The Likud Beytenu joint list has been dropping steadily in the polls for the
past month, reaching a new low point of 33 and 34 seats in polls commissioned
this week by Channel 2 and Haaretz respectively. Scrambling to explain the
losses, Likud officials have cited mainly flawed tactical decisions as the
primary cause for the declining support. They suggested that the merger with
Yisrael Beytenu alienated voters in the two parent parties, and argued that the
party’s withering attacks on Bayit Yehudi and Shas had had a unexpected
Those tactical decisions might have contributed to the
diminishing support for Likud Beytenu, but the ongoing drop in numbers almost
certainly reflects a deeper mistrust of the joint list, despite the fact that it
remains the front-runner in the absence of a credible alternative.
past number of weeks most of the parties have worked to sharpen their message.
Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett, for example, presented a plan designed to
resolve some of the predicaments facing Israel with respect to the future of the
settlements. The plan, regardless of its questionable feasibility, addresses
head-on the threat posed by the continued occupation of the Palestinian
population in the West Bank to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic
Bennett also put himself in the line of fire when he said in an
interview to Channel 2 that he would prefer to go to jail rather than evict Jews
from their homes in settlements.
Despite the fact that his statements
were certainly blown out of proportion by his political adversaries, and
regardless of his subsequent apology – Bennett’s statements showed him to be a
person of clear political and moral convictions.
Alternately, the Likud
under Netanyahu has done the opposite, providing conflicting messages about many
of the core issues facing Israel, particularly as concerns the future of the
West Bank and the Israeli settlements.
What, after all, is the Likud’s
position? Is the Likud in favor of the two-state solution, as Netanyahu said in
his Bar-Ilan speech? Or was Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely telling the truth when she
said earlier this week that that speech had been merely a “tactic” to alleviate
world pressure? Netanyahu said this week that it would be a mistake to rush
negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was liable
to be replaced at any time by Hamas. On the face of things, that is a valid
point. But the question is whether the Likud as a party has the will to
negotiate with Abbas or any other Palestinian leader – no matter what the
Judging by the composition of its list, and not by its leader’s
pithy statements, the Likud will not negotiate a resolution of the conflict with
the Palestinians. Does anyone seriously believe that a Likud that ousted Dan
Meridor and Bennie Begin, both of whom respected the rule of law and democracy,
only to replace them with people such as Moshe Feiglin, who aspires to “purify”
Jerusalem of al-Aksa Mosque and to rebuild the Temple, presumably to renew
animal sacrifices, would seriously negotiate a two-state solution with any
On the assumption that most voters do have a position of
one kind or another on what Israel ought to do with the West Bank and the
Israeli settlements, voting for the Likud is risky. If you believe that Israel
ought to extend its sovereignty over the Israeli settlements, as some Likud MKs
and ministers said this week, you might as well vote for Bayit Yehudi. At least
Naftali Bennett has personally signed off on a plan that calls for the
annexation of Area C, which is home to all Israeli settlements.
If, alternately, you believe that Israel ought to engage in
serious negotiations with the Palestinian leadership, while demanding that it
meet certain preconditions prior to any Israeli territorial concessions, as
Netanyahu has offered as his calling card, you might as well vote for a party
that is actually likely to vote in favor of a deal with the Palestinians in the
The Likud of Moshe Feiglin, Danny Danon, Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv
Levin and Tzipi Hotovely cannot reasonably be expected to do so.
being the case, it is no wonder Netanyahu has shied away from addressing issues
of substance in the campaign to date, preferring to offer the electorate vapid
slogans about the need to reelect him as a “strong leader” in order to ensure a
His declining numbers in the polls indicate, however,
that fewer and fewer voters are buying into that hollow logic.
despite his self-professed strength as a leader, Netanyahu accomplished very
little in his four years at the head of a stable right-wing coalition,
particularly on the Palestinian front.
In fact, the only two real
achievements he chalked up in that sphere hardly met either of his self-declared
goals: to weaken Hamas, on the one hand, and to prevent the PA leadership from
gaining political achievements without giving anything in return, on the
The opposite occurred in both cases – Hamas emerged politically
strengthened from the Schalit deal and the negotiations that ended Operation
Pillar of Defense, and the PA won resounding international support for its bid
to upgrade its UN status to that of an observer state.
So why vote Likud
Beytenu? The lack of a better alternative hardly qualifies as a good
answer.The author is a veteran Israeli writer and translator.