Politics: Guide for the politically perplexed

As Netanyahu leads the country to new elections, political parties are scrambling to devise strategies to consolidate their power.

knesset  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
As Netanyahu leads the country to new elections, political parties are scrambling to devise strategies to consolidate their power This summer, Israel’s leaders were in the middle of a war in Gaza, fighting to stop rocket and mortar attacks and eliminate terror tunnels. Now, the same politicians who led Israel in the war have turned their ammunition against each other in a very different kind of battle.
But one thing is the same: Elections, like wars, have no guaranteed turnout.
Even if one side has an advantage, anything can happen.
And like terror tunnels, when you go into an election, you can’t really know for sure if you will make it out, and if so, in what shape.
When 84 MKs raised their hands in favor of dissolving the Knesset Wednesday, chances are that at least half voted to give up their jobs. The heads of the five parties inside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition all took steps they could end up regretting in hindsight.
Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud, took a risk by initiating the election.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Hatnua head Tzipi Livni took a chance by angering him so much that he could not stand to work with them anymore.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman took a gamble when he prevented Netanyahu from forming an alternative coalition with the haredim.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett rolled the dice when he made a deal with Lapid that formed the unstable government which Netanyahu hated so much.
Now all five of them, plus the leaders of the other parties, have more big decisions to make, as they start their campaigns ahead of the March 17 election – which will officially kick off when the Knesset passes the final reading of the bill that will dissolve the parliament on Monday.
The voters still have more than 100 days to make their decisions before they cast their ballots. To aid in that choice, The Jerusalem Post presents an insider’s guide for the politically perplexed about how the parties are doing in this week’s polls, and their strategies for the race:
Current seats: 18
Poll position: 21-30
Strategy: Netanyahu will keep repeating the mantra that the only way to make the next government more stable is by voting for the ruling party. Such statements are an attempt to win votes away from the Likud’s satellite parties, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu. He will also continue to attack the Left, as he did in his “If you didn’t withdraw, you didn’t do anything” speech in the Knesset. It is no coincidence that the politicians closest to Netanyahu keep saying Israelis should choose between the Likud and Labor. Netanyahu wants to build up Labor as a sparring partner for the race. If the Left unites, it would help Netanyahu’s campaign even more.
Bayit Yehudi
Current seats: 12
Poll position: 16-18
Strategy: Bennett has apologized for the bond with Yesh Atid, and will more firmly align his party with the Likud this time around. He will run a positive campaign and not attack Netanyahu, and will continue to reach out to secular voters. In the last election, Bayit Yehudi featured one secular candidate in Ayelet Shaked. This time, expect three.
Current seats: 15
Poll position: 12-14
Strategy: Party leader Isaac Herzog has been working for months to present himself as a serious candidate for prime minister, and the only alternative to Netanyahu who could build a coalition with parties across the political spectrum. He will continue to refuse to answer the question of whether he will rule out joining a Netanyahu-led government. But he will attack the prime minister mercilessly, as well as Netanyahu’s former finance minister, Lapid. Herzog will focus on attracting Yesh Atid, Hatnua and Kadima’s 27 seats.
Yesh Atid
Current seats: 19
Poll position: 7-11
Strategy: Like Herzog, Lapid will present this as a two-man election with Netanyahu. He started Thursday night with his “Netanyahu disconnected” speech, which was carried live on the three nightly newscasts.
He will highlight everything he was on the verge of accomplishing before Netanyahu fired him, so the public will know what it is missing and what it can still get if it gives Lapid power in this election. Polls have underestimated the party’s support in the past, because its young voters do not take part in them.
Moshe Kahlon party
Current seats: 0
Poll position: 7-12
Strategy: Kahlon intends to lay low and say nothing new for as long as possible, in order to remain the outsider waiting to come in on a great white horse and save Israel. He is afraid of his support eroding after the buzz over his candidates and platform wears off, so he will reveal them as late as possible. His candidates will come from a cross-section of Israeli society. Most of them will be socioeconomically focused professionals who have accomplished a lot in their careers, but he will also have candidates with expertise on security and diplomatic issues. He will attack Netanyahu and Lapid nonstop.
Yisrael Beytenu
Current seats: 13
Poll position: 9-14
Strategy: Liberman will present Yisrael Beytenu as an agenda- setting party that initiated key legislation and policies that other parties copied. He will try to remind voters that on issues from requiring more haredim to serve, to conversion, to changing the electoral system, his party advanced ideas that changed Israelis’ lives for the better. He will also continue to attack Israeli Arabs on the one hand, while expressing willingness for diplomatic concessions on the other. Yisrael Beytenu has a policy of not attacking parties on the Right.
Current seats: 11
Poll position: 7-9
Strategy: First, Shas leader Arye Deri has to keep his party united. Then he has to present it as the party of the poor socioeconomic classes, and not just the Sephardi haredim. To that end, he has been pushing a simple agenda with two demands: Raising the minimum wage, and lowering the value-added tax on basic household items.
United Torah Judaism
Current seats: 7
Poll position: 8 Strategy: None necessary.
Demographic factors, with haredim continuing to have more children, will suffice in bringing increased future voters to UTJ.
Hatnua and Kadima
Current seats: 8
Poll position: 0-4
Strategy: Join other parties that have a better chance of making the next Knesset. Both Livni and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz have said they will do whatever it takes to beat Netanyahu.
That means not splitting the vote on the Left like they did last time. Chances are one of them will join Yesh Atid and one of them Labor. Former Labor leaders Amir Peretz and Amram Mitzna will likely return home. MK Elazar Stern is a better fit in Yesh Atid. Faction chairman Meir Sheetrit always finds a way to get into the Knesset.
Current seats: 6
Poll position: 7-8
Strategy: Challenge the other parties on the Left to commit to not serving in a government led by Netanyahu.
So far, only Mofaz has accepted the challenge.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On will tell voters that casting a ballot for any other party could help Netanyahu.
She will need attractive new, young candidates to build up buzz and win the support of people who voted Yesh Atid last time.
Hadash, United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad
Current seats: 11
Poll position: 9-11
Strategy: Unite or bust.
Balad and United Arab List- Ta’al are in favor of having all three Arab parties run together after the electoral threshold was raised from 2 to 3.25 percent. But Hadash insists it is not merely an Arab party – a risk for a faction that won less than 3% of the vote last time. Balad’s polls show that creating one Arab mega-party could result in a huge rise in Arab voter turnout. That is the key for there to be more Arabs in the next Knesset.