It’s five days till elections and Israelis are drowning in statistics. No fewer than three polls were published in the last 12 hours — on Channel 10 last night, and in Maariv and Israel Hayom this morning — each painting a slightly different picture of the projected political map following Tuesday’s voting.
Members of Likud-Beytenu who went to bed after watching the evening news with nightmares of a slide to 32 Knesset seats, woke up to a cheery Maariv poll that gives them 37 (Israel Hayom predicts 35). Meanwhile, Yesh Atid members saw their support fall by 25% in just a few hours, from 11 seats yesterday to just eight this morning according to Maariv. Livni’s Hatnua party saw a similar dive from 9 to 5 seats overnight.
The good news for everyone, unless you happen to be a hardcore poll junkie, is that both Maariv and Israel Hayom write that today’s polls were the last they’d publish ahead of the elections, with Yedioth Ahronoth promising to publish its final poll tomorrow.
Predictions aside, the main headlines adorning the front pages of the Hebrew dailies this morning report on the prime minister’s response to critical comments attributed to US President Barack Obama regarding Israel’s settlement construction policy. Addressing reports that quote Obama as saying that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are,” a comment widely construed as criticism of the Israeli public’s preference for Netanyahu in the elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorts that “only the Israeli people will determine who best represent their interests.”
While Yedioth Ahronoth paints the exchange as “Yet another conflict with the US,” Israel Hayom depicts Netanyahu in a defiant light, telling Obama and the world that “Nobody will decide for the citizens of Israel.”
Yedioth on Page 8 features brief interviews with aspiring politicians whose borderline placement on their respective party lists means their job security for the next four years is as uncertain as the varying polls.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller, who fills the 33rd spot on the joint Likud-Beytenu, says he’s been in this situation before in 2006 and 2009, both times making it into the Knesset, and he can therefore sleep well at night.
Former science, culture and sports Minister Raleb Majadele, who is placed 17th on the Labor Party’s list, reports he has twice been left out of the Knesset and both times became an MK after other people resigned.
Former senior police officer Micky Levi, 11th on Yesh Atid’s list, dismisses the polls entirely, saying he believes in his party’s path. “I ignore the polls; my wife takes them more seriously,” says Levi.
Jewish Home’s Anglo No. 14 candidate Jeremy Gimpel says he’s optimistic about helping his party get the American immigrant vote.
Yesterday saw a handful of tragic and avoidable deaths and all the papers report on them: two cases of domestic abuse that ended with the husband killing the wife; a Jerusalem bar owner who was found lying in a pool of blood, stabbed to death; and a 3-year-old boy who died of swine flu.
But there is also good news. As Maariv reports on Page 25, for the first time in a decade, the Dead Sea recorded a rise in water levels. Last week’s storm reportedly filled the parched, salty lake with 10 centimeters of water.
Yedioth reports on its back page on a dramatic increase in the Golan Heights wild deer population. A recent count by wildlife rangers found the number of deer jumped from 183 to 264 in a year. Rangers credit the baby boom to actions taken on their behalf to reduce growth in natural predators’ birthrates in an effort to regain ecological equilibrium.
White House watch
Avraham Ben-Zvi writes in the opinion page of Israel Hayom on the messages coming out of the Oval Office, arguing that Obama’s recent statements can be seen as a gross interference in Israel’s elections, but can also be seen as a message to Israel supporters at home. “The US president’s harsh criticism of Israel’s serving prime minister is the opening shot in the battle over American public opinion and an attempt to redefine the standing of Israel supporters in the public and in Congress,” warns Ben-Zvi.
In Yedioth, meanwhile, former consul general to the US Alon Pinkas lays the blame for the deterioration in Israel-US ties at Netanyahu’s feet. “Netanyahu, in his arrogance and vulgarity, managed to shock the relationship by taking trust and credibility out of the equation. Since his on-camera sermon at the Oval Office, Netanyahu announced a de facto quarrel with the president of the US and since then has missed no opportunity to wrangle without cause or benefit.”