Campaign to the Right, Rule to the Left

Posted: November 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off
Peres, Bush, Livni

Peres, Bush, Livni

The right wing smells blood. While the left and center parties are sitting still, wondering what will be the main issue of the upcoming general election (the economy? The peace process? government corruption?) on the right, new parties are being born and retired politicians along with their retired ideas are coming back from the cold, as if the year was 1998. The reason is simple: everybody reads the polls – predicting more than 30 MKs to the Likud and between 60 to 70 MKs to the right block – and everyone wants in.In the Likud the big news are the return of Bennie Begin (son of the late PM Menachem Begin) who left the Netanyahu government angrily in 1997, in account of the Hebron accord. Begin said some harsh things about Netanyahu (“If I had to chose who to believe, Bibi or [MK Ahmed] Tibi, I’d have no reason to prefer the former”), but the electoral promise of this election presented him with an opportunity even he couldn’t resist. Begin is an asset to the Likud, no doubt. He’s remembered as a “clean” and honest politician, untainted by the Sharon-Olmert politics of recent years. However, his radical hawkish views might present Netanyahu with a problem later on.

Another new member of the Likud is Brigadier General Miri Regev, former spokeswoman of the IDF. The public opinion on her is mixed at best, because Regev is identified with the failure of the second Lebanon war. Another retired Brigadier General who expressed his will to join the Likud is MK Effi Eitam, who was elected to the Knesset as part of the radical Ihud Leumi Party. Eitam might bring Netanyahu a few votes from the right, but he also presents him with a problem – a Likud with Eitam will make it easier on Labor and Kadima to portray it as an extreme Right-wing party, making it lose ground in the center of the political map. This problem might be solved by a possible endorsement by Yuval Rabin, which was reported in the Israeli media this week. Yuval Rabin is the son of the late PM and hero of “the peace camp” Itzhak Rabin, and the perfect candidate to clear Netanyahu of any radical image.

Altogether, I believe Netanyahu has learned the lesson of his miserable first term in the prime minister office. He knows that in Israel you have to campaign to the right and rule to the left. Right-wing coalitions can’t survive: the minute the PM starts any sort of peace talks, his partners will bring him down. It happened to Yitzhak Shamir, to Ariel Sharon (who lost control over his own Likud party) and to Netanyahu himself. This time, It is more than likly that Netanyahu will try to build a coalition with Kadima and even Labor. But first he has to win the election.

Israel Beitenu is the other emerging power on the Right. Its leader, Avigdor Liberman, promotes what looks like the only solution the Right has to offer to the Palestinian problem: he is willing to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank on one condition – an exchange of territories that will keep the big settlements under Israeli regime, while including in the Palestinian state a few Arab cities which are currently within the Israeli borders. Liberman is a dangerous man: his ideas harvest hatred between Jews and Arabs. He makes many Israelis delegitimize the Arab-Israeli citizens and their rights. He also has the habit of making insulting remarks and even threats towards Arab leaders in the region. With the current nationalistic and even racist atmosphere in Israel, he is getting stronger and I believe he can achieve up to 15 MKs in the next Knesset. It will be hard for him to go beyond that: he is a Russian immigrant, and racism works in many ways.

The rise of Liberman should also worry the Ihud Leumi party (the name means “national unity” in Hebrew). Ihud Leumi was a coalition of four extreme Right wing, mostly religious, parties: Mafdal (the national religious front), Tkuma, Moledet and a party of former Mafdal members. All four have decided last week to unite completely. Currently they are searching for a new name, and a national figure to lead them after Effi Eitam had left them (they weren’t too happy with him anyway). The fact that another MK has left and formed his own party – MK Arie Eldad – won’t make life easier on them either. “The ideological Right” – as all these movements are sometimes referred to – is experiencing problems gaining ground with mainstream secular voters. I see it as part of the crisis in the religious right and the settlement movement; Maybe I’ll elaborate on this issue in the future.

As for the two Hasidic parties on the Right block – Shas and Yahadut Hatorah – nothing major is happening with them lately. Shas is running a bit low in the polls (around 10 MKs), and from what I gather, they are having problems with the secular Sepharadic public who used to vote for them in great numbers. But

as I wrote before, Shas always under performs in the polls.

Update: Yuval Rabin was on “Meet the Press” on channel 2 today, just hours before the annual memorial service commemorating his father at Rabin square. He didn’t deny the reports on him considering to endors Netanyahu, but avoided declaring any final decision. When asked how could he possibly support the man who played such a major role in spreading hate against his father and creating the atmosphere that led to his murder, Rabin answered that “things have changed”. Indeed they have.

Update #2: Dan Meridor, a highly popular former MK and minister for the Likud, who left the party because of differences with Netanyahu, announced his return to the Likud. Things are looking good for Bibi.

Today’s Polls 10/31

Posted: October 31st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s the first weekend since the general election for the Knesset was announced, and we have three new polls: in “Haaretz”, the “Jerusalem Post” and the new metro paper “Israel Hayom”. All three polls reflect higher support for the right wing block than the “Maariv” poll from the midlle of the week. On Israel Hayom both blocks have exactly 60 MKs. Haaretz gives a 61-59 advantage to the right over the center-left block. The Jerusalem Post gives the right a 64-56 advantage, with Kadima and Likud tied at 27 and 14 going to Labor. For some reason, the Post didn’t publish the results for the other parties.

The center-left block will be lead by Tzipi Livni, except for the unlikely event of the Labor party getting the same number of MKs (or more) as Kadima, in which case Ehud Barak will lead this block. Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads the right wing block, has the upper hand in the coalition game to begin with, since the non-Zionist Arab MKs, which are part of the left-center block, are not considered an eligible part of the government to come. One should also note that we count the Green Party as part of the center-left block, though it might join the right wing after the election. More on the two blocks and on the process of coalition making in future posts.

Here are the Haaretz and Israel Hayom polls:


Kadima 31 30 29

Likud 31 31 12

Labor 10 13 19

Israel Beitenu 11 8 11

Shas 10 10 12

Arab Parties (*) 11 10 10

Ihud Leumi 3 6 9

Meretz 5 5 5

Yahadut Hatorah 6 5 6

Green Praty 2 2 -

Gil (senior citizens) – - 7

Right Block (Likud + Israel Beitenu + Shas + Ihud Leumi + Yahadut Hatorah) 61 60 50

Left-Center block (Kadima + Labor + Meretz + Arab Parties + Green/Gil) 59 60 70

Polls published in Israel reflect answers given by likely and decided voters. In many cases they won’t even note the likely-unlikely voters rate, nor the decided-undecided. That is the case with the Haartez poll. Israel Hayom’s poll has 30 percent (!) of people who are not decided or that refused to answer the poll. The Jerusalem Post poll found that 17 percent of the respondents are undecided.

* Most pollsters put the 3 major Arab parties (Hadash, Balad and Raam) into one category (“Arab Parties”). Haaretz’s poll, however, gives Hadash 6 MKs, Balad 3 and Raam 2.


Today’s Poll, 27.10

Posted: October 27th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Polls | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The paper I work for, Maariv, published the first poll for the upcoming election. Here are the results:

Kadima: 31 Members of Knesset

Likud: 29 MKs

Israel Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman’s party), Labor, Arab Parties (Hadash + Balad + Raa’m): 11 MKs each

Shas (Sephardic orthodox): 8 MKs

Ihud Leumi (the right wing front): 7 MKs

Meretz (left wing liberal party): 5 MKs

Yahadut Hatorah (Ashkenazi orthodox): 4 MKs

Green Party (not present in the current Knesset): 3 MKs

The magic number in the Knesset is 60 (out of 120 seats). This poll gives the center-left (Kadima + Labor + Meretz + Arabs + Green) a block of 61 MKs, meaning Tzipi Livni will have the upper hand in the battle to form the next government.

However, there are a few things to consider:

First, the left and center usually underperform in the election (or, more accurately, over perform in the polls), and given the current political atmosphere, it is hard to see Livni get over the 30 mark, which is still better than Ehud Olmert did.

Second, Shas hasn’t gotten bellow 10 since the 1992 election, and it’s not going to happen this time either.

Third, Liberman hasn’t reached his full potential, which should be around 14-15 MK. With his anti Arab rhetoric, he has the ability to take votes not only from Likud, but also from Kadima and even Labor.

If I had to guess today, I would estimate the right-religious block crossing the 60, even by as much as 5-6 seats. But we still have a lot of time before the election. For now, it’s clear that Livni is going into the campaign much stronger than one could expect, given her failure to form a government.

By the way, the same pollster (Teleseker) just ran a survey in Israel on the upcoming US presidential election. The winner: John McCain, by a 12% margin. Exactly as in Texas.