all very familiar to you.

ISAAC HERZOG, CHAIRMAN, JEWISH AGENCY FOR ISRAEL: Absolutely. In fact, I led the polls at noontime and Netanyahu won the elections and of course it

shows that Netanyahu is very sophisticated campaigner.

One has to understand first of all, a few comments for our viewers, this is a very impressive democratic system and we have people here, about 40

parties running. Likud is a very strong party in the body politic of Israel. But all in all if you look at the numbers, suppose he gets 30? We

got last time 30. It's only 25 percent of the electorate. So it means 75 percent of the nation voted something else. At the end it's a coalition

system and the President has to delegate to somebody who can form a coalition. So it's a very complicated system. It's not simply a

presidential race of one versus the other.

ANDERSON: Are you surprised that at least the polls have this as close a race as it is? I know you've said this is a leader who's incredibly

tactical and an incredibly good campaigner. But are you surprised at just how close these are?

HERZOG: Our campaign last time was, us ran with Tzipi Livni, together in him a joint ticket versus him, mainly versus Netanyahu. Because there's a

very large bloc who wants to replace Netanyahu. Now it's Benny Gantz and his peers. There are four key leaders who have joined together to replace

Netanyahu. In the race is a neck to neck race. So there is a split in the electorate in Israel. This is a strong group that wants to replace and a

strong group that wants to maintain. And that's why these hours are critical.

ANDERSON: And this isn't about policy. It is about personality. And in the end, this is a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu. It's where the people

here decide they've had enough or he's done a good job, he's done a decade, let's just --

HERZOG: But I have to add a caveat, a warning caveat. Because partially true, but the fact of the matter, as I just mentioned, there's a multitude

of voices and a multitude of opinions. Namely there could be people who vote Likud because they always voted Likud no matter who's the leader.

Likud is a strong party in Israel. A very strong party embedded in the nation such. So it could be any other leader would get many votes almost

as Netanyahu.

But it's a combination. It's got both. That's why it's a fascinating system. And I respect Israeli democracy tremendously for being as wide

viewed as possible one can ever imagine. You've got from the extreme, extreme left, you've got Muslim parties to the extreme, extreme right.

ANDERSON: Let me ask you this because this is important. There have been a series of elections gifts, as it were, from U.S. President Donald Trump

to Mr. Netanyahu during this campaign.

[11:25:00] The latest move designating the Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. This is something Mr. Netanyahu has been asking

for. After the announcement he took to Twitter think Mr. Trump. The Golan Heights, moving the embassy, this latest nixing the Iran deal. What sort

of effect has Donald Trump had on this campaign?

HERZOG: So one has to understand that the key issue at the end in the nation's psyche despite all the personality issues is security. Israelis

by the masses, by a large majority would go to any peace deal if they know they can get security. And so far, it has, I can say it out right, as the

former leader of Labour, as the former leader of the opposition, we pulled out in Gaza in 2005 unilaterally. We promised our camp, the peace camp, we

promised Hong Kong of the Middle East, we got 10,000 missiles including recently.

So people are weary. People want peace on the one hand. They want to make sure that it's sound, ironclad on the other. So this is what has

influenced Israeli politics including now.

Now when President Trump comes forward with issues that pertain to Israel security -- and they are substantial. Because there's a national consensus

on the Iran deal which means the Israelis do not want to go to the JCPOA, they don't want to go back to that or the agreement with Iran. They

believe that Iran is out there to derail the stability of the Middle East totally and there is proof to that effect.

ANDERSON: I understand what you're saying. We could wax lyrical about Israeli society and its psyche. Because you have a deep understanding of

this. Is it thought -- and this is very brief? I need a very brief answer. Is it right, though, so close to this election that the U.S.

President has been, it seems at least, so overt in his support for one candidate?

HERZOG: So the President has good relations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he did comment and I thought it was correct in the Republican Jewish

Coalition two days ago that both candidates are good. That was kind of a message that the United States is trying to be more objective. It's all

true.

We live in a world where we are all on this chess board. I think Netanyahu met with President Putin, met with President Trump. At the end I can give

you an example. In '96 all the world ganged behind Shimon Peres in a major summit including President Clinton. But at the end the Israeli voters

they'll vote from their heart and they will not necessarily include all of this in the calculations. It's a close race. Nobody knows what will be

the outcome.

ANDERSON: We are just less than four hours away from getting at least some indication. Sir, it's always a pleasure having you on.

HERZOG: Thank you very much.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much indeed, we'll talk again after this election.

It's a stunning if slightly windy and frankly quiet freezing night in the often-tense city of Jerusalem now. There's a lot more to dig into as we --

just a couple of hours, as I say from the polls closing. But while that happens and Israelis are voting for a new government, Palestinians are

demanding the chance to practice their own democracy, something they've been denied for over a decade. That coming up after this.

[11:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're with a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson from Jerusalem. Coming to you today from just

outside the historic Jaffa Gate. One of the portals to this old city, Jerusalem.

History in the making here today as Israeli citizens cast their votes in what could be seen as a referendum of sorts on the leadership of Prime

Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Right now he is neck and neck with the former military chief of staff Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and

White party.

Mr. Netanyahu facing the fight of his political life with a series of decisions and investigations plaguing his campaign for 1/5 term. But will

that matter at the ballot box? Polls will be open for another 3 1/2 hours, so plenty of time for voters to still make their choice.

Well as Israelis cast their ballots, some Palestinians are asking where's our election? They haven't voted for a new government for more than a

decade. Will now citizens say they have a right to choose and are demanding elections. CNN's Melissa Bell has more from the West Bank.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last time a Palestinian got to do this was back in 2006. Voting in Parliamentary elections that

were to mark the end of ballot box democracy here. The Radical Islamist Party, Hamas, won, beating Fatah. Descending the 40-year domination of

Yasser Arafat's party over Palestinian politics.

Violence between Hamas and Fatah followed and by 2007 Hamas was in control of the Gaza Strip, while Fatah had retreated to the occupied West Bank.

Since then the Palestinian Parliament, the Legislative Council here in Ramallah has rarely been able to hold a session.

(on camera) In December, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, whose term expired 10 years ago, dissolved the council saying that he

wanted elections within six months. But as long as Hamas controlled Gaza and the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority runs the West Bank, the

territories remain divided and the return of democracy seems unlikely.

(voice-over): Mustafa Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and served as a minister of the Palestinian Authority.

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: The factional behavior of the parties -- especially these two parties -- is not encouraging. And

it makes many people pessimistic. But I am optimistic. I tell you why.

[11:35:00] Because I believe the objective reality around us, the challenges that are facing us as Palestinians and the very huge anger of

the younger generation is pushing in the direction of immediate reconciliation and democratic process.

BELL (voice-over): That anger has been spilling out onto the streets. Since October, demonstrators have regularly gathered in Ramallah to protest

economic hardship and the Palestinian Authority's governance and in particular its passing of laws by presidential decree. In Gaza, meanwhile,

four days of protest against living condition there is saw a violent crackdown by Hamas. Amnesty said hundreds were beaten. Hamas later

admitted mistakes had been made. The West Bank and Gaza may be divided by their leadership, but the question of democracy is one that unites their

people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The situation is very bad. We need elections desperately, especially in Gaza.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I've been oppressed for 13 years. My dream is to vote, to have the right to choose.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We are people who can't vote or choose. We are oppressed by Israel and by our own government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We want to be free to travel, to feel that we're human beings. We live in a prison.

BARGHOUTI: Democracy is essential to have peace, because there will never be peace if you just make agreements with a group of people. Peace will

happen only with democratically elected structures who can conclude agreements that satisfy both people and not just one side.

BELL (on camera): Since Palestinians last had the chance to vote, Israelis just on the other side of the wall will have voted by April 9th in no fewer

than five elections. And during that time, the division between the two sides has only grown more concrete. Melissa Bell, CNN in the West Bank.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Well Nabil Shaath joins me now from Ramallah in the West Bank. He's the international relations advisor to the Palestinian Authority

President, Mahmoud Abbas, of course. And also served as Palestinian foreign minister from 1994-2005. Sir, when do Palestinians, where you are,

get to vote?

NABIL SHAATH, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS ADVISOR TO PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT: Well, the PLO has always been a democratic institution where

Congress was held every year and elections were held every year. And when we started the Palestinian Authority in 1994, it started with elections in

1996.

And then there was the elections of 2006 which led to the separation. It is the separation and the total encirclement of Gaza by the Israelis and of

the West Bank and the separation between them that made it difficult to have elections. Also, there's always a problem of getting Palestinians in

Jerusalem to participate in the elections, which is something that the Israelis really control.

If we were to hold elections in the West Bank only that would have consecrated the separation. And therefore the effort today to bring back

elections is tied to the effort of reunited the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is doing everything possible to make it impossible.

ANDERSON: All right, OK.

SHAATH: This has been the latest statement by Mr. Netanyahu, that he will not allow Palestinian and Gaza in the West Bank to reunite.

ANDERSON: So you will fully blame the Israelis for this. OK. But we do know that Palestinians want an election, they want to vote. The designated

Palestinian Prime Minister will reportedly announce his new government in the coming days. He was appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas last month.

He has until April the 14th to pick a new cabinet. What can we expect when it is formed and when will these new elections be?

SHAATH: This is a transitional government. The announcement of the formation of this government was coupled with announcements of elections

within six months. If we are able to have elections in six months, that will really return us to an elected democracy. The Egyptians are trying

their best to mediate between the West Bank and Gaza between us and Hamas. And so far, we have not achieved a consensus on the elections but that's

what we are.

[11:40:00] ANDERSON: In a move to shore up right wing voters, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to extend Israeli sovereignty across all settlements in the

West Bank if he were reelected. This came out at the weekend just in the sort of dying moments of the campaign, as it were. Many talking about it

as simply just a ploy. But have a listen to this, sir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NETANYAHU (through translator): In my opinion, each bloc is an Israeli area and is under the Israeli control. We, the Israeli government, have

responsibility of these areas. I won't move these blocs to the Palestinian Authority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Many calling this a dramatic policy shift by the Prime Minister were he to win this election, build a coalition and indeed carry through on

that promise. Do you see this as any more than just a ploy to win votes at this point?

I think we may just have lost our guest in Ramallah. Are you still there, sir? Apologies for that. All right. Well, unfortunately we're not going

to get an answer from our guest on that. We'll see if we can get him back a little later.

The British Prime Minister -- away from these elections just for a moment - - making a frenzied dash across Europe. Theresa May on route to Paris for talk with the French President Emmanuel Macron. It's not only here that

politics dominating the headlines. Theresa May trying to secure another extension to the Brexit process. Earlier she met with the German

Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Berlin. They've agreed on the importance of the U.K. leaving the EU in an orderly way. But this comes as the U.K.

hurtles toward a threat of a no-deal Brexit on Friday this week. EU leaders will discuss this at an emergency Brexit summit on Wednesday.

Well the EU chief negotiator says, Britain needs to show it can pass this Brexit deal if it wants the deadline extended. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHEL BARNIER, CHIEF BREXIT NEGOTIATOR, EUROPEAN COMMISSION (through translator): This extension has to serve a purpose. It's got to serve a

purpose to provide for more time if necessary, to ensure that the political process I described can be crowned with success and that a majority can be

obtained.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Right, an EU negotiator there. Live from Jerusalem, you're watching our special coverage of the Israeli elections as we watch voters

head to the polls. There is one community that is being encouraged at least by some to stay at home. I'm talking Arab citizens of Israel. We'll

look at how they could shape this election. Up next.

[11:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOUL ELIAS, ISRAELI ARAB BOYCOTT ACTIVIST (through translator): The general idea is to boycott, to boycott the institution that actively trying

to erase us from the land of Palestine, that tries to make the life of the diaspora harder, that tries to make our lives harder wherever the

Palestinian people are.

SAEED MUHMMAD KHALIFA, ISRAELI ARAB VOTER (through translator): We are going to vote for sure. It is forbidden to stay at home. Each and every

one of us in this country in the Arab villages and in Arab areas in general is forbidden to hesitate for a second about elections until we bring down

this far right-wing government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well divided opinions there among Israeli/Arab citizens or Arab citizens of Israel, some calling for them to get out and vote, others

urging them not to show up at the polls at all. It's a tough decision for many, but we've already seeing a low turnout from that community. Mohammad

Darawshe is the director of Planning, Equality and Shared Society at the Givat Haviva Education Center and he joins me now. Some calling for a

boycott of these elections. Is that a good idea? Do you support a boycott?

MOHAMMAD DARAWSHE, DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, EQUALITY AND SHARED SOCIETY, GIVAT HAVIVA EDUCATION CENTER: Absolutely not. First of all, this is not a new

voice. We've heard this voice before but it's never been this loud. And I think it's disastrous if we actually go into that direction and end up with

a Knesset clean of Arabs and without any Arab representation. We fought very hard in order to be able to send significant representatives and to

build political capacity of the Arab minority in Israel and we're still even short of our potential in sending almost 20 seats in the Knesset which

has 120 seats.

ANDERSON: What would a decent turnout be, to your mind?

DARAWSHE: To my mind, a decent turnout would be equivalent to the Jewish turnout. The national turnout rate last time was about 78 percent. In the

Arab community it was about 64 percent. If we can actually match now, if we can match the 64 percent, I'll be very happy. It's not reaching our

potential. It's not reaching our capacity. I think we need to be able to send many more Arab representatives into the Knesset. One, in order to try

to prevent that continued legislative process of anti-Arab, anti-democratic laws in the Knesset.

Second, try to change a government which has been the Israeli government. Which has been a deadlock in front of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process

for almost a decade already.

ANDERSON: Problem is -- and you can sympathize with people's position here. The Arab parties have never been part of a government in the history

of Israel and there will be those who say what is the point.

DARAWSHE: It's not absolutely correct. I mean, in 1992 during the Rabin government it was a minority government that was dependent on a safety net

of the Arab political parties. I don't think we can become part of the government right now. I think we're closer to a similar scenario of being

able to have -- to become a safety net for a central left government in Israel. And proves that you can do a lot.

One, we provided the safety net for the peace process to go on with the Palestinians. The implementation of the Oslo Accords. Second, we were

able to stop laws and legislations that were confiscating Arab lands, equalizing budgets in education, equalizing budgets in welfare. Huge

amounts of money that went into infrastructure, development of Arab towns and villages.

ANDERSON: However the Arab party do this this evening. They are not likely to be part of either coalition. And even if they were asked by

Benny Gantz, unlikely that they would be prepared to form a government with him. Many tell me that is because you cannot put a piece of paper between

the position of Benny Gantz with his centrist party and that of Benjamin Netanyahu. Neither position is supportive with the Palestinians.

DARAWSHE: Politics is the art of possibilities. It's not ideology. That's the way I perceive it. That's a situation we had also in 1992 with

Rabin. And we did not join his coalition. What we had was an understanding document. It's signed by his chief negotiator at the time,

Moshe Shahal, and he gave the Arab political parties a letter with 29 items mainly focusing on social/economic issues. I think what we are up for is

potentially being able to impact our social/economic status in Israel, stop anti-Arab and anti-democratic legislation.

[11:50:00] Have, I would say, very minor contribution to the larger Middle East picture of the Israeli/Palestinian progress. I think that needs much,

much stronger powers than the Arab citizens in Israel. Our struggle today is more about our status in Israel. Is our citizenship legitimate? Is

equality still in place in Israel? Is the nation state law going to start being translated into more discriminatory laws or can we stop that?

ANDERSON: And does your position -- does it benefit or not from a more cozy let's call it relationship between Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu and

for example the Gulf states and other Arab nations? Are they doing you a favor or not at this point?

DARAWSHE: Well actually, I think that good relationship or cozy relationship, as you put it, with gulf states actually is legitimizing

Netanyahu and providing him more of the safety net in the Middle East. I think the Arab community inside Israel wants Netanyahu out. He's been the

worst Prime Minister in the eyes of Arab citizens ever before. And an extension of his term inside Israel negates our interest as a minority in

Israel. To try to provide him more support and inclusion and hugging him by Arab regimes I think is the exact antithesis of what we want as a

minority in Israel.

ANDERSON: We have to leave it there. We thank you very much indeed for joining us. What a chilly evening in Jerusalem.

DARAWSHE: Absolutely.

You were just saying that you're just back from Berlin where it's actually slightly warmer than it is here.

DARAWSHE: Much warmer.

ANDERSON: Well after the campaigning comes the political horse trading, of course. I'm going to walk you through what happens after these pool polls

in Israel close in just a little over three hour from now. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: We've connected you through all the politics and issues this hour. But if you think you actually know how the mechanics of the Israeli

elections work, well, you might want to think again. I've got my team to sit down with Oren Liebermann and do some nifty animations to get us all up

to speed. Have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Israeli politics is a numbers game. The big number is 120. The total seats in the Knesset, Israel's Parliament. If

you want to be Prime Minister you have to control or have the allegiance of more than half of those seats. So 61 seats is the minimum to be Israel's

leader. But no single party is going to win that many seats, not even close.

In Israel there are more than 40 political parties running for the Knesset. Not all of them will make it in. They need to get 3.25 percent of the

vote. Most parties will fall far short of that mark. Even so Israel's next Parliament is still likely to have between 10 and 14 different

political parties. The biggest party will probably get about 30 seats. Clearly that's not enough to claim victory.

[11:55:00] So the thing to look for is the party that's best positioned to build that 61-seat coalition.

This is where political wheeling and dealing is crucial since it may require a group of five or six parties to get to that magic number of 61.

Each party will have its own demands for ministries, for policies and for money. A Prime Minister has to balance all of that to form a coalition and

that can take weeks to complete.

Oren Liebermann, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Our parting shots for you tonight, an amazing piece of technology allowing blind people to vote in private for the first time here

in Israel. The visually impaired voter holds up a card with the name of a candidate on it and a special device reads that name so the voter can hear

it. The voter is then able to cast a secret ballot. The device being used at 12 polling stations in this election.

Right. Well, we are just about 3 hours away from what will be the exit polls in this election. It is too close to call. Benny Gantz of the Blue

and White party up against the incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu. Will he be crowned "King Bibi," or will it all be over? Back a little later in the

evening for you. These are the Israeli elections. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson.

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