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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS
Israel Votes for a Second Time This Year; Israeli Exit Polls Show Election is Too Close to Call; Source: There's "High Probability" Strikes that Hit Saudi Oil Fields were Launched from Iranian Base. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired September 17, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: ... this rerun election is that former Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman confounded everyone, including
Mr. Netanyahu, by refusing to get into a coalition within even after the maximum six weeks of negotiation. Keep an eye on his party tonight,
Yisrael Beiteinu as the results come in.
Reuven Hazan holds the chair in Israeli democracy and politics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and he joins me now and as we await those
exit polls to drop at the top of the hour.
Sir, what is at stake?
REUVEN HAZAN, CHAIRMAN, ISRAELI DEMOCRACY AND POLITICS, HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM: What is at stake is where Israel goes for the next four
years, and it's a mathematical game, this is not a presidential system. We're not electing one of the two Benjamin's. We're going to elect about
10 different parties, and we'll have to see which group of parties can pass that magical threshold that you mentioned of 61.
Netanyahu could come in second tonight. But if his supporters outnumber Benny Gantz's, he will still claim victory.
ANDERSON: What do you make of this high voter turnout? At 8:00 p.m., it was reportedly at 63.7 percent. It hasn't been higher than that ever, has
HAZAN: Well, the elections in April were decently high voter turnout, about 68 percent. But four years before, we were about three percent
higher. So we're going to end up somewhere between these two and it's most probably due to the largest minority in Israel, the Israeli-Arabs, who
turned out in abysmally low numbers in April of this year, and might be coming back because all the Israeli-Arab parties united into one.
ANDERSON: if that were the case, who would that benefit?
HAZAN: Definitely, it benefits the left of center. Also, the more voters that come out, the higher that three and a quarter percent threshold you
mentioned, and some of the tiny parties that made it in in April could be eliminated this time around?
ANDERSON: What is Netanyahu promising this time around? And how does his pitch -- how is his pitch different from that of Benny Gantz?
HAZAN: Well, you're talking about two candidates of the right and the center right. This is not two opposed candidates on the left and on the
right. Netanyahu isn't promising much different than he did in April.
The only difference is that Lieberman's Party, which was part of the right wing camp, now refuses to sit with Netanyahu. So he has to reach that 61
with his partners without Lieberman. And that's the number one question of these elections.
ANDERSON: Lieberman, the kingmaker? Likely.
HAZAN: We'll find out soon enough.
ANDERSON: All right. Well, I know that these polls are about to drop and let's just remind ourselves, these are exit poll projections. We should
HAZAN: They'll be wrong.
ANDERSON: Historically, that is the case. So, you know, we will certainly not be over interpreting what we see as these exit poll numbers come in.
The actual results, of course, not for hours, and it will take weeks to build a coalition, correct?
HAZAN: Yes. But we will be able to look at the major blocs. The polls have been traditionally a bit off when it comes to the parties. But when
it comes to the major blocs, they've been quite close. So we'll have an indication.
And also, every Israeli election has a surprise, let's find out what this one has.
ANDERSON: What do you think the surprise will be this time around?
HAZAN: If Netanyahu gets the 61 or not. If the two main parties are neck and neck or not. And if one of the three smaller parties is eliminated.
ANDERSON: How would you describe the campaign that Benjamin Netanyahu has run?
HAZAN: He is a master campaigner. Blue and White has had a lackluster campaign. You wouldn't even know that they had a campaign in most of the
country. Netanyahu has set the agenda. And when it comes to campaigning, he is in his element, which means it's his race to lose.
ANDERSON: So you would not be surprised if Likud does rather well tonight, is that what you're saying?
HAZAN: I wouldn't be surprised if Likud does rather well. I would definitely not be surprised if Likud could ends up being able to form a
government. And if they're just short of it, they might be the only ones who could do it.
ANDERSON: And remind our viewers, once again, this is all about coalition building. This is all about these blocs, correct?
HAZAN: Yes, it's a multi-party system with 10 to 12 parties. Nobody wins here. You have to build a coalition. It's a team game. It's not an
ANDERSON: And before we get to these polls, just remind us, how is the Israeli economy at present? Because oftentimes in the end, it's all about
the economy, stupid, too steal the phrase of Mr. Clinton, the President of the U.S. back in the day, how is the Israeli economy?
HAZAN: Well, the Israeli economy is doing okay. We have a huge budget deficit which the current caretaker government hasn't been able to deal
with. So we're all waiting for some taxes after the elections, but the economy is not the issue of the elections here. It's not the economy,
stupid, I would have said when it comes to Israeli elections, it is all about security here.
ANDERSON: Okay. Well, we're getting our first round of exit polls in tonight's election. As a reminder, these have often fallen wide of the
mark in the past and that is why we are showing you three of them. These are not CNN projections. These are Israel's three main news channels for
the two largest parties in Israel's general election.
This is Kan News Likud -- so this is Kan News, Channel 12 News and Channel 13 News. And those Reuven are the early projections. Your analysis?
HAZAN: If I had to put my money on one of the three stations, in April Channel 13 got it much closer. So the fact that you have the biggest gap
of two seats in Channel 13, maybe this means something, but still we have to see all the other smaller parties and see if the 31 that Netanyahu has
turns into 61.
It's likely that that is easier than the 33 that it looks like Benny Gantz has.
ANDERSON: Right. And so these are the first exit poll projections. Again, not actual numbers. These are three Israeli TV channels with their
numbers. What we will get you momentarily are the numbers, the projections for those smaller parties and we will work some analysis around that.
I do though, want to get to our news gatherers, our reporters in the field. Oren Liebermann is at Likud headquarters, and we'll get to him first, then
we'll get to Sam Kiley, who is at the Blue and White headquarters, both of course in Tel Aviv.
Oren, as we take a look at these first exit poll projections, certainly they ought to determine the mood at party headquarters. Describe what
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does remain fairly empty here, and that's because Likud got most of their workers out in the field
until the very last second to try to drum up the vote. That being said, when they come, if they come, these will not be the results they want to
see, even if these are merely an exit poll projection, they are a pretty good indicator of how the evening will turn out.
And as of right now, in these exit poll projections, this is not what Likud wants to see. Instead now, they will look to the actual results. The vote
counting to start fairly soon, and they'll see if that leaves any adjustments made on the part of the exit poll projections.
And of course, all of those converge on the actual results as we get into early in the morning. In April by six or seven in the morning, something
like 90-plus percent of the vote have been counted. That's what Likud supporters will look for now.
The exit polls have left them short in the past, they have outperformed the exit polls, in essence, and they will hope that that happens one more time
here again. And that's what they're hoping for. It still remains empty here. We'll see how much it fills up based on these results.
What's interesting here, and I'll point this out quickly. Of course, it's a very close race. Of course, even the differences from Channel 12 and 13
are within the margin of error, though they should be viewed very skeptically. But according to all three of those projections, both of the
major parties lost seats, and when voter turnout goes up, you certainly have to look at where they lost those seats, because that could go a long
way to determining first what happened here.
And second, what the political future will look like. I will say, Becky that perhaps the only thing you can say with any degree of confidence right
now is that Israel has faced the same sort of political uncertainty for months and weeks that they've dealt with the last three months if these
numbers hold up.
ANDERSON: Sam Kiley is at the Blue and White Party headquarters, back to you shortly, Oren. Let's get to, Sam, what's the mood there, Sam?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Subdued confidence, I think would be the best way to describe it. And I think the reason for
that is, as Oren was saying, there isn't a sufficient level of confidence in these exit polls, firstly.
And secondly, Becky, there is a slight deflation in that they didn't want to do as badly effectively as they had. A little bit chuffed that these
exit polls show them a little bit ahead of Likud. But already officials here are saying that really what their best option in the future is to set
up a national unity government.
The problem with doing so by incorporating Likud is that the Blue and White Party has ruled out doing so with Benjamin Netanyahu at the head of Likud.
They say because of the court cases hanging over him, he would be a busted flush effectively, as a Prime Minister.
So that immediately sets up frictions for the two main parties that mitigate against the greatest ambition really that the Blue and White Party
could have at this stage and that is to set up a unity government. But as Oren has very so rightly pointed out, and certainly, Becky, these are only
exit polls. They are not by any stretch of anybody's imagination definitive, nor are they necessarily even accurate projections of what may
unfold in the next few hours -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Well, remember, the magic number of seats is 61. That is what any coalition is looking for in order to secure a working majority. Nobody
expected either of these two main parties would get to that number. This is all about the blocs going forward. Sam, for the time being, thank you.
Yohanan Plesner, the President of the Israel Democracy Institute joining me now. We are likely momentarily to see the exit polls for some of these
smaller parties, which will be important, won't it? But as we take a look at these initial exit polls, your first thoughts?
YOHANAN PLESNER, PRESIDENT, ISRAEL DEMOCRACY INSTITUTE: Well, if those initial numbers are correct, and we have a long history with exit polls
that are incorrect -- if they are correct, we can say they demonstrate quite a dramatic outcome, and it means that Mr. Netanyahu will no longer be
So, you know, for Israel, Netanyahu was first elected in 1996, for 13 years out of the last 23 years and consecutively for the past 10 years, he very
much shaped our public life and our international a posture.
So if those exit polls are correct, it's a demonstration both of the vitality of Israeli democracy because turnout was actually higher than four
months ago. We did not voter fatigue.
ANDERSON: Were you surprised by that? Because everybody said and everybody, I've spoken to you here since we've been in town have said,
people are just fed up with this.
PLESNER: Right. So don't listen to anyone. Because actually, look in Spain, and then Greece, and in the past in Canada, when they had two
consecutive election campaigns, then the numbers dropped, the participation rates about three to seven percent.
In Israel, this time, there was actually an increase. We don't have the final results, but somewhere in the order of two to three percent increase
to 70 percent participation. And since not all Israelis are in the country, it's effectively closer to 80 percent.
So Israelis are very involved. They care a lot. And the outcome is very different than what the polls were before.
ANDERSON: And it'd be really interesting to see who came out to vote. That will be critical, won't it? The Arab-Israelis didn't get out and vote
PLESNER: Right. So that's -- we can already say that with the Israeli- Arab citizen about 20 percent of our population in the previous election campaign, three months ago, they came out with 49 percent less than 50,
whereas the average among Jews was about 70 percent.
Now we're seeing that there was an increase around 62 to 63 percent. We don't have the final numbers, and that changes the balance of power between
the political blocs.
ANDERSON: And why do you think that was? Why did they come out and vote this time?
PLESNER: Well, it has to do with, I would say three factors. Number one, the Joint Arab List, so the Israeli-Arab politicians got together. Number
two, Blue and White headed by Gantz communicated to the Arab minority that they care about their issues, mainly, personal security and safety and so
And then, number three, I think it has to do with Mr. Netanyahu's campaigning. He tried to fire up his own base by threatening from an Arab
misconduct and so on, and he ended up also motivating the Arabs to go and vote. So it's law of the unintended consequences.
ANDERSON: Fascinating. What about Avigdor Lieberman? What will he want tonight?
PLESNER: Well, again, let's be very cautious. Assuming those exit polls indicate that Netanyahu does not have a 61 majority with his religious
right wing and ultra-orthodox parties that turns Avigdor Lieberman man into the new kingmaker.
ANDERSON: This is the former Defense Minister. He used to be very close to Bibi Netanyahu.
PLESNER: He used to be Netanyahu's Director General, a close ally, his Defense Minister, but he moved out of the right wing plus ultra-orthodox
bloc because he was fed up with Mr. Netanyahu's capitulation to the ultra- orthodox parties in questions over religion and state.
If you take it in the American language, it's the values discussion. So the ultra-orthodox parties, their appetite grew and they wanted to control
more and more and monopolize questions of religion and state, and there was a growing chunk and if the exit polls are correct, we can see that it's a
significantly growing chunk of Israelis that said we want to self-identify as right wing. But it does not mean that we want to accept the package of
capitulation to the extreme religious parties.
ANDERSON: Last time around, five months ago, there was a definite Trump effect. Did you sense that this time? How does Donald Trump -- how does
the U.S. play into what has happened tonight?
PLESNER: Well, the relationship with the alliance with the United States is extremely important to Israelis, and it's considered the part of the job
description of any Israeli Prime Minister to get along with a U.S. President.
Having said that, the current campaign was a rerun of the previous campaign, and while Mr. Netanyahu tried to again, brag with the
relationship with Mr. Trump, the other parties pretty much mimicked Netanyahu, both in terms of the get out the vote efforts, and in terms of
not letting him define the agenda only on the question of the relationship with the Americans and so on.
So I mean, when you repeat the same trick three or four months later, it has less of an effect. And one last point, before the last election, Mr.
Trump granted the Golan Heights election gift to Mr. Netanyahu. This time, there was no tangible gift.
ANDERSON: We're going to take a very short break. Stay with me. This is an important night, an extremely important night in Israeli politics and if
anybody tells you that Israelis are fed up and fatigued by these elections and weren't going to show up, well, they have.
Netanyahu is hoping to gain from his relationship with President Trump. We've just been discussing that, even though their friendship might not be
as strong as it once was. All of that up for discussion as we look forward to more from these exit polls, these are projections. We look towards the
future for Israel. That's coming up.
ANDERSON: Welcome back. Early election polls show the election here in Israel is too close to call. Even though President Trump doesn't get a
vote, Benjamin Netanyahu is counting on his popularity.
Billboards for Netanyahu show the two men shaking hands. Trump is much more popular in Israel than in the U.S. The President even tweeted about
the possibility of a defense pact a few days ago.
Well, the relationship might not be as strong as it once was. John Bolton's departure from the White House marks the loss of a strong ally for
Israel. Jeremy Diamond is at the White House and he joins me now.
Let's be clear once again, Jeremy. These are just exit poll projections at this point, but with an election too close to call out, how is that going
to go down in the White House?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, look, this White House has made no secret and this President has made no secret that he would like to
see Benjamin Netanyahu remain the Prime Minister of Israel.
We've seen the pre-election gifts that Donald Trump has given to Netanyahu before previous elections, such as recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli
territory before the previous election back in the summer.
And now of course, there was this floating of a potential defense pact between the two countries. There was also a fairly mild reception from the
White House to Netanyahu whose projects to annex parts of the Jordan River Valley and the West Bank.
And so this White House is obviously has their fingers crossed, hoping that Benjamin Netanyahu does indeed, you know, manage to cobble together a
coalition, a governing coalition so that he can remain Prime Minister, but I think it's a little bit too early for anyone at this White House or
anyone in Israel as well to know whether or not that is indeed going to happen.
But beyond, of course, the relationship, there is also the administration's peace plan, which is very much riding on who becomes Prime Minister. The
Trump administration has made clear that they believe that with Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister, their peace plan for the region, which has not
yet been disclosed, would have a better chance of success -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Are they banking on another term for Benjamin Netanyahu with regard that peace plan? And that of course, the plan designed by Jared
Kushner, the son-in-law of the President?
DIAMOND: Well, they haven't yet made clear whether or not they think it is tenable even if Netanyahu doesn't win. They've just made clear that it
would -- you know, the landing ground for that peace plan would be better served if Netanyahu was in power.
And one thing that is important to watch is the White House is weighing when exactly to release that plan and while they decided not to release it
during the coalition talks in the summer, which ultimately fell apart, the administration now is considering that possibility potentially releasing
this peace plan while those coalition talks are still happening, if indeed they believe that the outcome -- that releasing the peace plan could lead
to the outcome that they would like, which was a government led, in part, at least by Benjamin Netanyahu.
ANDERSON: Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. Jeremy, thank you. Let's get back to Likud headquarters. Oren Liebermann is there with Eli Hazan,
the Foreign Affairs Director for the Likud Party -- Oren.
LIEBERMANN: At this point, everyone here has seen the exit polls and everyone here has had time to digest them. So I'm joined now by as you
say, Eli Hazan, the Foreign Affairs Director for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party.
You see these polls. We've seen these polls mistaken before. How much stock do you put in them right now?
ELI HAZAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, LIKUD PARTY: I don't count on those polls. I want to remind you that since 2009, consistently, the exit polls
in Israel is wrong, it is not correct, and you could see it even in the election of April 2019, not to mention 2015.
I'm optimistic. It's not the end. We have to wait until the end. And I believe that Netanyahu will stay Prime Minister.
LIEBERMANN: All of these exit polls and again, if they are correct, show not only a drop for Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party, but also for
Likud's -- for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Likud Party. How do you describe that? What do you think that's a consequence of?
E. HAZAN: No, it's not accurate. I don't want to explain anything. I just want to mention again and again and again, usually these rallies do
not answer in a right way to the polls.
They vote for one thing, and they say, in the polls -- the exit polls, they vote for a different party. And it's like that. Just -- it's very simple,
Oren, just make the comparison between the exit polls and the real results in the end.
LIEBERMANN: If the exit polls are correct, and again, I want to remind our viewers that's a big if, then neither Netanyahu nor Gantz -- what would
appear to be a clear path towards a coalition? What does that mean for Israel's future? Is there more political uncertainty in the weeks and
perhaps months ahead, if the exit polls hold?
E. HAZAN: It means political uncertainty, in that case, the President may intervene. He may suggest a very creative way. But we have to wait and
see. We've never faced this kind of situation in the past and we have a lot to wait for.
LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu went back to elections when he didn't have a government. If he doesn't have a government now and has the opportunity to
do so, will he takes the country to third elections?
E. HAZAN: It is a good question. I cannot -- I don't know. I hope not. And I really hope that Netanyahu will find that creative way in order to
create his government.
Don't forget Netanyahu had to deal in the past with almost impossible situations, and he could face it. So yes.
LIEBERMANN: Is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's next Prime Minister?
E. HAZAN: We hope so and we believe so.
LIEBERMANN: Eli Hazan, the Foreign Affairs Director for the Likud, thank you very much. We'll see as the exit results or rather the real results
start coming in, whether these exit polls hold or not and what the future has in store for your Likud Party and of course for Benjamin Netanyahu.
Becky, back to you.
ANDERSON: All right, thank you for that. Let's get to Yair Zivan, adviser to Yair Lapid of the Blue and White Party then. He is at the party
headquarters in Tel Aviv and as you see these numbers and once again the disclaimer, these numbers have been horribly wrong in the past. We've got
to wait hours, if not days to ensure that we get these actual results and the building of coalitions, but as you sit and look and watch. Listen to
your supporters tonight. What's your sense, sir?
YAIR ZIVAN, ADVISER TO YAIR LAPID OF THE BLUE AND WHITE PARTY: Thank you. Like we said everybody said and the caveat that it is still early in these
early exit polls, but if these numbers are right or close to right, and the one thing that's very clear is that Prime Minister Netanyahu lost this
He doesn't have a majority to build a coalition. He doesn't have the ability to form a government once again, he failed in the last round. He's
failed again in this round.
And now it means it's time for Israel to move forward. We have a party system we've been calling throughout this election very clearly for
national unity government of Blue and White, led by Blue and White with Liberman and the Likud Party and we would say to the Likud Party tonight,
the Prime Minister is now the obstacle to a national unity government, it's time for him to step aside.
ANDERSON: Aside from being different, and certainly no longer new, Benny Gantz and his party, how different is it from Likud and its Prime Minister,
ZIVAN: Well, I think there's huge differences not only in policy, but also in personality. We have to remember we have a Prime Minister that's been
in the job for 13 years, that's far too long who is facing three criminal indictments which the hearings for which will start next week, in a week
and a half from now already.
We have a Prime Minister who we saw today used rhetoric that we wouldn't like to see in an Israeli election. Compared to Mr. Gantz and Mr. Lapid,
Mr. Ashkenazi and Mr. Ya'alon, who have led a campaign that is called out for hope and for change and to move the country forward.
So we have differences not only in personality, but also in policy as well.
ANDERSON: We remember on election night five months ago, both Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu made victory speeches, and both turned out to be
wrong. When might we expect to hear from Benny Gantz tonight, sir?
ZIVAN: I think we will be waiting a few hours before any speeches tonight. We have a huge amount of supporters out at the voting stations now at the
count, making sure that the count is free and fair as we all want it to be in a democratic election like ours, and in a few hours from now, we'll
start moving towards the speeches, but we've got some time to fill until then.
ANDERSON: Thank you, sir. We will get back to your party headquarters as the evening progresses. Viewers, we are approaching 30 minutes since polls
closed here in Israel.
We're going to check back with those campaigns, and we're going to take a look at further numbers that are coming to us now as we begin to look at
what these exit polls, at least, project. The actual numbers, some hours away. Taking a short break. Back after this.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Welcome back, returning to our top story here and our special coverage from Jerusalem. Voting has now
finished in Israel's second national election in five months. The question now, will it break the political deadlock that has been gripping this
It is between Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud Party and Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White Party. Now some exit polls, "Kan
News" has Likud in blue and white, each winning 32 seats. These exit polls by the way are Israeli TV polls, these are not CNN exit polls.
"Channel 12" has Likud with 33, Blue and White with 34. And "Channel 13" sees Likud with 31, and Blue and White with 33 as you can see. These are
projecting a close result, far too close to call at this point right now. A spree of political deal-making will be getting under way as alliances are
formed of party leaders try to cobble together government.
Well, Yohanan Plesner; the president of the Israel Democracy Institute joins me now. Your take as we look at what are these wider list, sir, as
well. This is "Channel 13", our --
YOHANAN PLESNER, PRESIDENT, ISRAEL DEMOCRACY INSTITUTE: Yes --
ANDERSON: Viewers are looking at the moment. We're going to scroll through some of these because the two big parties is one thing, the wider
list, something completely different.
PLESNER: Yes, so, the most important number that we have to follow is the size of the blocs, the alliances. And the Netanyahu bloc, the magic number
is 61. In the three exit polls, he's anywhere between 54 and 57. So, he's anywhere between four and seven seats short of his goal.
That is quite a distance. Although, we have to again take the exit polls with a grain of salt. This is a very big distance and therefore, we might
be entering a dramatic evening. We're already beginning to hear a talk that we never heard in the past. For example, top Likud people speaking
about Netanyahu is not going to be impeached.
And we know when we speak about the coach not being impeached, the next thing is that he is going to be impeached.
ANDERSON: Raise our views or remind our viewers why that is significant. That sort of language, that sort of narrative?
PLESNER: Well, Netanyahu has a very strong grip over the Likud. He's been Prime Minister for ten years, head of the Likud on and off for almost 30
ANDERSON: And faces allegations of corruption and bribery.
PLESNER: Yes, and faces allegations of corruption, and therefore, Netanyahu cannot get into a national unity government with Blue and White.
The Attorney General is subject to hearing decided to indict Mr. Netanyahu.
Netanyahu was counting on having 61 in order to gain immunity in the Knesset. Without 61 in the Knesset, he's quite likely to quite soon face
an indictment and then he'll have to clear his name in court rather than run the affairs of state. So, there's a big personal drama here as well.
ANDERSON: Fascinating, Israel exit poll projections from "Channel 13" news on the screen as we speak. And Yisrael Beiteinu there, that's an important
party to watch --
PLESNER: Yes --
ANDERSON: Tonight, is it? As we begin to move through the hours and see how the former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has fared.
PLESNER: So, Yisrael Beiteinu will get based on the polls almost double the size from 5 to anywhere between 8 and 10 seats. That is an indication
that the elections were not about security, were not about the relationship with President Trump or anything else.
They were about religion and state, were about domestic affairs, were about who is going to run our education system and whether religious content will
be injected into it and about the recruitment bill. And that's why we've seen the rise. Both Mr. Lieberman and apparently of the actual orthodox
ANDERSON: This is fascinating because those I spoke to say, and we've been out and about speaking to people, asking them what issues matter to them
most. What you have just described is exactly what I heard today.
PLESNER: Yes --
ANDERSON: Cost of living, health care, education, the economy, security, absolutely a prime example of something that matters enormously to the
Israeli public. Last time around, it literally felt like a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu. This one less so.
PLESNER: Yes, well, last time it was a referendum and who is competent to lead the affairs of state on the question of security and the economy. And
Mr. Netanyahu presented his record and by and large got support of the Israeli people.
ANDERSON: But you didn't hear about individual policies --
PLESNER: This time --
ANDERSON: You didn't hear about rolling back religion from government --
PLESNER: Yes, exactly --
ANDERSON: And society.
PLESNER: Yes, this time, it was more about religion and state. It was more about the institutions of rule of law, and in those areas meant Mr.
Netanyahu was much weaker, and as a result we're seeing apparently or as it seems, quite a different outcome.
ANDERSON: Let's get to Blue and White headquarters, into Sam Kiley who is standing by. Sam, describe for us the mood, if you will -- I'm going to
keep asking you this. I know that you said there was a sense of sort of optimism as it were a quiet sense of optimism. Are you still feeling that?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, Becky. These results are less of a blow if you like to -- Blue and White. Some of
them indeed suggest that they may be a little bit ahead of Likud. But above all, what it means if these polls are reflected by reality, remember
these are just exit polls as you rightly keep pointing out.
And they're not ours, they're not from CNN, either. If they are reflected in reality, and it would therefore be very much part of the Blue and
White's agenda to try to establish a national unity government with the Likud and probably with Avigdor Lieberman.
Now, I've just been chatting with Yair Zivan who is the adviser to Yair Lapid; the co-head of Blue and White, and he said that's our agenda all
along. We want to do a national unity government, but without Netanyahu. And without Netanyahu because of these court cases, the potential
indictments that hang over him.
He also pointed out that the coalition negotiating process, which is a drawn-out process at the best of times would inevitably collide in their
view, in the view of Blue and White with the first court dates for Mr. Netanyahu, so he would actually, potentially be in a position of actually
having to appear in court at a time when he's trying to negotiate with the Blue and White and Likud if that were going to be part of a process.
So, they are happy I would say that this remains a potential. Their fight is not over by any stretch of the imagination, Becky, if these exit polls
are correct and as we know very well from this country they frequently are not.
ANDERSON: You're absolutely right to point that out, and we will continue to do so as the evening progresses. Let's remind ourselves once again,
both Benny Gantz of Blue and White and Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud. Last time around which was only five months ago, both making -- declaring
themselves winners, making speeches, suggesting that only in the end to have to roll back.
Neither of those candidates clearly want to make that same mistake once again. Let's get to Oren Liebermann who is at Likud headquarters in Tel
Aviv. That is the party of Benjamin Netanyahu of course. Oren, what are you hearing?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, it's worth pointing out that it remains fairly empty here inside Likud headquarters, that shouldn't
be taken as too much of a surprise. Likud had their workers and their supporters out as late as possible, trying to push the vote as much as
And even at this point in April, it was still fairly empty. So far, before the first director for Likud says they're optimistic and they hope the exit
polls as they have so often been in the past are wrong once again, and have underestimated the performance of the Likud Party, and that's what they're
looking for now.
The exit polls aren't what they wanted to see. But they are fully aware that they are just a projection of a possible result, and now instead of
looking at those projections, they'll move on. They'll look to the actual results which should start coming in more or less in the next few hours and
certainly by 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning here, we'll have a very good idea of how accurate if at all the exit polls actually were.
That's where they'll turn now in hopes of Likud outperforming the exit polls they've seen so far. The Likud foreign affairs director optimistic,
he says he looks to those exit polls -- not the exit polls of the actual results and believes that's where he'll see that Netanyahu has outperformed
him. At this point of course, that remains a major question as we wait for those first election results, actual votes instead of just the projection
of the three Israeli TV stations. Becky.
ANDERSON: Oren is at Likud Party headquarters, so neither Netanyahu or Gantz are likely to bring big policy changes on the peace process. Talks
with Palestinians of course collapsed five years ago with both sides blaming the other. Martin Indyk is a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and
a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
He joins me now from New York. And before we talk, the potential for policy change from Israel and about Israel going forward. What do you make
of these very early exit poll projections, Martin?
MARTIN INDYK, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, of course, it depends entirely on whether Bibi Netanyahu's best friend of
Donald Trump is going to be the Prime Minister or not. And from where we stand at this moment, that looks like there's at least a serious question
mark over that.
If there -- if he's not, and if Likud is, you know, national unity government with Blue and White, as your people have just been discussing
here, then I think it's a very different day in Washington when it comes to policy, particularly towards the peace process. And the plan that Jared
Kushner has drawn up, in close coordination with Netanyahu, and it really will raise a question mark then about what they will -- what they will do
ANDERSON: Palestinians, Arab-Israelis here who can vote and Palestinians who don't -- last time around saying that they felt these elections were
completely irrelevant, that they have been delegitimized. Is there -- do you think more hope than not less today, should these exit poll projections
end up being the actual result?
And should Israel be looking at a new era with a new leader? What prospects for peace going forward?
INDYK: Well, I think that the chances would definitely improve. But I have to add quickly, that's not saying much. You know, we start at the
lowest possible level with the whole peace process has been on life support for some time. If Netanyahu were able to form a right-wing government,
he's made clear that he would proceed with annexation of significant parts of the West Bank, that really would put pain to any hope of a viable peace
process with the Palestinians.
If that isn't going to eventuate, and as I say, looking at it from where we are today with what we know today, it seems unlikely that it will
eventuate, then a whole other range of possibilities arise. Which is the revival of the two-state solution, the potential for steps short of an all-
out final status negotiation.
Because I don't think either side is capable of making the compromise as necessary even with the change of government in Israel.
But all sorts of things could be done, interim steps that would start to rebuild confidence in the whole process. So, I really think we were at the
Rubicon for the peace process. And if it's not going to be crossed because Netanyahu isn't able to form a right-wing government, then there's a new
possibility, a new lease of life for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.
ANDERSON: Well, that's fascinating, Martin, always a pleasure, thank you for joining us --
INDYK: Thank you, Becky --
ANDERSON: I believe that we've got some new graphics for you viewers. These are exit poll projections and what they will tell us about potential
coalition blocs, coalition building and the blocs. Can we -- can we punch that out for our viewers? And as we do, I want us just to discuss these
possible coalitions once again.
Caveat being this is very early -- but let's just have a look and see what we've got here. I mean, you know, I think we're going to start with "Kan",
here we go, "Kan News". Take me through -- take me through what Netanyahu -- what Netanyahu would see in that poll projection and what Benny Gantz
PLESNER: Well, Netanyahu looks at that and he adds up the 32 of the Likud, plus 17 religious parties, plus the right wing 7, it adds up to 49 plus 7
is 56. That means that he has 56 and all the rest are committed to not serving under him.
So, he cannot reach -- so, his path -- assuming this poll is right, his path to 61 is blocked. The implication is that while it means that
Netanyahu can no longer be Prime Minister in the format that we have known so far, we're entering into uncharted territory because neither does Benny
Gantz have --
ANDERSON: Let's bring that up again --
PLESNER: I'm not sure now -- Benny Gantz --
ANDERSON: Again, explain, why?
PLESNER: Thirty two plus --
ANDERSON: This is the Blue bloc --
PLESNER: Yes, plus, the two center left parties that means 42, assuming he's able to lure in Lieberman's Beiteinu, that's 52, that's not enough.
Assuming now without Lieberman, he brings in the joint Arab list, it's 54. Now, the Arab list has no inclination to join a Zionist government and so
on and so forth.
So, Gantz's path to forming a government is also extremely difficult, short of a national unity government with the Likud.
ANDERSON: Right, let's remind ourselves, this is one exit poll and it's very early. But let's just imagine again, let's take a hypothetical here.
Let's imagine we try and put together a national unity government of Likud, Blue and White and Avigdor Lieberman's party. Show us what happens there.
PLESNER: Look, once Likud and Blue and White get together based on this exit poll and on the others, they have more than 60, in this exit poll,
they have 64 and others it adds up even to 65 or more. They have a clear majority, obviously, they can bring in Avigdor Lieberman and they have 75
and probably others will want to join in.
That's a simple option. But there's only one little barrier, which is that Blue and White is not interested in building national unity with Mr.
Netanyahu because of his -- because of the corruption allegations and the impending indictment.
And the Likud is perhaps willing to go into national unity, but they insist on Netanyahu being at the top, that means that we might enter now a period
of days or even weeks without knowing who is going to be Prime Minister and what will be the make-up of the government. And hopefully, we will have a
government within a few weeks and not go to a third round of an election which looks like science fiction right now. But you never know.
ANDERSON: People have been saying to me, this is the end of Israeli democracy as we know it. Given what we are seeing with these early
projections, do you buy that argument or not?
PLESNER: End of Israeli democracy, God forbid. Israel's democracy has demonstrated extreme vitality. Israelis participated, they responded to
the agenda, it looks like they also voted to replace a very strong, a very charismatic leader. It -- we're proud of our democracy.
Also when you take international rankings, you compare us to other advanced democracies, we're doing pretty well. So, in the Middle East, we're the
only functioning democracy, this election, if anything proves that and we're proud of it.
ANDERSON: All right, it was a narrative that I heard during the rounds as we approached this election. It was doing the rounds as people felt that
voters here would not get out, this talk of voter apathy, they have got out.
This is a high turn-out and we are seeing some really significant numbers coming through tonight. Stay with me, I'm going to take a very short
break. But Saudi Arabia speaking out as the nation faces fallout from the attack on its oil fields. We'll get you live to Jeddah, up next.
ANDERSON: New developments out of Saudi Arabia in the past hour. The country says its oil output will be back to normal by the end of this month
in the wake of weekend attacks on its massive oil production facilities. Shortly before that news conference in Jeddah, we received new details
about the attack investigation.
A source familiar with the U.S. and Saudi probes tells CNN there's a quote, "high probability that the strikes were launched from an Iranian base."
Yet, the U.S. and the Saudis still haven't released any evidence. This as a U.S. official tells us Saudi Arabia has recovered circuit boards from one
of the weapons used in the attack, and apparently missed its target and landed in the desert intact.
CNN's Nic Robertson joining us now live from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. A lot of information coming in at this point. Just put it all together for us if
you will. Where are we?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Officially, the official line from Saudi Arabia is that the weapon systems that were used
to target the oil facility were Iranian made. But they're still trying to figure out where they were actually launched from.
The source close to the investigation with knowledge of the investigations said actually they've been able to pin it down more precisely because
they've been able to find an unexploded weapon system which is a relatively new technology.
It is a very low-flying, essentially trying to avoid radar cruise missile. The circuit boards that have been discovered in that and because it was
relatively undamaged once it crashed in the desert. The Saudis are using to analyze, and seems to be the basis of why they believe it was made in
Iran. They'll also be able to look at the engine size on this device and be able to calculate its range and infer information from that, and
potentially by going back and studying satellite imagery and other perhaps radar analysis that they have.
This is what's leading them to this conclusion that it took off in Iran, close to border with Iraq, flew over Iraq, flew over Kuwait and then
targeted the oil facilities. However that information has not been made public yet. We heard from the French Foreign Minister earlier today saying
that -- saying that he is not aware of evidence pointing towards Iran.
We know in the last few minutes, we've had an announcement from Downing Street that Boris Johnson; the British Prime Minister spoke with Crown
Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, and they both talked on the phone. We understand from Downing Street that they talked about the importance that
follow through the evidence gathering, and certainly, this is what we heard from the energy minister today saying, they will find those accountable,
but they'll find the evidence and then they'll know what to accuse them of, Becky?
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia with the very latest. And a reminder of a region warning on a night that Israelis have
voted in what is the second election this year. Are we looking at a new dawn for Israeli politics and for Israel? That coming up after this.