Campaigning heats up eight days ahead of election

What happened: As the election campaign enters the final stage, parties are sharpening their messages to try and maximise their votes on Election Day.

  • At a campaign rally last night Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that anyone who has difficulty voting Likud should vote for the Religious Zionist Party.
  • Earlier yesterday, in his first campaign visit inside the West Bank, Netanyahu visited the outpost Givat Harel. He said: “I swear to you. If I create a strong right-wing government without a rotation, I will take care of the settlements and the authorisation of the young settlements.” (Young settlements are a euphemism for non-recognised outposts).
  • Meanwhile, the Religious Zionist Party are appealing for votes within the ultra-Orthodox sector, especially with younger men disappointment with United Torah Judaism.
  • Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, caused controversy late last week when he appeared on a daytime TV chat show and said he would take “the ultra-orthodox and Bibi on a wheelbarrow together to the rubbish dump”. He was widely criticised across the board for incitement.
  • Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, appears to be targeting the potential voters of the smaller parties within the centre-left block, primarily his former ally Blue and White, but also Labour and Meretz. Yesh Atid’s message states: “Parties with 5 seats don’t replace the government and parties with 6 don’t save democracy.”
  • The Labour Party has so far not targeted Lapid. A Labour source told Yediot Ahronot: “Lapid failed to win over right-wing voters to himself … he’s giving Bibi the government on a silver platter. If Lapid continues to act irresponsibly and undermines the possibility of replacing Netanyahu, the Labour Party won’t hesitate to use the campaign we prepared against Lapid about his zigzagging.”
  • Ofer Berkovitch, a Jerusalem City Councillor and candidate for New Hope, was accosted yesterday by Likud supporters while campaigning in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market. This was the second reported incident of Likud supporters targeting Gideon Saar’s supporters. On Saturday night a New Hope event was interrupted by Likud supporters with megaphones and eggs were thrown, injuring one person. Saar said afterwards, “Netanyahu has completely lost it. Bibi, I’m not afraid of you! In another ten days I’ll replace you.” 

Context: Lapid is appealing to voters inside the centre-left bloc in an effort break his party’s 20-seat ceiling.

  • Netanyahu is working inside the right-wing bloc by targeting voters of Naftali Bennett’s Yamina and to strengthen the Religious Zionist Party.
  • In the latest poll in Channel 13 News, Likud receives 28 seats, Yesh Atid: 20, Yamina: 11, New Hope: 9, Joint List: 8, United Torah Judaism: 7, Yisrael Beiteinu: 7, Shas: 6, Labour: 6, Religious Zionists: 6, Blue and White: 4, Meretz: 4, United Arab List: 4. Although Bennett remains uncommitted to either camp, if he were to endorse Netanyahu, this would give the pro-Netanyahu bloc and the anti-Netanyahu bloc 58 mandates each, with the United Arab List non-aligned.
  • Earlier in the campaign, in an effort to seal the merger of National Union and Jewish Power, Netanyahu agreed to a National Union representative to be placed on the Likud list. He also signed a surplus vote agreement with the Religious Zionist Party.
  • In parallel, Netanyahu also included a Muslim Arab on the Likud list to appeal to Israeli Arab voters.
  • According to a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 31 per cent of Arab Israeli voters said they want Netanyahu to remain prime minister, while 56 per cent said they do not. Among the Jewish population, 43 per cent support Netanyahu as leader, while 52 per cent do not.

Looking ahead: On Saturday night, the anti-Netanyahu protest movement is planning to hold its largest rally outside the Prime Minister’s residence. However, some commentators are warning that this will only help motivate Netanyahu supporters to vote on 23 March.

  • Legal experts are divided on what happens if Blue and White do not make it over the electoral threshold and Gantz is not re-elected. Can he continue to serve as alternate prime minister in the interim? Maariv notes the opinion of Professor Suzy Navot who believes he can, but other legal experts are less certain. The attorney general has refused to answer that question while it remains theoretical.

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