Report: 14the week of Israeli election campaign

Election summary for August 29-September 6.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld ,

Ballot box voting poll station
Ballot box voting poll station

The election campaign continued in a fragmented way. Once again this week, security issues were temporarily more central rather than the election campaign. On Sunday September 1, the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah fired three anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military position and at a military ambulance on Israel's northern border. The IDF responded by firing artillery shells into southern Lebanon and launching an air strike against the cell responsible for the attack. Thereafter there was a tense quiet.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the ‘West Bank’ city of Hevron for a state ceremony. It marked 90 years since the 1929 massacre in which 67 Jews were killed by their Arab neighbors. Earlier in the week, Netanyahu visited Elkana, a Jewish community in Samaria. He said there that he intends to apply sovereignty over all settlements as part of the land of Israel and the state of Israel.

Netanyahu also announced plans for more international travel possibly to boost his election credentials. He is flying to the UK to meet the embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson and to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin. A visit to India to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi was, however, cancelled.

The Likud intends to bring a bill to the Knesset in the coming days to install security cameras at polling stations to film vote counting, not voting after reports of falsified tallies. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said that this would harm the free exercise of basic democratic rights. The Central Election Committee chairman, High Court Justice Hanan Melcer reacted that such a law would make it impossible for the election to run smoothly.

The Zehut party – after it was approved by an internal vote --- reached an agreement with Likud and withdrew from the election. Zehut leader, Moshe Feiglin has been promised a ministry by Netanyahu should Likud form the next government. Other promises Netanyahu made to Feiglin include the legalizing of medical cannabis and some economic reforms.

Yamina Knesset candidate Naftali Bennett, came out in favor of immunity from prosecution for Netanyahu. Education Minister Rafi Peretz – in second place on the Yamina List -- has changed the high school curriculum in a way that the Nationality Law will be taught in Grade 11 to all sectors of the population. It will also be included in matriculation examinations.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said that he would seek a coalition with Likud and Israel Beytenu -- without the haredi parties. Earlier in the week he had repeated that his party would not form a unity government with the Likud under Netanyahu if he is indicted. Gantz also said that if he becomes prime minister and decides to withdraw from any territory he would bring that decision to the public for a national referendum.

Joint list candidates Ahmad Tibi and Yousef Jabareen said that they will not enable Blue and White to create a government without accepting the Arab sectors’ demands. The Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said that, contrary to his earlier remarks, he would not join a coalition led by Blue and White.

In the meantime polls continue without a significant change in trends. The April elections have, however, shown that polls are unreliable. That can partly be explained by the fact that many voters have not yet made up their minds for whom to vote, while some are untruthful about their intentions to pollsters. This time much of the outcome will also depend on those who have decided not to vote. Yet, if one compares the first five polls after the dissolution of the Knesset on May 30th, and the five most recent polls by September 4, the differences give some indications.

In the first five polls – when Kulanu merged with it – the Likud received between 36 and 37 seats, close to the 38 they held together in the 21st Knesset. Blue and White received between 33 and 34 seats also close to the 35 seats they held.

In the last five polls, Likud however had fallen to an average 31 seats while Blue and White was at the same number.

The haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, each had 8 seats in the 21st Knesset. They both currently poll at about 7 seats. The New Right and the United Right Wing lists together polled around 10 seats after the dissolution of the Knesset, although the New Right did not pass the electoral threshold. They have since merged into Yamina. This list in the five most recent polls, also receives around 10 seats.

Labor received 6 seats in the April election. In the first four out of five polls it received 4 seats. In one poll it didn't pass the election threshold. Since then Amir Peretz has replaced Avi Gabbay as the party’s chairman and a joint list has been established with Orly Levy-Abekasis’ Gesher party. Currently this polls 6 seats.

Meretz was polling around 5 seats after the dissolution of the Knesset compared to its actual 4 seats. It is now part of the Democratic Union list which polls 7 seats. This list also includes Ehud Barak’s new Israel Democratic Party, former Labor MK Stav Shaffir and some other defectors from that party.

YIsrael Beytenu seems to be the main beneficiary of the new elections in the polls. It has 5 seats in the outgoing Knesset. It polled between 8 and 9 seats after the Knesset's dissolution. It currently polls around 10 seats.

The parties supporting Netanyahu had together 60 seats in the dissolved Knesset. This figure has not been achieved in a single poll since the dissolution. The highest they reached was 58 seats in only two of the many tens of polls conducted.