(February 24, 2020 / JNS) Israel has entered the home stretch of its third election within a year, and with polls showing some possible shifts in public opinion, the parties have begun their last-ditch efforts to gain votes.
Blue and White had maintained a lead of two to four seats in almost all polls during this election campaign. The party’s strategy had been to make sure they win a few more seats than Likud—a result it believes will force the president to charge leader Benny Gantz with trying to form a majority coalition. But two polls have shown that Likud now has more seats than Blue and White, according to Channel 12 at 34 to 33, and according to KAN at 35-34. The Channel 12 poll also showed Netanyahu widening his lead against Gantz 43 percent to 33 percent in the question of who is most qualified to be prime minister. That reality has reignited both parties in the last week.
Likud Knesset member Yoav Kisch told JNS that “the polls are showing that our bringing out the vote effort is working. There are a few hundred thousand Likud voters who didn’t vote last time. Our ministers and MKs are working with every branch in the country, and the prime minister is doing multiple events every night. We will continue this effort in order to accomplish two goals: to win more seats than Blue and White, and even more importantly, to try to get to 61 seats for the right-wing/religious bloc.”
The polls indicate that Netanyahu’s bloc is in the 56 to 58 range, making a 61-seat majority that would secure him as prime minister within reach, despite the fact that the last two rounds of elections failed to accomplish this.
Blue and White leaders are focusing on regaining their lead and building new momentum. Knesset member Boaz Toporovksy, who heads the party’s field effort, told JNS that more than 15,000 volunteers are canvassing shopping malls and major junctions to try to get more votes. They have a phone squad calling undecided voters who they view as “right-wing lite” in an attempt to convince them to vote Blue and White. They are also making sure that their teams in all 250 party branches are filling the last events for the party leadership and are prepared for their responsibilities on election day.
“We are working hard to make sure that these elections will be the last in this cycle,” Toporovksy told JNS. “Last time, we showed that Blue and White has the best election day team and plan, and that gave us the victory. The election day effort is what will bring us to a decisive victory and will break the stalemate this time around,” he affirmed.
Both Likud, and Blue and White, are fighting for the votes of the undecided in the right-wing sector. Blue and White’s message is focusing on the fact that Netanyahu cannot run the country while he has to be in court for his trial on corruption charges, which begins March 17.
Likud has been responding by declaring that even while in trial, Netanyahu can do a better job than Gantz. Likud has also promised a series of action items should they maintain the premiership, including moving forward with U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan; further construction in the settlements and Jerusalem; and even erasing the criminal records of Israelis convicted of possessing or using marijuana.
Complicating matter for Blue and White is the decision by acting state attorney Dan Eldad to open a criminal probe into Fifth Dimension, a now closed intelligence company that was chaired by Benny Gantz, over allegations of illegalities in securing a contract with the Israeli police. While Gantz is not a suspect in the case, Netanyahu has succeeded in convincing undecided swing voters that the Blue and White leader is not as clean as has been portrayed. In response, Blue and White has been contesting the matter with declarations about their zero-tolerance policy for corruption and their legislative plans to support this.
Despite all the herculean efforts on both sides to garner more votes, unless Netanyahu succeeds in bringing 61 seats to the right-wing religious bloc—regardless of who wins more votes—neither he nor Gantz has the ability to reach a majority.
This could mean—the expense and patience of Israeli voters notwithstanding—that a strong likelihood exists that the Jewish state will head to a fourth election, most likely to be held in September.
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