In the spirit of the forthcoming Superbowl, critics who complain about their
team’s performance the day after a big game are known as Monday-morning
quarterbacks. But in politics, everyone is a critic.
There were good and
bad performances in the campaigns of the 12 parties that passed the threshold.
Here is a report card for each of them.
What they did right:
They highlighted the experience and skills of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and contrasted it with the other party leaders. While attacks on Bayit Yehudi
leader Naftali Bennett boomeranged, attempts to portray the rest of the
right-wing party’s list as extremist succeeded. Former foreign minister Avigdor
Liberman cited a study indicating that some two-thirds of immigrants from the
former Soviet Union voted for Likud Beytenu. Yisrael Beytenu also held rallies
around the country in English.
What they did wrong: Had Netanyahu not
made a deal with Yisrael Beytenu, the party might have disintegrated following
Liberman’s indictment. The deal gave Yisrael Beytenu 15 slots that appeared
realistic at the time and pushed back the slots reserved for Likud candidates
Those candidates are the political power-brokers who know
how to bring out the voters, and once the Liberman deal was signed, their
motivation was gone. The Likud relied too much on the Internet, which is a good
way of connecting to people while bypassing the antagonistic media, but
Likudniks apparently still want people to reach out to them
Yesh Atid: A+
What they did right: The smartest decision
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid made was excluding politicians from his party’s list
of candidates, which allowed him to receive protest votes.
He drew up a
list of quality people from varied backgrounds. His diplomatic speech in Ariel
painted himself as a centrist and allowed him to take four seats away from
Likud. Making clear that Yesh Atid would join the coalition made a vote for the
party a practical step for moderating Netanyahu’s government, the same way a
vote for Bayit Yehudi was seen as the way to move the government toward the
Right. But his focus was on haredi service, changing the electoral system and
helping the middle class, three issues Israelis proved they care much more about
than the peace process.
What they did wrong: Yesh Atid was not ready on
the day the television and radio election advertisements were released, which is
the only time the ads receive a respectable rating. During the party’s allocated
time that night, they twice aired a clip of Lapid warning of the socioeconomic
time bomb at a conference, rather than explaining what the new party was
What they did right: The Christian Science Monitor ran a
story that maligned Labor’s American strategist Stanley Greenberg for advising
the party to focus solely on socioeconomic issues, but the strategy was actually
correct. It was the implementation that was wrong. Drafting socioeconomic
protest leaders Itzik Shmuly and Stav Shaffir and painting a vote for Labor as
the completion of the “Israeli Spring” sparked by rallies revolving around
cost-of-living issues was a smart move and motivated Labor’s young
What they did wrong: Nevertheless, Labor did not implement its
agenda wisely. They did not do enough to be seen as a serious alternative for
people voting on socioeconomic in poor development towns, where Labor fared
poorly. While it was right to focus on socioeconomic issues, the party should
not have shunned Labor candidates with a diplomatic focus like Merav Michaeli
and Yariv Oppenheimer. Yacimovich also should have done more to reach out to
Bayit Yehudi: B+
What they did right: It was wise to focus
on the charismatic Bennett and the secular Ayelet Shaked and to talk about helping the poor rather than the settlers. The party stayed on message and
its message was positive.
While quadrupling Bayit Yehudi’s seats was a
formidable accomplishment, polls showed that had the election taken place a week
before, the party would have won 15 or 16 seats. Hiding purported extremists on
the list was also smart. Candidate Jeremy Gimpel did a good job reaching out to
What they did wrong: Much of what hurt the party was
beyond its control. There is nothing they could do about Eretz Nehederet, the
satire show that made Bennett look like a latent extremist.
attack on Bennett and a report that maligned Gimpel both came out on Shabbat,
when all but one of Bayit Yehudi’s candidates do not watch
Maybe Ayelet Shaked, who does, should have been made
available to Ulpan Shishi, Channel 2’s flagship Friday night news
Bennett could have made a better deal with the National Union
that would have put more extreme candidates further down the list.
What they did right: The muchmaligned 1-800-Conversion advertisement turned
off some people, but it brought a lot of attention to the party and motivated
its core constituency of Sephardim in development towns and poor neighborhoods,
who are not necessarily ultra-Orthodox but like making fun of Russian immigrants
distant from their faith. Focusing the party’s ads on Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia
Yosef, rather than any of the triumvirate of politicians leading the party, was
Yosef’s hospitalization was obviously outside of the party’s
control but it did put him back in the limelight.
What they did wrong:
They highlighted Arye Deri too much. While charismatic, Deri is also a
convicted felon who served jail time. While much of Shas’s constituency still
considers him innocent, Deri might have turned off potential voters. Deri also
flipflopped on key issues from the peace process to whether insulting Russian
immigrants is a good or bad thing for the party.
United Torah Judaism: A
What they did right: They had unprotected sex. The more children they have, the
more power they get. UTJ reached out to non-haredim by highlighting its
faction’s socioeconomic legislation in its television ads, which were not
watched by members of the party’s base, as many do not have
What they did wrong: In past elections, UTJ fielded a
Sephardi candidate just beyond the number of MKs they had in the previous
Knesset. In an election where many Shas voters were up for grabs, UTJ should
have made an effort to win them. It also could have helped if more of an effort
would have been made to silence anti-Zionist haredi leaders.
What they did right: They were themselves. They were left-wing and proud of it,
while other leftist parties pretended to be centrist. Their commercials
were positive and uplifting. Moreover, they were wise to stay out of the fight
in the Center-Left and let Livni, Lapid and Yacimovich attack each other
What they did wrong: Had their leading male candidate, Ilan
Gilon, been less grumpy and more charismatic, they could have won votes that
went to Yair Lapid. They did nothing too wrong this time. But they should not
have let Livni steal their votes in the last election.
Tzipi Livni Party:
What they did right: The party’s logo was very nice, and copying commercials
from US President Barack Obama was cool. That’s about it.
What they did
wrong: Let’s not go back in time to Livni’s failure to form a government twice
or her acting like a sore loser when she quit the Knesset after Shaul Mofaz
defeated her. Forming a new party rather than run together with Labor or Yesh
Atid undermined Livni’s cause of advancing diplomatic talks with the
Had she run with Labor, she would have complemented
Yacimovich and formed a formidable duo that it is now clearer than ever could
have seriously challenged Likud Beytenu. She also gave way too many interviews,
which made her look desperate.
Arab Parties: B
What they did right:
Hadash had a smart radio advertisement in Hebrew that asked people on the street
whether they were socialist and favored equality and asked them why they were
voting for parties that do not support such ideals. The Arab League’s call for
Arabs to vote was helpful.
What they did wrong: They failed to do enough
to reach out to Hebrew speakers who ended up voting for Meretz. They crossed too
many red lines in reaching out to Israel’s enemies in the Middle East rather
than helping their actual constituency.
What they did right:
Their campaign billing themselves as the security party and calling for soldiers
to be paid more resulted in them getting enough votes in the IDF to narrowly
pass the threshold. The guilt trip ads comparing Shaul Mofaz to his less
qualified competition were also effective.
What they did wrong: Their ads
showing mayor after mayor saying they were voting for Mofaz were silly. The
party should have put a woman higher on the list and attacked Livni more. MK
Yisrael Hasson was not a good choice for second on the list because he is a
security man like Mofaz and adds nothing to appeal to voters. MK Yohanan
Plesner, who is younger, more charismatic and could have won secularist votes
from Lapid, would have been a much better choice.