Whoever wins Israel’s next election will be a right-winger

Kahol Lavan needs to break sharply to the right, not just to attract the voters it needs, but also to make it easier for other right-wing parties to join a Gantz government

By Anshel Pfeffer , HAARETZ | Jan. 20, 2020 |

The candidate’s photograph was carefully choreographed. As Kahol Lavan leader and prime ministerial aspirant Benny Gantz visited the Ir David archeological center in East Jerusalem, and said that it was “the root of our presence here,” he was flanked by three selected candidates. To his right was Yoaz Hendel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s former communications chief, right-wing heartthrob and currently a Kahol Lavan MK. To his left was Hili Troper, another MK, religious educator and writer, and for the past five years one of Gantz’s closest advisors.

Between the three stood a less-familiar face. Tehila Friedman-Nahlon, a veteran religious feminist activist. Number 36 on Kahol Lavan’s list, Friedman-Nahlon isn’t even an MK (yet) but she was essential to the photo. Gantz’s campaigners wanted him in East Jerusalem to be surrounded by religious-looking candidates. She isn’t the only religious woman in the party, but unlike MK Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Friedman-Nahlon covers her hair and her prominent red hat completed the picture perfectly.

Benny Gantz is being recast in this election as a right-leaning religious-friendly leader. Last week he visited a joint religious-secular high school and a liberal-religious women’s college. In the coming weeks, he will be in soft-core settlements as well. The more stridently secular and left-wing candidates in the party like Yair Lapid, his right-hand Ofer Shelah, and former Herzliya mayor (and Meretz member) Yael German, will get much less of the limelight. Instead we’ll hear how Kahol Lavan also plan to establish Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, and unlike Netanyahu, they just won’t talk about it. And when the Central Election Commission will debate Joint List MK Heba Yazbak’s social media posts glorifying Palestinian militants, Kahol Lavan will join the right-wing parties in voting to bar her from running.

“We are reversing our strategy from the last election,” says one senior Kahol Lavan member. “It’s cynical and blatant, but it’s what we have to do to win. You can expect to see a lot more of this kind of window-dressing with our religious candidates in the frame with Gantz.”

This is Kahol Lavan’s third campaign in twelve months, and in each of the elections it has run with a different strategy. In April 2019, it pushed hard on the need to become the “largest party” and won 35 seats, equal to Likud’s number. But in doing so, it hoovered up three-quarters of Labor seats which went from the 24 it won in 2015 (when it ran as Zionist Union), to just six. Five months later, in the September election, with nothing to gain from the left, and the fear that Labor and Meretz could go under, it ran on the promise of delivering a “secular national-unity government.” But this was ineffective, as Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu promised this as well and was more convincing in its attacks on the ultra-Orthodox parties. Kahol Lavan lost two seats (though Likud did even worse, losing three).

Now that Kahol Lavan has established itself as the largest party and continues to lead Likud in the polls by a small margin, its leaders and strategists are finally making a serious effort to do what they should have started on their first attempt last year, and target Likud’s soft-underbelly – the ten percent of Israeli voters who consider themselves right-wing but really don’t want Netanyahu to remain prime minister. A few of them already voted Kahol Lavan last year. Others stuck with Likud or voted Yisrael Beiteinu. Some stayed at home.

The wavering voters of this election are all on the soft-right. They don’t like any of the options on offer. They’re fed up with Netanyahu. They find Lieberman unpalatable, and they’ve been told that Gantz is a left-winger. As many as twelve seats could be in play. Five or six for them moving to Kahol Lavan would be enough for a sizable lead over Likud this time, and new coalition-building options after the election.

Netanyahu branded Gantz in the first election of 2019 as “weak left.” It didn’t entirely work, as the results showed. But the left-wing tag has remained with at least some right-wing voters.

Kahol Lavan needs to break sharply to the right, not just to attract the voters it needs, but also to make it easier for other right-wing parties like Yisrael Beiteinu, Naftali Bennett’s Hayamin Hahadash, Shas, and perhaps even a post-Netanyahu Likud to join a Gantz government.

Gantz has kept his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sufficiently vague since becoming a civilian five years ago that he can still be convincingly portrayed as right-of-center, and present his party as a slightly more moderate and benign version of Likud, just without Netanyahu’s corruption. Kahol Lavan is a center-right party anyway – its hodgepodge list of candidates includes enough ex-Likudniks and even refugees from Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi to justify that label.

To soften the secular image, Kahol Lavan will remind voters that Gantz spent the first eight years of his schooling in religious institutions, including a couple of years at Or Etzyon, the yeshiva headed by Rabbi Chaim Drukman, the spiritual leader of religious Zionism. In many ways, he is much closer to the religious community than Netanyahu.

Either way, whoever wins this election, will be a right-winger.

January 21, 2020 | 7 Comments » | 469 views

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  1. I am troubled that everyone commenting on Israpundit seems to have forgot all about the Israel elections, now only 31 days away. The polls seem to suggest the trend is in favor of Blue-White. The majority of voters eem to believe that Netanyahu cannot continue in office now that he has been formally indicted. From today’s Arutz Sheva:

    New poll: Likud trailing 3 seats behind Blue and White – despite Trump peace plan
    Poll shows new elections may end in a draw, nearly half of Israelis want to see annexation of Judea and Samaria before elections.

    MK Benny Gantz and PM Binyamin Netanyahu
    MK Benny Gantz and PM Binyamin Netanyahu
    Yehonatan Welcer and Eitan Elhadaz/ TPS
    A new poll published Friday morning by Maariv has found that if elections had been held this week, the center-left Blue and White party would have received three more Knesset seats than the Likud.

    The poll, conducted by Panels Politics, gave the right-religious and center-left blocs 56 seats each. Yisrael Beytenu, which has refused to join either bloc, received eight seats.

    The Joint Arab List came in third, with 13 Knesset seats, followed by the haredi UTJ and Shas parties, with eight seats each. Yamina and the leftist joint list received seven seats each.

    When asked about US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” 40% of Israelis said the plan is good for Israel, while 27% said it is good for both sides, including the “Palestinians.” Another 16% said the plan is bad for Israel, 14% said it is bad for the “Palestinians” and 3% said it is good for the “Palestinians.”

    Meanwhile, 53% of Israelis believe that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cannot continue in his position now that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has submitted the indictments to the court. Thirty-nine percent believe Netanyahu can continue as prime minister, while 8% have no opinion on the matter.

    On the issue of sovereignty, 46% of voters see the issue of annexation as urgent and necessary before the March elections, while 31% oppose annexation and 23% have not yet formed an opinion.

    The poll included 537 participants from the Panel4All platform, who represent the adult Israeli population, both Jews and Arabs. It has an error margin of 4.4%.

    The current poll contradicts a poll conducted Tuesday night by Direct Polls, which showed the Likud leading with 35 Knesset seats, compared to Blue and White’s 33. That poll also gave the right-religious bloc 58 seats – close to a majority – while the center-left bloc dropped to 55 seats and Yisrael Beytenu dropped from eight to seven.

  2. “Many polls are faked.” From Israel Hayom. a veteran Israel pollster named Yitzhak Katz says that many polls in Israel are faked in one way or another.

    Katz pulls no punches. “Many polls have been a fraud,” he says. “This is particularly common in municipal elections, but also in national election polls and in the runup to various elections in unions.” in his book he provides examples of fraudulent polling in various local elections, but also in the April 2019 elections, when someone created a fake poll and falsely claimed his institute had conducted it. The “poll” claimed that Zehut, a libertarian right-wing party, was expected to win eight seats.

    Q: How common are those fake polls? Has this been evident in this current campaign?

    “I am sure that it’s happening now. It is very easy to create a fake poll. It is primarily done through social media, and it happens quite often. Today people don’t just fake polls, they also have no shame in admitting doing it. The most updated method is through an organized effort to plant respondents into online panels. Unlike past methods of fraud, you don’t wait for polls to publish and then manipulate the results, you just plant your preferred respondents into the polls to begin with.”

    Q: How do they do that?

    “There are about four or five serious samples in Israel that have tens of thousands of registered respondents. Each one of those samples is created through online recruitment of people who are willing to take part in polls. They willingly provide important information on themselves. This is how pollsters such as myself know the degree to which they are representative of society. They are rewarded financially for their time. This is how a real pollster knows his or her advantages and disadvantages. All of us know what we miss in our respondent pools and what needs to be corrected. Usually, it means we need more haredi or Arab respondents, as well as older respondents. But in recent years, more and more parties and other groups have tried to put their own constituents as respondents through an organized effort, or through a trickle, signing up their would-be respondents through the web.”

  3. Blue/White is a centrist party. It has some truly right wingers like (Telem,:Yaalon, Zvi Hauser), there are leftists in part in the Yesh Atid faction of Blue/White.

    The party has declared its support for Trump’s peace plan. The response to this by the Arab parties Joint List is that they will no longer recommend Gantz to be Prime Minister after the next election. So the math who will be recommended will be different this election. If the voting ends up similar to the last elections and current polls the groupings follow approximately as below:

    Right Wing & Religious: Likud/UTJ/Shas/Yamina ~57

    Center & Left: Blue/White + Labor/Meretz 43

    Yisrael Betenyu ~7

    Arab Joint List 13

  4. According to Arutz Sheva,The latest poll (2-20-20) shows Likud in the lead for the first time with 33 seats to Blue-White with 31.”Poll: Right strengthens as Blue and White falls to 31 seats
    Likud becomes largest party as Blue and White falters in latest poll by Direct Polls.”

    jump to content
    Donald Trump
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    News Briefs1:12 AM Tsunami of commandments: how to connect to G-d? 12:51 AM State Attorney orders criminal probe into Gantz’s former company 12:15 AM First Palestinian Arab infected with coronavirus 11:58 PM Shas MK blasts Gantz over criticism of Chief Rabbi11:36 PM IDF soldiers open fire at Arab who tried to run them over 11:07 PM ZOA chairman: We need to be one strong body 11:02 PM Major meeting of Jewish Agency set for Sunday, Feb. 23, in Tel Aviv10:50 PM “Reject the ideology that Hatikvah represents”. Opinion 10:49 PM IDF did not fabricate number of ultra-orthodox soldiers10:29 PM US Secretary of State calls Iran’s electoral process a sham10:21 PM Listen: ‘The Beatles Israel – Vote Bibi 2020’
    MainAll NewsInside IsraelPoll: Right strengthens as Blue and White falls to 31 seats

    Poll: Right strengthens as Blue and White falls to 31 seats
    Likud becomes largest party as Blue and White falters in latest poll by Direct Polls.
    Arutz Sheva Staff, 20/02/20 19:42

    Direct Polls poll
    Direct Polls polltwitter
    A poll conducted by the Direct Polls Institute shows that if the elections were held today (Thursday), the Likud would the largest party in Israel with 33 seats, followed by the Blue and White party with 31 seats.

    The Joint Arab List would win 14 seats, followed by the Labor-Gesher-Meretz list with ten seats.

    Shas would win nine seats, Yamina eight, and United Torah Judaism eight.

    The Yisrael Beyteinu party would receive seven seats.

    The Otzma Yehudit party would fail to clear the electoral threshold.

    The poll shows a significant decline for the Blue and White party, which has consistently polled ahead of the Likud party. The left-wing parties would win 41 seats while the right-wing and haredi parties would win 58 seats, a small increase over previous polls. No side would be able to form a coalition without Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beyteinu party.

    Likud, poll, blue and white, 2020 elections

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  5. I had intended only to print a brief quotation from the above article, not the whole article or much the less other stuff on the same page. My computer skills are imperfect, and somehow I was unable to remove the extraneous stuff. I will be careful that it doesn’t happen again, Ted.

  6. @ adamdalgliesh:When you copy and paste it copies all of the stuff. Adds and all. So then you have to go to the edit feature on Israpundit and delete the crap you do not want. It makes what you post lots of times unreadable.

  7. “One can presume that Gantz’s speech had been reviewed by his advisors. (It has become increasingly clear that Gantz experiences difficulty whenever the need arises for him to speak.) His first comment was about the empty room that faced him, and therefore was spontaneous. “Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentleman—those who are here,” Gantz began. “I will make a positive note of Ofir Katz, Moshe Abutbul, and Minister Bennett for their presence. This is supposed to be the holiday of the Knesset, but I am not sure that the number of people in attendance properly reflects the original intent to mark the holiday of the Knesset.” It was Tu B’Shevat, the “birthday” of the Knesset, but I did not find this statement comprehensible in the slightest.

    This week, Gantz also participated in a series of interviews, in what was effectively a media blitz. He had a long list of preconditions, including the venue for those interviews (in an office that has been prepared for him and is remarkably similar in appearance to the prime minister’s office) and the identities of his interviewers. Time after time, Gantz stammered and faltered as he spoke. It was astounding!

    This is a quote from an article in Yated.com, a haredi newspaper.


    Troubling that a future Prime Minister of Israel may be inarticulate. Yes, Moses was too, but that was a long time ago!

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