JERUSALEM—At 10 p.m. on election night on April 9, as polling stations were closing all over Israel, Channel 12 News, the country’s most popular newscast, predicted a tie between the two major political blocs. It looked like Benny Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces who had entered the fray just four months earlier, was set to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.
Buoyed by the fact that a tie should work in his favor, as no center-left parties were willing to join a Netanyahu government, while a couple of parties on the right had not explicitly ruled out backing Gantz as premier, Gantz quickly took to the stage and delivered a victory speech to a crowd of delighted supporters. As he thanked Netanyahu for his years of service and announced his intention to become “everyone’s prime minister,” many Israelis scratched their heads in bewilderment. The exit polls of the other two newscasts predicted a clear majority for Netanyahu, and Gantz’s speech—obviously intended to take control of the media narrative—seemed premature, at best.
As the hours passed, it became clear that Gantz’s victory had been short-lived. Apparently, Likud voters had deliberately lied on Channel 12’s exit poll to throw what the party derides as the liberal media off-base. Shortly after 2 a.m., as the official results began to roll in, a smirking Netanyahu delivered his own victory speech. This time, it was real.