Right-wing rally in Tel Aviv, March 15, 2015.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Polls may show the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog on his way to defeating the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, but there were tens of thousands of people in Rabin Square in the heart of Tel Aviv Sunday night who apparently didn’t get the memo.
Headlined by Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, the right-wing rally seemed optimistic, maybe even victorious, even as the final polls have the Likud trailing the Zionist Union by four seats just hours before the election.
The crowd was younger and, as one would expect, much more religious and outwardly patriotic than the anti-Netanyahu rally a week ago, with a far higher Israeli-flag-to protester ratio and an astronomically higher “kippa saturation.” The crowd also appeared larger, though with the Israel Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) keeping photographers off rooftops, it was hard to get a clear idea by how much.
One thing was certain, though: In talking to the people there, the race is not over yet.
The media was the target for many protesters spoken to by The Jerusalem Post
. They accused Yediot Aharonot, the Yediot-owned Ynet and other outlets of unfairly targeting the Right and falsely asserting that Netanyahu would lose.
“We see the media attacking Bibi, which has brought us all together across the Right,” said Elad Vider, a 29-year-old member of the Garin Torani yeshiva in Jaffa, referring to Netanyahu by his widely used nickname.
Vider added that he was not afraid of what the elections would bring, and didn’t believe the media.
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“We’re not afraid because the haredim won’t sit with [Yair] Lapid, the Arabs won’t sit with Buji, and the Left can’t win,” he stated, giving Herzog’s nickname equal time.
A similar sentiment was expressed by three supporters of the far-right Yahad party who were holding a massive sign several meters long.
“The right-wing bloc will win; everyone knows this,” said Yisrael Atia of Dimona. “The people want the Right, they maybe don’t want Bibi, but they want the Right.”
Yahad party supporters were out in force in the square, in numbers that seemed out of proportion for a party that’s polling at around four seats and might not pass the electoral threshold.
Over the course of a couple hours, this reporter saw many self-standing flags and placards touting Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, but only one person wearing a Liberman shirt, and no one appearing to support Kulanu, the party of Moshe Kahlon, who quit the Likud prior to the last election.
Likud supporters, however, had a strong presence, as was to be expected, and Bennett was a star, especially among the legions of youngsters.
A more balanced tone was expressed by Gidon Sasson, a 49-year-old father of two from Or Yehuda and a lifelong Likud voter. Sasson said he believed in Netanyahu as a leader and that over the past six years as prime minister he had managed to accomplish a great deal, in particular free daycare from age three and the fence along the Egyptian border.
Sasson was not worried that the Right might lose the election or about “a second Oslo [Accords].”
“I don’t want to be a victim of peace,” he stated.
Nevertheless, he said he didn’t think it would be a disaster if the Center-Left bloc won.
“They’re fighting for what they believe in and we’re fighting for what we believe in,” he said. “Whatever happens, we’ll be alright.”
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