For a minute there, I thought that Channel 10’s Knesset correspondent, Nadav Perry, was about to start dancing. One could almost sense his excitement as he announced that parliamentary elections are upon us. It was contagious. Soon even the elders of the tribe, Yaron London and Motti Kirschenbaum, could feel the adrenaline coursing through their veins. Forget about mundane news items like the never ending chronicles of Micha Lindenstrauss or social workers turned child molesters, the elections are here- Hava Nagila!
Not all politicians were as delighted by the decision to call early elections. Newly elected Kadima chairman, Shaul Mofaz, would rather have had a few more months of butting heads with Netanyahu before polls open. Recent surveys show that under Mofaz’s lead, Kadima is headed for disaster and would win approximately 10 seats in the Knesset as opposed to its current 28.
But the man of the hour is without a doubt Prime Minister Netanyahu. A survey published Thursday in the Haaretz newspaper shows that a whopping 48% of Israelis believe that Netanyahu is the right man for the job. The Prime Minister, who narrowly won the elections in 1996, and was booted out of office in 99′, has never before been so popular amongst Israeli voters. Surveys estimate that in the next election, the Likud party will become the largest in the Knesset growing from 27 mandates to around 31.
Despite the fact that the Likud party has been in power for three years, the Netanyahu campaign will not be a positive one. Its political ads will not resemble Reagan’ s “it’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history”.
In fact, the opposite is true.
The Likud strategy will focus on the fear factor. Terrifying scenarios will be played out on our television screens. Turmoil in Egypt and the annulment of the Camp David peace accord, Syrian chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands, rocket attacks from the north, south east and west and of course, the Iranian bomb. This campaign will adopt Hillary Clinton’s “it’s 3 AM and a phone is ringing” in the Prime Minister’s office. Something is happening in the world. Who do you want to answer that call?
Former TV personality turned statesman, Yair Lapid, also stands to gain much from the early elections. Lapid will brand himself as the champion of the over-burdened Israeli middle class, thereby appealing to the masses who protested last summer against “social injustice”. Yair will promise them change: A change in the allocation of budgetary funds, a change in national priorities and a changed society in which the ultra orthodox carry a part of the load. In his first press conference since entering politics, Lapid said: friends, Haredim, countrymen – it’s time for all to get under the stretcher.
Following in his father’s footsteps, the former Channel 2 anchorman is most likely to be the default vote of many young secular Jews. Every election in recent history has had such a party. In 1992 it was Raful’s Tzomet, then it was Tommy Lapid’s Shinui and in 2006 it was the Senior Citizens’ party.
Yet it is the opinion of this writer that prospective voters should beware of the ides of Yair. His promises are especially hollow given that in the next Knesset the religious parties will, once again, serve as the political tie breakers thus insuring that their constituency remains dependant on others.
Lapid- change you shouldn’t believe in.
The interesting question is what will be the ticket chosen by Labor’s Shelly Yechimovich? Most polls show that under her leadership Labor may be staging a comeback, becoming the second largest party in the Knesset with Yechimovich as Leader of the Opposition.
If Netanyahu is Mr. Security, and Lapid is Mr. Secularity, how will Mrs. Yachimovich brand herself? One word might suffice-Hope.
Hope that the Arab spring could lead to discourse rather than hate. Hope that cooler heads will prevail, be it in Egypt, Tunisia or the Gaza strip. Hope that a peaceful solution to the conflict with the Palestinians can still be reached. Hope that Israelis still believe that life is more precious than land.
And if the elections boil down to Labor’s Hope vs. Likuds’ Fear- then anything can happen.