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Zionist Camp celebration foiled by election results

The election tie between Likud and Herzog’s Zionist Camp came as a shock to supporters who had gathered in Tel Aviv. Almost defiantly, they followed what became the night’s mantra: Nothing is decided yet. We haven’t lost.

By Angela Gruber

Supporters of the Zionist Camp celebrate as exit polls results are published, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Supporters of the Zionist Camp celebrate as exit polls results are published, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

First, there was a party. When the results of the exit polls kept rolling in, the supporters of the Zionist Union at the Convention Center in the north of Tel Aviv waved their flags, chanted slogans and started jumping.

For a moment, it seemed like the actual results didn’t matter that much. Then it started to sink in. There was no sweeping victory, not even a slight advantage, like they had all hoped. All they got was a tie. 27 seats for the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog. Exactly as many seats as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got as well.

Zionist Camp supporters listen to exit poll results, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Zionist Camp supporters listen to exit poll results, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

“I don’t know what the voters want,” a 20-something female attendee said, frustrated. “This is no change. I’m really disappointed by the result. I was hoping for a clear win.” Another one was more optimistic, saying that everything was still on the table. “Everything is still open with this result. We haven’t lost.”

“We hoped the Likud would get less votes than it did. I really don’t know what will happen. It’s an interesting tie,” said Aaron Benderski, who is working for the campaign and is a party member. “We woke up the left side of Israel which was dormant for many years,” he believes.

Almost defiantly, the organizers of the event turned up the music and started blasting uptempo songs out of the speakers. Some voters in their blue-and-white shirts formed circles, hugged each other and danced. It seemed like they didn’t know exactly what to be excited about, but any other behavior would have been a concession of failure in front of dozens of TV cameras and drooling journalists.

Around midnight, the venue seemed like the scene of a club night gone sour. Loud techno music but no one in the mood for dancing, standing around awkwardly and waiting for something to happen.

Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog gives a speech at the end of the party’s election night event, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog gives a speech at the end of the party’s election night event, Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Eventually, it did. When Isaac Herzog entered the stage shortly after midnight, the remnants of the crowd gathered and cheered at their leader. Herzog thanked his team and praised the partnership with Tzipi Livni, who at that point wasn’t even on stage (she gave a short speech afterwards).

Perhaps Herzog’s most memorable words that summed up the night: “I guarantee you there will be no decision tonight. You can all go to sleep.”

And that is what everyone did. At once, the venue was empty.

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