It is Now in the Hands of the Voters
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Political Campaigns in Israel have many differences from American elections including their length (usually under three months) and the nature of advertising (much more limited and controlled). In addition, unlike in the U.S., Israel polls cease several days before the actual election, so the final polls released on Friday’s showing an approximately a four seat lead for the Zionist Union will be the last that Israeli voters will receive before they cast their ballots on Tuesday. Not until the votes are tallied will it be clear if the trend away from Netanyahu continued; yet several things are obvious already as Bibi approaches his Waterloo.
*From numerous perspectives it is clear that Israelis want a change from Netanyahu. It remains to be seen whether that change will be personal—rejecting Bibi but moving to more rightist parties—or rejecting Bibi and moving to the left because Bibi neglected so many domestic issues at the cost of funding increased settlement activity. Alternatively, will Bibi end up being the Prime Minister again because the Zionist Union could not cobble together a viable coalition?
*If Bougie and the Zionist Union gain the most seats and are asked to form a Government it may well come down to whether the Herzog/Livni team will opt to bring in the charedi parties or the Joint Arab List as coalition members. (The problem is that Livni once refused to form a Government if it required her to include the charedi parties. The other problem is that the Joint List has announced that it will not join a Government.)
*There is an interesting phenomenon appearing among right-wing American Jews. On the one hand, they are incredulous that Israeli voters even would consider selecting Herzog over Netanyahu. On the other hand American Zionists have always preached that only Israeli citizens vote because they put their lives on the line for their country; their opinions are the only ones that should count. Now, when many Israelis appear to want a change from Bibi–many Israelis considering opting for a move to the center-left—these same Americans are suggesting that American Jews know better what is in Israel’s best interest.
*The Israeli public believes that while even if Bibi may be correct on the potential Iran agreement, his trip to the U.S. was a political campaign mistake; for the damage done to U.S.-Israel relations; and even his for position on the negotiations.
*It is beginning to appear that Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, which is being projected to win eight Knesset seats, could end up being the king-maker or deal broker for the next Government. Kahlon, together with former Israel Ambassador Michael Oren at the top of Kulanu’s list, could be in a position to make serious demands if they were to join a Herzog led coalition, conceivably with senior cabinet Knesset positions for both of them.