More than 2 million Israelis have exercised their right to vote as of 2 pm as polling stations struggle to keep up with the flow of voters. This indicates a particularly high voter turnout
compared with the previous four campaigns. Polls will close at 10 pm. Polls at small communities will close at 8 pm.
A total of 5,656,705 eligible voters will be able to cast their ballots in 10,132 ballot boxes across Israel.
President Shimon Peres
voted at the Charles E. Smith High School for the Arts in Jerusalem. "Today the state is asking citizens to vote for a free, beautiful, democratic country," he said after casting his ballot.
He wished success to all the candidates and called on the public to exercise their right to vote.
Peres votes in Jerusalem (Photo: Kobi Nahshoni)
Asked whether he had any doubts about whom to vote for he replied, "Everyone should have some doubts about who to vote for but not about the act of voting. All citizens must be proud of their country." Confronted with claims that he intervened in the election campaign, Peres said: "Of course I intervene. I voted. Isn't that intervening?”
PM after voting in Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
was the first of the candidates to vote, shortly after the polls opened at 7 am. Accompanied by his wife Sara and his two sons Yair and Avner, Netanyahu cast his ballot at the Paula Ben Gurion school in Jerusalem.
"This is the first time the whole family votes together. I keep saying that the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu represents the whole people and in this case the whole family. Anyone who wants Israel to succeed should vote for one large party."
Voting in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
His son Yair remarked, "We call on all young people to vote Likud-Beiteinu, even if it's not the fashionable choice." His father then added, "and the national religious public too."
Directly after casting their ballots, Netanyahu and his two sons headed to the Wailing Wall, where the prime minister placed a note that read: "With God's help, for the future of Israel."
Netanyahu at Wailing Wall (Photo: Yossi Zamir)
Netanyahu said: "I go to the Wailing Wall to touch our people's foundation, and I pray for the future of Israel and our nation."
Shas' Aryeh Deri also voted in Jerusalem, at the Beit Yaacov school, as did the party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who voted at the capital's Noam Banot school.
Lieberman votes in Nokdim (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Shas' Deri casts ballot in Jerusalem (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett
and his wife Gilat were the next to vote, in Raanana's Music and Arts Center. Greeted by excited supporters, Bennett said "when I see everyone – secular, religious, Arabs, Druze – joining Habayit Hayehudi, I know that this is the beginning of something new for the nation of Israel."
Gilat Bennett said, "I hope that Israel will give Naftali the chance to do something good here."
Bennett and his wife vote in Raanana (Photo: Benny Deutsch)
Yistael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman,
who recently resigned
his post as foreign minister, voted at the settlement of Nokdim.
Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovch arrived at the Tel Aviv polling station and said "this is not a dream, this can be done, a few more mandates and Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) will not be prime minister."
Yachimovich added, "get out of your homes, don't be lazy and we can do it."
Livni before voting (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Before voting Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni said that "anyone who understands that Netanyahu's policies must change, should give me the power to change the path and take the reins. All the spins and tricks are over and there will be dramatic decisions."
Asked what will be considered a success for her at the end of the day she replied, "that I will have enough power to allow me to make a real change."
Yair Lapid in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Yesh Atid's Yair Lapid voted in Tel Aviv and said, "This is the first time I vote for myself. It's a very special feeling. I hope everyone goes out to vote and take part of this political celebration."
Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz said at the entrance of the Kochav Yair polling station. "I feel great, it will be wonderful. Whoever wants to choose security and experience should vote Kadima."
Shaul Mofaz in Kochav Yair (Photo: Ido Erez)
Meretz's Zahava Gal-On in Petah Tikva (Photo: Benny Deutsch)
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On cast her ballot on Petah Tikva's Ha'atzmaut Street. Gal-On told Ynet, "I think that Meretz can triple its power today and even reach 10 mandates."
Voters will need to present either a valid ID card, passport or driver's license. Information on polling stations is available at www.bechirot.gov.il. A call center will also be open from 7 am until 10 pm.
Shahar Chai, Elior Levy, Omri Efraim, Noam (Dabul) Dvir, Akiva Novick, Raanan Ben-Zur, Neri Brenner, Yiav Zitun, Kobi Nahshoni, Roi Kais and Boaz Fyler contributed to this report