Opinion: Recent polls show Likud overtaking Blue & White for the first time in this election cycle and demonstrate how, unlike in previous ballots, this time the prime minister appears to have the upper hand
By Yuval Karni, YNET
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White Chairman Benny Gantz
In the last two elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White Leader Benny Gantz each served a very particular role.
Netanyahu was the underdog candidate warning that, “the rule of the right is in danger” while pushing a narrative that poor right-wing turnout would result in the left forming a government that is dangerous for Israel.
Gantz, a political rookie, twice led Blue & White to become Israel’s biggest party, radiating confidence and telling everyone “we are close to victory.”
Despite his lack of political prowess and the fact his party had been constructed almost from scratch, Gantz became the first and only candidate in the last decade to jeopardize Netanyahu’s grip on the premiership.
So, what changed in the third election cycle in 12 months?
Netanyahu realized his election campaign’s fatalistic approach was being perceived as unauthentic, and that his ability to “recruit” Israeli Arabs to help his campaign – like with his infamous “Arab voters are going to the polls in droves” comment or the failed camera bill – just doesn’t seem to do it for his right-wing following anymore. On the contrary, many of his supporters have felt like the premier’s actions have actually emboldened the Arabs to go to the polls in droves.
Netanyahu has realized another important thing about his constituents – they don’t like a defeatist campaign begging voters for help.
And quite frankly, this mindset change has worked wonders for Netanyahu so far – despite his ongoing legal woes, Netanyahu has managed to overtake his rival Gantz in the polls.
But what about Gantz, you may ask? It remains unclear.
The former IDF chief has actually done a lot better as a novice making his first steps in the political life, but after two grueling election cycles, a more-seasoned Gantz now finds himself subject to the critics’ slings and arrows.
Paradoxically enough, the political know-how he has gathered along the way seemed to only weaken his bid for prime minister.
For example, this time around, Gantz preferred to focus on a solo campaign instead of sharing it with his fellow Blue & White co-leaders, in part because of Yair Lapid’s withdrawal from their premiership rotation deal.In real times of crisis, like when the state prosecutor launched a probe into his failed Fifth Dimension startup company, the centrist leader struggled to fight back and only sunk deeper in the political mud.
In the few days left before the election, Blue & White will do what Netanyahu did the previous times – stand in the pulpit and scream how the skies are falling.
However, one should take these polls with a grain of salt.
The lead may be a light tailwind in the Likud campaign’s sails, but the road to Knesset is still long and winding.
It is still a deadlock – just like it was for the past two times.