How Netanyahu made his comeback with help - opinion

After so many years with Netanyahu in Israeli politics, every Israeli has formed a firm opinion of him: a large majority loves him, and a significant and very vocal minority hates him.

 TEN MINUTES before the 10 p.m. exit poll announcements on election night, Benjamin Netanyahu and advisers, including the writer (standing center), consult and anticipate developments. (photo credit: ZIV KOREN)
TEN MINUTES before the 10 p.m. exit poll announcements on election night, Benjamin Netanyahu and advisers, including the writer (standing center), consult and anticipate developments.
(photo credit: ZIV KOREN)

This was the 12th election in which Benjamin Netanyahu headed the Likud party and the 5th for me as his campaign adviser. It was the most challenging election and, ultimately, the most successful one.

Over the past year, the Israeli public has become fed up with the unprecedented coalition, ranging from anti-Zionist Arab parties, whose members support terrorists who kill innocent Israelis, to right-wing parties that had promised their voters that they would never partake in such a coalition.

Nonetheless, winning the popular vote was a great challenge due to the need to overcome a very hostile mainstream media (most television channels, radio stations and newspapers) toward the Likud and its potential coalition members, while uncritically supporting the current government and hiding its failures, as well as the ongoing criminal proceedings conducted against Netanyahu almost daily and covered unjustly by that media.

Yet, Netanyahu led the Israeli right-wing to an outstanding majority in the Israeli parliament. As a result, he stands to govern stably for the next four years, therewith completing 20 years as prime minister of Israel.

Most importantly, the campaign team that I had the privilege to be part of had to first overcome the apathy of the Israeli voter. As is the case in other countries, voters in economically weak regions are less likely to go out and vote, despite their clear support for Netanyahu.

 BENJAMIN NETANYAHU speaks at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, in 2018. The Jewish community in America is a strategic asset for Israel, says the writer (credit: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU speaks at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, in 2018. The Jewish community in America is a strategic asset for Israel, says the writer (credit: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)

Moreover, this was the fifth election in three and a half years. The voters were tired and in a sense, the campaign team also felt exhausted. Campaign work requires creativity. It is hard to reinvent yourself time and again in five campaigns, and yet we had to do just that.

Our strategic decision that won the day was to focus on mobilizing our supporters rather than making efforts to convince voters in general.

After so many years with Netanyahu in Israeli politics, every Israeli has formed a firm opinion of him: a large majority loves him, and a significant and very vocal minority hates him.

A large majority of Israel loves Netanyahu

At this point in time, we concluded that no one could be convinced one way or another. Therefore, in these elections, we decided that, for the first time, Netanyahu would not interview on the most powerful and popular television channel in Israel, namely Channel 12.

There was no point in doing that. Netanyahu’s lovers will love and his haters will hate. This is not the way to win an election. The secret potion was made of digital, logistical and political work.

In an unprecedented manner, Netanyahu worked for his party, the Likud, as well as for the other parties that accepted his leadership. He worked tirelessly to unite parties at odds with each other and ensure that they ran together so that no votes would be lost if one of these parties didn’t pass the threshold.

NETANYAHU’S COMPETITOR, Yair Lapid, did not know how to do this and his camp lost 250,000 votes. Recognizing that the ultra-orthodox public was less inclined to vote, Netanyahu went to Bnei Brak (an orthodox religious city) to convince Orthodox voters to go out and vote for another party that would be part of his future coalition.

Since the previous elections, Likud has been working on identifying every voter and potential voter who stayed at home.

According to the estimate, 200,000 voters simply did not turn out to vote in 2021 because they thought Netanyahu was anyway going to win.

Out of 12,000 polling stations in Israel, all potential polling stations have been marked. In addition, we checked who lived on these streets and Netanyahu personally came to every neighborhood we identified as having a turnout problem.

Netanyahu is a rock star. So we prepared a mobile stage on wheels for him. That way, we could reach 4-5 neighborhoods each evening. Every time Netanyahu finished speaking, we saw a wave of enthusiasm to volunteer for the campaign and mobilize additional voters.

Most important of all were the digital tools. When discussing digital tools in elections, we usually discuss advertising on social networks, segmenting and micro-targeting.

We introduced additional tools: thousands of WhatsApp groups that spread our messages and ignited social networks. We sent millions of voice messages and managed to obtain a mandate that would otherwise have gone to the Left.

An AI bot we operated on a Telegram channel helped manage volunteers and utilize them precisely where needed.

So, on Election Day, everyone knew what they had to do and where to go. An accurate campaign machine was built and no voter was left at home. One year without Netanyahu was enough for the public to realize how much he was missed.

Our job was to fuel this incredible engine: A 73-year-old man who never gets tired and never rests, with a mission to serve and protect Israel. None of his competitors have anything like it and it is impossible to invent anything like it because it’s Netanyahu.

And in this election, the public has once again demonstrated its conviction that Netanyahu is simply the best prime minister for the citizens.

The writer is a founder of www.perception.media, a strategic adviser and a creative director to world leaders.