Israel Elections Marked by Heavy Vote; Neturei Karta Leader Arrested
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Israel Elections Marked by Heavy Vote; Neturei Karta Leader Arrested

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Balloting in Israel’s fourth national election since statehood picked up momentum after a slow start this morning. By mid afternoon today 50 percent of the eligible voters had cast their ballots. Three hours before the midnight closing hour for voting, an estimated 75 percent of all eligible voters had cast their ballots. Supreme Court Justice Yoel Sussman, chairman of the Central Elections Committee, predicted that the total final vote would exceed the 82 percent voting in the 1955 election.

The voting was generally without incident and there were only a few isolated instances of fighting which broke out between excited adherents of opposing parties. The spurt in voting followed police removal from the proximity of the voting places of groups of ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta members who offered sums ranging up to 20 pounds for identity cards which must be presented to poll officials before a vote can be cast. The zealots also promised return of the cards after the elections.

Rabbi Amram Blau, the leader of the Neturei Karta, was detained by police after he stationed himself near an entrance to the polling station in the Mea Shearim quarter in Jerusalem to deter Orthodox Jews from voting on the premise that the zealots did not recognize the State of Israel.

Rabbi Blau stood near the polling station “to see and be seen” and loudly recited morning prayers. Officials of the religious parties, whose potential voters Rabbi Blau had been deterring, complained that his actions violated election laws which forbid campaigning or pressure near polling stations.

Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim was among the early voters. Chassidic rabbis were escorted to poll stations by singing and dancing adherents in demonstrations which helped to puncture efforts of zealots to persuade Orthodox Jews to boycott the elections.


President Ben-Zvi was among the earliest to vote today but the first large group was Orthodox Jews coming from morning prayers. Then came workers in essential services. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion voted at his summer retreat at Sdeh Boker. Brigadier Chaim Laskov, Army Chief of Staff, was the first to vote at a special Army polling station at headquarters.

Voting began in unseasonably hot weather throughout the country. There were 2,300 polling stations for the 1,200,000 eligible voters who will choose 120 members of the new Knesset, Israel’s Parliament.

Among the 24 lists competing for the votes, the Mapai and the right-wing Herut were seen as emerging as the two strongest parties. It was considered that if the Mapai held on to its 40 seats this would be a fair success but if Herut added less than one-third to its outgoing 15 seats, this would be a failure.

The voting behavior of some 160,000 Israelis voting for the first time was the big question of the election. Original forecasts had been that Mapai would suffer considerable losses at the hands of the new voters while Herut would make substantial gains. Later analyses brought prediction that Mapai would hold its own and perhaps gain an additional seat while Herut would not gain more than two or three above its deputy strength in the third Knesset.

A final check of voter opinion before the balloting indicated that in urban centers and among the settled elements, Mapai had won increased support, particularly since the older settlers fear a large Herut vote. However, Herut was indicated to have won new adherents among the Oriental immigrants and in the slum areas. The votes of these newcomers may be decisive but regardless of their vote, it was considered certain that no party would obtain an absolute majority and that the post-election Government was certain to be a coalition presumably headed again by Premier Ben-Gurion.

A lively interest in the elections was shown in the Arab sections of Israel where some 75,000 to 90,000 Moslems and Christians were eligible to vote. Because of the importance, under Israel’s proportional representation system of marginal votes, all parties sought the Arab vote. The Arabs, however, were expected, as in the past, to vote safely for their own independent lists headed by elders and communal leaders.

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