Likud wants to smash Otzma, and Anglo voters are key - analysis

Likud’s internal polling shows that, despite the far-right party’s ascendency in recent media polls, Otzma is far from clearing the threshold.

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September 11, 2019 01:48
3 minute read.
Likud wants to smash Otzma, and Anglo voters are key - analysis

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Ever since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convinced Zehut to drop out of the race two weeks ago, the question of how he will deal with Otzma Yehudit has hung in the air.

Like Zehut, Otzma has a far-right base, but it is unclear if it is large enough to pass the 3.25% electoral threshold. Before the April 9 vote, Zehut passed the threshold in several polls but ended up below after Election Day along with the New Right – now a part of Yamina – meaning that four to five seats’ worth of right-wing votes weren’t represented in the Knesset.

As of Tuesday, Otzma – the party of the ideological descendants of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from the Knesset in 1988 on grounds of racism – passed the threshold in six polls this election cycle. However, the party in its various incarnations has not gotten into the Knesset on its own since the 1980s, when the threshold was much lower, and even when running with other parties, it only had one candidate make it into the Knesset a decade ago.

Netanyahu’s primary goal in this election is for the Right to reach 61 seats without Yisrael Beytenu, since that party went from being a sure thing to recommend him to form the next government, to a free agent that could opt for Blue and White’s Benny Gantz.

This leaves two choices for the Likud and Netanyahu: subtly support Otzma so they get more votes and pass the threshold, or try to destroy Otzma by trying to convince a big chunk of their voters that the party won’t pass the threshold and voting Otzma means heralding in a left-wing government.

Pundits wondered in recent days why Netanyahu and the Likud seemed to be sitting on its metaphorical hands with this issue. The most they did to address it is to send out a message last week attributed to a “senior Likud source” that Otzma won’t pass the threshold and “burns 2.5 seats worth of right-wing votes.”

The Jerusalem Post has learned that Netanyahu plans to jump into the fray, and that the Likud is specifically targeting Anglo voters on this front.

In a video released in English on Tuesday – meant in part to make up for canceling a planned event with English-speaking voters last week due to his trip to London – Netanyahu warned voters: “You can’t vote for other right-wing parties. They either don’t cross the threshold, or they already cross the threshold anyway, and the Likud will have fewer votes. We need more votes than [Blue and White leaders] Lapid and Gantz, and we need the 61st vote.”

The Likud’s research found that a lot of English-speaking voters who supported Zehut have switched to voting for Otzma, rather than parties that are more likely to pass the threshold like Likud or Yamina.

In that vein, a Likud source said Netanyahu plans to record an additional video in English where he talks about his support for free-market capitalism, in order to pull in Anglo voters who connected with Zehut leader Moshe Feiglin’s more libertarian messages.

“Zehut’s whole thing was capitalism, which is not at all part of Otzma,” the source said.

A party source said Likud is still pushing for Otzma to quit the race, but as long as that’s not happening, they’re discouraging people from voting for Otzma.

Likud’s internal polling shows that despite the far-right party’s ascendancy in recent media polls, Otzma is far from clearing the threshold.

“At the end of the day, they’re not going to pass, and what will happen is what we had last time, with two to three seats thrown in the garbage,” the source warned. “The right-wing bloc only needs two or three seats for a coalition without Liberman, and Otzma is taking them away.”

Otzma, however, remained defiant.

“Otzma Yehudit will enter the next Knesset and will ensure the Right is in power,” party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir tweeted on Tuesday. “We will continue with full force until victory!”


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