For the past few weeks I have refrained from writing about the goings-on in Israel’s election campaign and my last two posts were dedicated to explaining the system rather than reporting current affairs. Between us, this part of the election campaign is rather boring. The party lists have already been set, we have a general approximation of how many people from each list will get into the Knesset and all that is left is for the various parties to badmouth each other and praise themselves in an attempt to draw votes away from others. Everything is expected. There is no reason to take election badmouthing seriously. It can all be labeled under the heading “sh*t politicians say during elections” and ignored.
But when an interesting game-changing trend shows up, I feel the need to discuss it.
Attempting to stem the flow
Naftali Bennet’s “Jewish Home” (HaBayit HaYehudi) party is the closest in ideology to Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu and their most natural ally. It is only natural that there would be some flow of voters from one party to the other. Likud’s campaign leaders made the obvious move and attacked Bennet’s party in order to draw voters back to Likud.
The attack began with an overly hostile interview in which Bennet was ambushed by his interviewer, Nissime Mish’al. Mishal began the broadcast, in which he repeatedly cut Bennet off, with the words:
Good evening, Naftali Bennet. (Bennet: Good evening, Nissime) Bibi Netanyahu threw you out of your position as his chief of staff. I would like to ask you why?…
Later on in the interview, Mish’al asked Bennet, as the leader of the party, which represents most of the settler community, what he would do as a reserve commander in the IDF if he were to receive the order to evacuate Jewish settlers from their homes. Bennet answered that in such a case, he would quietly ask his commanding officer to be excused from the mission, which he sees as immoral. If his commander would not excuse him, he does not believe in refusing orders, but he, personally, would bear the consequences and not carry out the order. The next day, Bennet revised his answer and said that orders must be carried out and that, as the leader of a political party, he was wrong to answer Mish’al the way he did.
As expected, Likud, as well as other parties, condemned Bennet for calling on Israelis to refuse orders and undermining the IDF.
For the full interview: Link (Hebrew).
But the attack on Bennet did not achieve the results desired by Likud. Instead of going up in the polls, Likud went down and Bennet went up.
Earlier this week, an ad appeared on an unofficial Likud website as well as on Facebook, in which Bennet is seen standing behind barbed wire, the “Jewish Home” logo transformed into a yellow Star of David and titled “The Jewish Ghetto”.
The full text reads:
The Jewish Ghetto, lead by Naftali Bennet
It took the knitted skullcaps (a term used to refer to the National Religious community) 60 years to break out of the sectarian ghetto, which kept them locked within the national religious party. It took us 60 years to finally mix with the Israeli public and get out of the isolated ghetto in which we were incarcerated by the leaders of the past. And now Naftali Bennet wants to put us back in the old National Religious party. “The party of the religious people”.
We’re sorry, Naftali, but we would rather be part of the Israeli public and not stand apart. Knitted skullcaps exert their influence from inside.
There are more religious and traditional MKs in Likud than in the Jewish Home!
The ad was not signed by any party, which, if funded by a political party, is a violation of the election propaganda law.
The ad caused uproar in Likud as well as in the Jewish Home. The use of references to the Holocaust is understandably a sensitive subject in Israel. MK Ofir Akunis of Likud demanded an investigation in order to find out who was behind the ad. Bennet himself reposted the ad on his Facebook page and added “I am speechless”.
Later it was revealed that the ad was made by Moshe Ifergan, 96th on Likud’s list. Ifergan said that he was worried about the party’s lack of campaigning and that he had made the ad in a private attempt to stop the flow of votes from Likud to the Jewish Home. He said he stands by the content of the ad, but that the yellow Star of David was an unintended mistake.
Some Likud candidates attacked Bennet on Facebook and said that Bennet knows that the ad was not backed by Likud and that he is attempting to exploit it for political gain.
Nevertheless, Bennet continues to climb in the polls.
Likud still refused to learn from these mistakes and towards the end of the week began a new offensive in response to a Jewish Home ad which pointed out that Likud has only one woman in the first 12 slots, while the Jewish Home has three. Likud’s new angle is to claim that the Jewish Home candidates are religious zealots who oppose women’s rights.
A new ad lists three Jewish Home members with their supposed misdeeds against women:
The text reads:
The Jewish Home against women
Rabbi Ben Dahan- Number 4 in the Jewish Home’s list, representing Tkuma (Tkuma is the section of the National Unity party, which merged with the Jewish Home- WOI), wants to cancel the committee for women’s status in the Knesset (Arutz 7, 19.11.2012)
Motti Yogev- Number 9 in the Jewish Home’s list, representing Tkuma- led the segregation of girls and boys in Bnei Akiva (the national religious youth group- WOI) (NRG Maariv, 10.6.2010)
Rabbi Dov Lior- the spiritual leader of Tkuma: It is not appropriate for a women to appear in court (NRG Maariv, 17.8.2010)
The Jewish Home- Not what you thought.
Brought to you by Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu
Jewish Home members have attempted, naturally, to refute the claims. Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home, the only woman who is expected to be elected without needing a reserved slot for women in her party’s primaries, was interviewed (link in Hebrew) on Television on the matter.
The campaign has not helped Likud in the polls. Nevertheless, Likud posted this ad on Facebook as well as on Likud’s unofficial website:
The ad reads:
“Ayelet Shaked- Shut up and be pretty” The Jewish Home.
On Facebook, the ad was accompanied by the explanation that the members of the Jewish Home oppose women’s rights and that Shaked, a non-religious woman in a religious party is only acting as a liberal fig leaf in order to hide the more sinister members of the party. On the unofficial Likud website, the banner has no added explanation.
Misreading the political map
Despite repeated attacks on Bennet and his list, Bennet continues to rise in the polls and Likud continues to sink. One poll even gave Bennet 18 seats (most other polls have given him 11-15 seats). True, the poll gave the three Rightwing parties 59 seats combined, which is unlikely, but the trend is there. Likud has gone down in the polls, some of which give the party as low as 32-33 seats. Likud+Yisrael Beiteinu currently have 42 seats and the Jewish Home has 3.
Likud has failed to realize that people no longer support their party unconditionally, the way they support their soccer team. This is a worldwide trend. People no longer support parties; they support voting blocs. Likud still has old-school supporters, but most of its support comes from people who identify with the Right, regardless of the brand name or the figurehead. These are people who have woken up from the dream of the Oslo agreements, who realize that peace cannot be achieved by simply throwing concessions at the Palestinians. These are people who were not fooled by the intensive propaganda employed by the social protest movement with the support of the mainstream media. They believe that economic success can only come with freedom and by breaking monopolies, rather than strengthening them through socialistic policies.
What Likud’s campaign planners have failed to understand is that Likud’s supporters ALSO support the Jewish Home, and that when Likud attacks the Jewish Home, Likud is actually attacking its own supporters, who go on the defensive. When Likud attacks its own natural ally, Likud supporters cannot help but wonder whether Likud actually intends to carry out its own policies, or rather join up with one of the parties on the Left.
Meanwhile on the Left
Shelly Yachimovitch, the head of Labor announced this week that she would not enter a government led by Binyamin Netanyahu. She intends either to be Prime Minister or leader of the Opposition. The latter seems more likely.
Shelly’s word- there are two ways: Either I form the government, or I lead the Opposition.
If Yachimovitch keeps her word, it narrows down Netanyahu’s choice of parties to bring into the coalition, as I explained in my previous post, and makes it even more important for Netanyahu and Bennet to be on good terms.
Read previous updates on the Israeli elections:
The Day After the Elections (Dec 31st)
The Labor Party and the Center (Dec 4th)
Rollercoaster Politics (Nov 28th, 2012)
This Sunday (11.11)- Primaries in Meretz (Nov 9th)
Speculation (Nov 2nd)
What’s new on the Israeli election front? (Oct 21st)
Israeli General Election this January (Oct 10th)
Also, this might help figure out the different Israeli parties:
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