The Dirt to Come in Israel’s Elections

By Anshel Pfeffer
November 26, 2008

Sometimes you can just sense that a political campaign is on a losing streak. I got that feeling on Monday, driving in to Tel-Aviv and seeing the new giant Kadima election posters on the Kibbutz Galuyot Road. There's something about Tzipi Livni's glum and unphotogenic face - and the inarticulate slogan: "What is Good for the Country". It sounds just as bad in Hebrew.

Kadima has the savviest PR team in the business. Eyal Arad and Lior Horev are not only Israel's premier spin-doctors, they are in demand around the world. Legendary ad-man Reuven Adler was the brains behind the transformation of Ariel Sharon from warmonger to cuddly grandpa. If these three can't make Livni look a bit sexier, then she's in trouble.

My premonition seems to have been confirmed by last night's Channel One poll. After a month in which Kadima was polling almost even with Likud, the governing party is now trailing by ten percent.

With 75 days to go, Binyamin Netanyahu can already chalk up one major achievement. His opponent has lost the momentum she gained from winning the Kadima primaries and has yet to find the trajectory that can boost her again.

Livni has one consolation in the poll. Both parties to her left, Labour and Meretz, are doing much worse. This means that Kadima still remains the main vehicle for anti-Netanyahu voters.

One guarantee over the next two months is that Kadima will go negative. With nothing much to say about their own candidate, they will try to make the elections a referendum over Netanyahu's suitability, making full use of the rich treasury of Bibi's gaffes and missteps over the years. It's going to get very dirty, very soon.


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