Rivlin’s choice matters most - analysis

With all due respect to all the voters, the election for prime minister may not be decided on Tuesday.

April 9, 2019 08:25
2 minute read.
Rivlin’s choice matters most - analysis

President Reuven Rivlin in Canada visiting Niagara Falls. (photo credit: MARC NEYMAN/GPO)

It is symbolic that for the first time in the history of the Jewish state, the number of eligible voters in an election for Knesset has passed six million.

But with all due respect to the voters, the election for prime minister may not be decided on Tuesday.

Barring surprises, President Reuven Rivlin will be the voter who decides this election, and he may not end up making a decision until just before the Passover holiday.

When the votes are counted, Rivlin will invite the heads of the factions that crossed the electoral threshold to his residence for consultations. If one party won the most votes, one party heads the largest bloc and neither received the recommendations of 61 MKs, the identity of the next prime minister is entirely in Rivlin’s hands.

With that in mind, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to woo voters from the Likud’s satellite parties on the Right in an effort to become the largest party, and Gantz has been trying to persuade the angry heads of those parties to not recommend Netanyahu to Rivlin.

The results of Netanyahu’s efforts will be evident by late Tuesday night. The results of Gantz’s efforts could take another week.

It has not been legal in Israel to publish the results of a poll since Friday night, but the pollsters have continued to take them. A respected pollster, who has continued taking polls, said with full confidence on Monday that Netanyahu’s so-called gevalt campaign has not been working.

The pollster said Netanyahu succeeded in winning eight seats from Bayit Yehudi and other parties on the Right over the last few days of the 2015 campaign – because he successfully persuaded the voters that he was about to lose the race – and 55% of voters thought Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog was going to defeat him.

But this time, 60% of the voters are sure that Netanyahu will win the race. And there could be an equal amount of voters who abandon their parties to back Gantz due to the Netanyahu’s gevalt campaign as voters who leave the Likud’s satellite parties because they are worried about Netanyahu losing.

Channel 12 reported Monday that pollsters who work for Netanyahu and Gantz said the gevalt campaign is not working. What the campaign has done is accept the leaders of Likud’s likely coalition partners.

Shas leader Arye Deri publicly called Netanyahu ungrateful. New Right leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked have called him worse.

Will that anger be enough to make party heads tell Rivlin that they would not mind if someone other than Netanyahu forms the government? No one knows, but we do know not to believe anything a politician says publicly ahead of an election.

The politicians would not mind if the election ended Tuesday after a grueling 100 days of campaigning. But the real race for the vote that matters most might be just beginning.

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