It's the personality, stupid: Parties to focus on big names, not ideology

Unsurprisingly in an era of personality politics, political platforms and ideology are not the major problem for any of the parties.

Bennett and Netanyahu shake hands in Knesset  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Bennett and Netanyahu shake hands in Knesset
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The April 9 election initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday caught some parties off guard and others ready for the fight.
The main challenge for some parties will be finding a new celebrity Knesset candidate to attract new voters. Others have internal battles to resolve.
Unsurprisingly in an era of personality politics, political platforms and ideology are not the major problem for any of the parties.
The following are the challenges and the goals for the 10 parties in the current Knesset:
Likud: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was already reelected Likud leader three years ago, and he faces no internal dissent. Until proven otherwise, the only man who can bring Netanyahu down is Netanyahu himself. That is why his closest advisers have started planning a campaign against the legal establishment. After winning 30 seats in 2015, anything less would be considered a failure.
Zionist Union: The 2015 race when the party led in the polls and won 24 seats seems like a distant memory now. When Avi Gabbay announced in a faction meeting Monday that he would become prime minister, none of his MKs could even look him in the eye. The challenge will be persuading Gabbay to let someone else lead his list, and it looks like mission impossible. With Gabbay at the helm, 12 seats would be an accomplishment.
Joint List: The four Arab parties took revenge against Avigdor Liberman for raising the electoral threshold by proving that the whole could be larger than the sum of its parts. Now there is new revenge to be had, this time against Netanyahu, who infamously said on Election Day 2015 that Israeli Arabs were going out to vote in droves. Party leader Ayman Odeh said this time they really would come out in droves and win 15 seats. But maintaining their current 13 would also be impressive.
Yesh Atid: There were times over the past four years when the party outperformed the Likud. For that to happen again, the message that party chairman Yair Lapid is a cleaner version of Netanyahu with similar views must come through. It would also help if the election is run on matters of religion and state. Lapid is predicting he will become prime minister, and the party’s sights will remain on that goal.
Kulanu: Swing voters who supported parties like Kadima and Shinui in the past rushed to the party of Moshe Kahlon, the man who lowered our cell phone prices. That is now a distant memory.
In order to remind voters of Kahlon’s accomplishments, the party paid a hefty sum for a wraparound cover advertisement in the top circulation newspaper Israel Hayom on Tuesday. Time will tell if that will work. Staying in the Knesset and not falling below the electoral threshold would be an accomplishment.
Bayit Yehudi: Ahead of the last election, Netanyahu cannibalized votes from the Likud’s satellite parties on the Right. Are those voters gone permanently? Party leaders Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked must prove otherwise immediately or the party will have to run in a different format in future elections. It’s 10 seats or bust for Bayit Yehudi.
Shas: If party leader Arye Deri is indicted ahead of the election, Shas could self destruct. The MKs behind Deri have not distinguished themselves, and former Shas leader Eli Yishai is lurking in the background ready to take votes away. Shas portrayed its showing in municipal races as successful, so maybe it can stay alive in the Knesset, but there is no guarantee, and if the party wins five seats, Deri should thank God.
United Torah Judaism: The fights among the two parties that make up so-called United Torah Judaism could be fiercer than in any other list. Degel Hatorah proved in municipal races that it is larger than Agudat Yisrael, so it will demand the top spot on the list. If Agudah does not agree, the two parties could end up running separately. It is also possible that UTJ leader Ya’acov Litzman could be forced out regardless for causing too many political fights that were not won. Maintaining six seats is the goal, despite the birthrate among the haredim (ultra-Orthodox).

Yisrael Beytenu:
With popular MK Orli Levy-Abecassis leaving to form the reconstituted Gesher party of her father, party leader Avigdor Liberman needs fresh blood and fast. If he doesn’t find it, there is no guarantee Yisrael Beytenu will return to the Knesset. The Russian immigrants have assimilated into the general population, leaving Liberman with less of a base. Staying alive is the objective.
Meretz: Young new leader Tamar Zandberg should return freshness to the party, but can it become the cool choice for young people if their grandparents voted for it? Zandberg has predicted 10 seats for the party, but it is more likely that it will once again fight to pass the electoral threshold.