Election campaign enters last two weeks

What happened: Israeli party leaders have started to accelerate their campaigns, as the race enters its final two weeks before voting day.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun holding election rallies in an effort to maximise the right-wing turnout and win re-election. He told a gathering in Tiberius: “At this critical time in which we are emerging from the coronavirus, we need to decide in the upcoming elections who is going to be the prime minister to jumpstart the Israeli economy after the coronavirus — me, who has already extricated Israel from two economic crises as finance minister and as prime minister, or Yair Lapid, who was the most failed finance minister in Israeli history.”
  • His leading rival, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is running a more focused digital campaign as well as holding rallies over Zoom that are attended by thousands of people. He is also presenting a degree of modesty by not insisting that he serve as prime minister. Earlier this week he wrote in Haaretz that “ending Netanyahu’s rule is the principal goal, in my opinion. To achieve that I am prepared to give up on a lot, including my personal aspirations.”
  • Another potential candidate for prime minister is Naftali Bennett from the Yamina party. He is still hedging whether he would join a Netanyahu-led government or oppose him. He told Channel 12 News: “I’ve said unequivocally that we won’t serve under a prime minister from the left… the public ‘isn’t there,’ and that would be quite a distortion. The only place where Lapid is prime minister is in his own fantasies and in the spins generated by Netanyahu.” Noting public concerns, he has also stated there won’t be a fifth election.
  • The fourth potential candidate for prime minister, New Hope leader Gideon Saar, told i24 News: “I don’t have a problem with Lapid as a coalition partner. But what I’m saying is that he has tried to unseat Netanyahu in five elections, and he failed to replace the government time and again.”
  • Labour party leader Merav Michaeli says she is prioritising the “rehabilitation of Israeli democracy, return to the rules of the game, return to the voice of reason … to replace Netanyahu is not enough — we need to also replace ‘Netanyahuism’.”

Context: The re-opening of the economy following the successful vaccination drive has allowed political rallies to be held for the first time in this campaign.

  • According to the latest poll on Channel 13 News, the Likud has 29 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 5, Meretz 4, Blue and White 4, and the United Arab List 4.
  • According to this poll the pro-Netanyahu bloc has 47 seats, while the anti-Netanyahu bloc has 58. Both Yamina and United Arab List (15 in total) are considered non-aligned.
  • The result of the elections could hinge on which of the smaller parties make it over the electoral threshold.
  • According to a poll in Walla News yesterday there is also a relatively large number (16 per cent) of eligible voters who are still undecided.
  •  With the electorate facing their fourth election in two years, voter apathy and voter turnout could also be a decisive factor. Yediot Ahronot noted this morning that although the turnout at the last election was a relatively high at 71.5 per cent, there were over two million eligible voters that decided not to vote.

Looking ahead: Voting for Israel’s diplomats based overseas has now opened, with around 4,000 diplomats and their families eligible to vote.

  • Due to coronavirus, special arrangements are being made for those ill or in quarantine to be able to vote in COVID-secure voting stations. This is expected to affect around 12 per cent of the electorate and will make the exit polls less reliable. It will also delay the counting of the votes.
  • On the Saturday night before the election, the anti-Netanyahu protest movement is planning to hold its largest rally yet, with one of the organisers telling Maariv, “The purpose of the event is to motivate and to encourage people who want to see a change of leadership in the State of Israel to vote.”

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