Election won't be decided by ideology

November 24, 2016 23:25

The main focus in this Israeli election is naturally on the contest between Benjamin Netanyahu and Isaac Herzog for the job of prime minister. But, if the polling is anything to go by, very few voters have actually moved between the parties they lead, Likud and Zionist Union. Instead, the identity of Israel's next leader will be determined by shifts between parties that are ideologically close to each other.

The sizes of the main electoral blocs - the right-wing and religious parties and those in the centre and on the left - have remained static since the last election. The bloc of parties likely to recommend Mr Netanyahu as their candidate for prime minister remains slightly larger, with Kulanu, the centrist party led by former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, keeping mum about its intentions.

Mr Herzog is focusing on Yesh Atid as the election nears. The party, which passed Labour in the polls in 2013 is still doing well. Zionist Union is deploying its new financial star, Prof Manuel Trajtenberg, to lambast Mr Lapid for failing to help the middle class in his two years as finance minister. Attracting voters away from Yesh Atid is the only way they can widen the gap over Likud.

For Mr Netanyahu, the key to closing that gap is attracting traditional Likudniks back from Kulanu, Habayit Hayehudi and Shas. He has one message for them: Israel is at risk of coming under a weak, defeatist government, incapable of standing up to international pressures.

Another key to the outcome will be the fate of small parties, perilously close to the new threshold of 3.25 per cent or four seats. Resolutely right-wing voters may worry that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu or Yachad are barely scraping over the threshold and vote for Jewish Home or Likud to prevent a centre-left government.

Those considering a vote for struggling Meretz, party of the Zionist left, are in a similar dilemma. Some are wondering whether their vote would be better used in boosting Mr Herzog's list. Others are weighing a solidarity vote for the Israeli-Arab Joint List, whose charismatic leader, Ayman Odeh, could emerge the new head of the opposition if Likud and Zionist Union form a unity government.

If Meretz is pushed out of the next Knesset, Mr Herzog has little chance of forming a coalition. Likewise, Yachad or Yisrael Beiteinu failing to cross the line would be disastrous for Mr Netanyahu.

November 24, 2016 23:25

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