Think About It: Bracing for Israel’s ‘Super Tuesday’

We have a general idea of what the results will be, but the details might still hold some surprises.

January 20, 2013 22:49
An IDF soldier votes early in Ashdod, January 20, 2013.

An IDF soldier votes in Ashdod 370. (photo credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen)


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Tomorrow is polling day. We have a general idea of what the results will be, but the details might still hold some surprises.

Where are the surprises to be expected? We do not know what percentage of the electorate will go out to vote, and whether the campaigns to get people out to the polling stations have had any effect. We do not know how those who defined themselves as undecided in opinion polls will vote, if at all. We do not know how the votes will divide within each camp, and finally, we do not know how many votes will be lost to lists that will not pass the qualifying threshold – according to forecasts, their numbers are likely to be much greater than in past elections.

It is reasonable to assume that amongst the 30-40 percent of those who are planning to stay at home tomorrow, a majority are potential Center-Left-Arab voters, since they are the ones who feel that no matter how they vote, nothing will change. Amongst the religious-Right voters, those who will stay away from the polling stations will be those who believe that the victory of their camp is a conclusive fact, and that therefore their vote is not important.

It will be interesting to see how the votes will divide between Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi, and whether Strong Israel will pass the qualifying threshold.

Furthermore, how will the votes divide between Labor, Yesh Atid, The Tzipi Livni Party, and Kadima (if it passes the qualifying threshold)?

I BELIEVE there is a general consensus that the period from the moment that elections were announced on October 16 and Election Day has been much too long, and perhaps it is time to change the procedures regarding the holding of elections to shorten the period between the announcement and polling day (in the UK, for example, elections can be held within less than a month from their being announced).

It is interesting to note that the two parties that have lost most from the delay are the two parties expected to be the two largest parliamentary groups in the 19th Knesset: the Likud-Beytenu and Labor. In the earlier pre-election period, the polls showed the two getting together around 60 Knesset seats. The most recent polls show them getting a total of only 50.

Likud Beytenu has lost seats primarily to Naftali Bennett.

Labor has lost seats to Livni’s party on the one hand (to which two of its former leaders defected), and to Meretz and Hadash on the other – the latter two gaining from Shelly Yacimovich’s insistence on repeatedly stating that Labor is not a left-wing party.

I believe that another conclusion from this excessively long election campaign is that the day of election advisers from the US is over (or at least ought to be over). Both Arthur Finkelstein in the case of the Likud and Stanley Greenberg in the case of Labor didn’t really deliver the goods, though possibly their Israeli teams are also to blame.

It has been suggested that Finkelstein erred in proposing Netanyahu’s anti-Bennett campaign. In the case of Labor, it has been suggested that the notion that right-wing voters can be enticed to vote for Yacimovich if she keeps mum on the political settlement issue, and refrains from any sort of attack on settlers, was also mistaken.

According to various analyses of the opinion polls, it appears that in general, the only significant “leakage” of votes from one bloc to the other can occur between Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid, and this is due to the fact that there is apparently a fairly large bloc of young voters who are impressed by the newness and charisma of their leaders, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, and are less interested in the identity of the other candidates on their lists or their positions on various issues.

WITHIN THE framework of the possible rather than the desirable, I personally would be very happy if the number of Likud candidates and Labor candidates who get into the Knesset will be as close as possible.

I am well aware of the fact that Kadima’s 28 seats in the 18th Knesset compared to Likud’s 27 didn’t make any difference in the final reckoning, but here I blame the leadership of Livni, who was a weak and ineffective leader of the opposition, and even though there were many impressive Kadima MKs, they were impressive as individuals – not as a team.

Nevertheless, there can be a psychological importance to such a result, and the fact that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu placed so much importance on a joint list with Avigdor Liberman because of numbers is proof of this. Since there is good reason to believe that the partnership between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu will break up soon after the elections, maximizing the size of the Labor parliamentary group seems psychologically important. I say this despite the fact that Labor is more likely than not to remain in the opposition, where together with Meretz and Hadash, it might act as a biting and effective opposition.

Finally, though the recent polls show only two of the lists on the borderline of passing the qualifying threshold actually getting at least two percent of the vote – the shrunken Kadima and Strong Israel – if I were asked which of the other borderline lists could contribute effectively to the 19th Knesset, I would mention Haim Amsalem’s Am Shalem, which is not afraid to declare Shas to be naked, and Da’am – a joint Arab-Jewish socialist party that is refreshing in its straightforward approach to Jewish-Arab equality, and whose (woman) leader – Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka – is a fascinating contrast to Balad’s Haneen Zoabi.

I also believe that the Knesset could benefit from Eretz Hadasha (A New Country), headed by Eldad Yaniv and Rani Blair, as a sharp-witted and caustic court jester, which is not bound by political convention and political correctness.

So good luck to us all tomorrow!

The writer is a former Knesset employee.

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