(March 4, 2019 / Israel Hayom) The Likud’s election campaign will see a concerted effort to siphon off votes from smaller right-wing parties and a head-on attack on the newly formed Blue and White Party, headed by former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
The decision was made during a 90-minute meeting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened with senior Likud officials, where he said Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision to summon him for a pre-indictment hearing due to his alleged corruption cost the Likud about two Knesset seats that went to Gantz’s party.
Likud officials said the eroding support has been a result of the governing party not being aggressive enough in its attack on Gantz. Hence, Netanyahu has concluded that Likud has to singularly focus on driving home the message of “Gantz is the left.”
Netanyahu reportedly said that “some on the right have bought into the bluff called Gantz and [co-leader] Yair Lapid, and now our job is to constantly remind people that they are left.”
Just hours after the meeting, Likud ministers went on the attack, saying that “Gantz prefers the Arabs, and that is why the elections are a choice between Bibi [Netanyahu’s nickname] and Tibi [referring to Ahmad Tibi, head of the Arab Party Ta’al].”
Netanyahu also wants the Likud to make it clear to voters that his party will not form a unity government with Blue and White, but rather form a right-wing coalition.
During the meeting, participants expressed concern that Blue and White’s recent surge in the polls could hurt Likud’s chances of getting the presidential nod to form a government, even if the overall right-wing bloc gets more seats.
Netanyahu warned that the wider the lead, the less likely it is that President Reuven Rivlin taps Netanyahu as the next prime minister. “You know it is going to be extremely hard for me to deal with the man sitting across the hill,” he said, referring to Rivlin’s residence.
The decision to target right-wing parties in an effort to boost Likud and erase Gantz’s lead was not an easy decision, particularly because some smaller parties on the right are teetering just over the electoral threshold.
Under the election rules, parties that do not garner 3.25 percent of the valid count, or four seats, do not enter the Knesset and their votes are not counted. Likud fears that some right-wing parties will not make it to the Knesset due to their low poll numbers, which will translate into more seats for the left.
But ultimately, Netanyahu ruled that the biggest threat is Gantz; therefore, attacking the small parties was fair game if it helps close that gap with the former military chief.
“We are now in an election campaign; every party fends for itself,” one participant said.