Zionism and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in its indigenous and ancestral homeland was one of the most compelling ideas of the last century, communicated in a way that turned ideas into action, and managed to sway leaders around the world as to its justice and necessity.
For many decades, Israeli politics was a battle royale of ideas between the Labor Party, led in large by David Ben-Gurion and his successors and the Herut/Likud Party led by Menachem Begin.
With the end of the campaign for the 2021 legislative elections and the results in, the most overwhelming point when looking at the tally is that these were the elections of consolidation.
No party across the political map moved significantly beyond its base. There were no large gains by any party beyond its pool of potential supporters in the narrowest sense.
While there were some surprises on election night, especially surrounding those parties which were hanging perilously close to the threshold, no party made big inroads beyond its traditional support.
The two parties that came into the race trying to reach out to new audiences without first securing its base ended up being arguably the two biggest losers. Both Yamina and New Hope are parties filled with right-wingers who tried to reach out to the Center and the Center-Left. Both polled around 20 seats at one point of the campaign, but neither reached double figures in the final vote.
Many of those outreached to went to their more natural homes at the business end of the campaign and by then their base had largely been ignored. The first rule of any election is to never ever ignore one’s base, because they should be the most loyal and dependable source of votes.
To win an election, regardless of where it is, one has to first secure the base and then reach out to the undecideds, swing-voters or lower hanging fruit across the aisle. This is done by transmitting a big idea based on “understanding the pain” of the electorate and “pushing the gain” to these populations tailor-fit to this strategy.
A leader or party has to forcefully drive a voter to the ballot box, with a clear unadulterated message where the citizen clearly understands what they gain from their choice by a compelling communications strategy.
THESE ELECTIONS were extremely light on compelling messaging, and this was demonstrated aptly by the end results.
In fact, one can argue, looking at the results, that what the various communications strategists were not able to affect, the ground and GOTV (Get Out The Vote) teams came in to save the day.
Those four of five parties that were hovering close to the electoral threshold motivated their base of supporters by the dire consequences for their parties not featuring in the next Knesset. Phone calls were made by their tens of thousands and the streets were endlessly trodden by the party members, their staff and volunteer teams.
The GOTV teams were the heroes for the likes of Blue and White, Labor, Meretz, Ra’am, and the Religious Zionists, which also received help from the Likud Party and its activists, which required them to pass the threshold to ensure any chance at another Benjamin Netanyahu-led government.
The messages sent out in the final days were about the brand of the party, rather than what the party would achieve. Each party used its own version of the now infamous “gevalt”, made famous by Netanyahu, a Yiddish expression of alarm, whereby a party expresses despair about their situation, and begged their base to return “home”, and away from any possible tactical voting.
So, we are back to square one and once again hurtling toward increasing political paralysis.
There is a good chance that Netanyahu will be able to form a government, because while he rarely outright wins the elections, he wins the coalition negotiations every time. In part, this is the power of incumbency, but also the simple fact that he will go further and offer more than anyone else, and that is what makes hard objectionists turn on their word to the voters and end up joining the Likud-led government.
For anyone seeking change and a better future for our country, Israel’s politicians, present and future, need to find a compelling communications strategy to break the deadlock. The deadlock is not good for governability which severely impacts on our leaders’ ability to make long-term strategic decisions, rather than worrying about staving off coalition crises and the threat of another round of impending elections.
To end this cycle of perpetual elections and political statis, we require new and big ideas. We need parties to return to fighting about the issues and less about personalities or selling us their brands, and little else.
Israel and Zionism continue to thrive because they rest on an evolving but perpetually compelling idea.
Our nation faces too many ongoing challenges and the people of Israel deserve a proper debate. Above all, we need to hear a strong and powerful vision for our future laid out by those who seek our vote the next time the polling stations are opened.
The writer is an international campaign strategist, having helped his clients win campaigns on four continents, and is also a former senior Israeli government adviser.