Israeli elections: Strategies for success in Election 3.0

Political Affairs: What the parties have to do in the final three weeks to succeed on March 2

THE NATION heads back to the polls in three and a half weeks. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
THE NATION heads back to the polls in three and a half weeks.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who ran for president of the United States in 1998, infamously said: “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules.”
The quote was featured at the start of the satire movie The Campaign that starred Will Ferrell as a congressman running for reelection who inadvertently punches a baby he intended to kiss. But it also fits with the third Israeli election in under a year, which will be held on March 2.
A third election is uncharted territory, so there is no guidebook. Should parties just do whatever worked for them in the first two races, or try something completely new to attract attention?
So far, parties have chosen the former, running very conservative campaigns and not taking any risks. They have all decided to repeat their tactic of saving all their ammunition for the very end of the race.
They decided to do that ahead of the September race, because they knew no one was paying attention during the summer. This time, the kids are at school during the entire race, yet they are repeating what worked last time.
That is why most highways have no political billboards, even though polls open in just three-and-a-half weeks. The party strategists know that Israelis are sick and tired of elections, and there is no point in making them even sicker of them.
So what should the parties do down the stretch to try to bring about a better result than in the first two elections and become the surprise of the third? The following are the keys to success for the eight major parties (listed in order of size in the outgoing Knesset) in Election 3.0.
Current seats: 33
Poll position: 33-36
Strategy for success: Feeding on the “fed up.”
The party’s slogan is “It is time to move forward.” The slogan appeals to voters who are sick and tired of elections and blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the political stalemate.
In recent days, the party has featured, in ads sent by WhatsApp, statements by former Likud minister Bennie Begin about why he is not voting for the party that was led by his father, former prime minister Menachem Begin.
The party’s goals over the last three weeks include shifting the subject of the election back to corruption; reaching out to voters in the periphery; and wooing moderate religious Zionists. The campaign will continue to focus on the leadership qualities of party leader Benny Gantz.
Current seats: 32
Poll position: 31-34
Strategy for success: Banking on Bibi.
The “league of his own” campaign of Netanyahu has taken him to Washington, Moscow and Uganda, but Likud officials said they know that getting votes requires going to Israeli cities instead.
To that end, Netanyahu has started doing two events a night, starting in Beit Shemesh, Petah Tikva, Ra’anana and Herzliya. In those events, Netanyahu has delivered almost identical speeches with the main talking points being that only he knows how to run the country, and that Gantz is “a nice guy but unfit to lead.” The other politician Netanyahu always singles out is former US president Barack Obama, whom he says he endured successfully.
While the party promised that figures in the Likud other than Netanyahu will be featured in the campaign, that has not happened, with the notable exception of former Blue and White MK Gadi Yevarkan in the Ethiopian sector.
Current seats: 13
Poll position: 12-14
Strategy for success: Outreach to angry electorate.
Just keeping the four parties on the list together has been a significant accomplishment.
US President Donald Trump returning the peace process to the forefront has also been helpful to the Joint List. Party officials said Netanyahu getting Trump’s aides to include in the plan giving the Palestinians the “Triangle” area that is full of Israeli-Arab cities motivated Joint List voters and will result in the higher Arab turnout needed to win 15 seats.
Current seats: 11
Poll position: 7-10
Strategy for success: From socioeconomic to security.
Focusing on socioeconomic issues has been the strategy from the start for this joint list of three parties. But the list is led by a former defense minister in Amir Peretz, who can boast of his success in initiating the Iron Dome air defense system. He has started refocusing on security, including on a visit to the border with Lebanon on Thursday. The intensifying security situation could require him continuing that strategy.
Labor’s strategist said that between the three parties, there are hundreds of volunteers who go door-to-door to persuade people to vote for the list.
The strategist promised “another surprise in the last week” this time, just as there was a surprise when Peretz shaved his mustache shortly before the election in September.
Current seats: 9
Poll position: 7-9
Strategy for success: Bear-hugging Bibi.
Shas leader Arye Deri has painted himself as more pro-Netanyahu than Netanyahu himself, in part because polls have found that his voters are more loyal to the prime minister than voters in Netanyahu’s Likud.
Deri has motivated his voters by warning that a left-wing government could be formed with the support of the Joint List. The party surprised by winning nine seats in September, so continuing what worked makes sense.
Current seats: 8
Poll position: 7-8
Strategy for success: Hitting at the haredim.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has tried to shift the subject of the election to the haredim (ultra-Orthodox).
Polls have found that his voters are very anti-Netanyahu, and Liberman is the only one attacking him from the Right. Yamina leader Naftali Bennett is defense minister, so his hands are tied. That is an opportunity for Liberman.
While other parties have focused less on campaign ads sent by WhatsApp, Yisrael Beytenu releases another almost every day, attacking Netanyahu, haredim or Arabs.
Liberman guarantees there will be no fourth election, appealing to voters who want stability.
Current seats: 7
Poll position: 7-8
Strategy for success: Lashing out at Liberman.
UTJ intends to use Liberman as the villain threatening the haredim, in order to maximize haredi turnout, just as it did successfully in the past with villains like Yair Lapid, Tommy Lapid, Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni.
The other strategy is demographic. Every election, the amount of eligible voters in the Ashkenazi haredi sector grows, due to the large birth rate in the sector.
Current seats: 7
Poll position: 7-9
Strategy for success: Maximizing the defense minister.
Yamina will take advantage of its leader being defense minister during a tense security situation. The party will keep Bennett and its other candidates in the field meeting people, including being hosted by different communities every Shabbat. Exceptions are disgruntled MKs Moti Yogev and Eli Ben-Dahan.
The main message of the party is that applying sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria requires Yamina to be as large as possible.