A day before Israelis head to the polls, officials and activists in some right-wing parties mounted a last-ditch effort to woo voters to the ballot boxes Monday in an attempt to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reelected.
Amid dire election predictions for Netanyahu’s Likud party, activists said they will engage in door-to-door campaigns Monday and Tuesday to encourage Likud supporters to get out and vote.
Surveys published Friday, the last day they were allowed to come out before the election, showed Likud polling three-to-four seats behind contender Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union, though still slightly better placed to form a coalition.
A night after a large right-wing rally in Tel Aviv during which Netanyahu called on voters to bolster Likud or lose him as prime minister, party activists said they would use Tuesday to launch targeted get-out-the-vote drives in Likud strongholds.
One initiative, for example, will involve busloads of Gush Etzion bloc residents converging on the city of Ashkelon to encourage residents to vote for right-wing parties.
“Everyone understands that these elections are fateful,” Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl told Nrg news website Sunday.
“The residents of Gush Etzion are fighting for their homes, and for the future of the settlements,” he said.
On Monday morning, Netanyahu attacked his rivals on the issue of Jerusalem, stumping for support in Jewish neighborhoods of the capital over the Green Line.
The right-wing incumbent has repeatedly accused Herzog and Zionist Union No. 2 Tzipi Livni of being ready to abandon Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its indivisible capital in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
“The important thing is to keep a unified Jerusalem,” he told Channel 2 news on the final day of campaigning for Tuesday’s election.
Netanyahu was to head to Har Homa, a neighborhood on Jerusalem’s southern outskirts where building began in 1997 during his first term as premier.
Construction at the site, which lies between Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and the southern West Bank, prompted the Palestinians to break off peace talks in protest at the threat to the contiguity of their hoped-for state.
In an interview with the Walla news website published Monday, Netanyahu accused Herzog and Livni of being “ready to give up, to bow their heads to any dictate, including to a nuclear deal with Iran.”
Herzog, whose Zionist Union bloc had a four-seat lead over Netanyahu’s Likud party in several of the final opinion polls of the campaign, has rejected the claims that he would be weak on Jerusalem.
Visiting the Western Wall, the holiest site at which Jews can pray, on Sunday, Herzog pledged to “safeguard Jerusalem and its residents in actions, not just words, more than any other leader.”
On Monday, former Labor prime minister Ehud Barak threw his support behind Herzog for the premiership, calling him a “considered, experienced and responsible” leader.
Barak beat out Netanyahu in the 1999 elections during the latter’s first term in government.
However some in the party reportedly expressed unhappiness over the endorsement, noting that Barak had split off from Labor in 2009 to form the Independence Party and align with Netanyahu.
The last minute pitch-making comes as the parties try to bolster their position in the hopes of having the best chance at forming a coalition once the dust settles after the election.
President Reuven Rivlin has said that he will confer the right to form a government on the leader with the best chances of assembling a coalition government, and not necessarily the head of the party with the greatest number of seats.
With the Zionist Union’s widening lead, a Netanyahu victory may not be assured, even with an overall right-wing bloc majority.
Analysts predict that a stream of traditional Likud voters will try their chances with other right-wing or centrist parties this time around — in the belief that Netanyahu will be elected in any case because he heads the right-wing bloc.
In an effort to inveigle voters back, Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that a Likud victory is by no means assured and that casting votes for other parties aligned with Likud could in fact lead to a win by the Zionist Union and the left.
The hawkish Jewish Home party — which analysts believe is siphoning off disaffected right-leaning Likud voters — countered Netanyahu’s remarks, with party head Naftali Bennett quipping Sunday that “we need a large [right-wing] bloc, not a large [right-wing] party.”
Bennett, who played guitar at the right-wing rally Sunday night, was also reportedly in emergency mode, sending a party-wide text message calling on activists to “stop the bleeding of votes back to Likud.”
Herzog too suspected a similar shift in voters away from the Zionist Union and toward Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party.
“We’re in competition with Yesh Atid. A vote for Yesh Atid, is a vote that will help Netanyahu,” the Zionist Union head told Channel 10 news Monday.
A prospective outcome in which the largest party is not chosen to form government is not without precedent.
Even though the centrist Kadima party under Tzipi Livni won 28 seats in the 2009 elections, it was Netanyahu, with 27, who became prime minister, because he could rely on the support of Yisrael Beytenu and other right-wing parties.
AFP contributed to this report