Did Moshe Kahlon’s ‘sane right’ voters revolt against Netanyahu?
Likud absorbed Kulanu. It doesn't seem to have helped

Did Moshe Kahlon’s ‘sane right’ voters revolt against Netanyahu?

In six different cities, an analysis of voting figures shows, the merger with Kahlon’s Kulanu did not boost Likud, while Labor, Yisrael Beytenu and even Shas rose instead

Simona Weinglass is an investigative reporter at The Times of Israel.

Backdropped by Jerusalem's Old City Walls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) holds a press conference with Moshe Kahlon, January 21, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Backdropped by Jerusalem's Old City Walls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) holds a press conference with Moshe Kahlon, January 21, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Ahead of the April 2019 national elections, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party campaigned under the slogan “Yamin shafui,” or “sane right-wing.” In a February 25 Facebook post, Kahlon explained what he meant by this.

“Sane right means being patriotic but also statesmanlike. Sane right means caring for society and not being estranged from the Other. Sane right means respecting the law and the supremacy of the rule of law even when it’s uncomfortable.”

These statements could have been understood as a jab at Likud and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was coming under intense criticism for brokering a merger of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party and other religious-nationalist parties. Netanyahu’s coalition partners were also reported at the time to be considering introducing a bill that would grant him immunity from prosecution, a move that Kulanu opposed.

Not long after, Kulanu garnered a disappointing four seats in the April 9 election, down from the 10 it won in 2015, and a greatly weakened Kahlon merged his party with the Likud.

“We have decided that in the event that the elections for the 22nd Knesset are moved up, the Kulanu party will run on a joint list with Likud in the elections,” Finance Minister Kahlon announced on May 28.

“With Kahlon, we will receive 40 seats,” declared a jubilant Netanyahu. In the April 9 election, Likud party had won 35.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, in Jerusalem, on March 11, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

This prediction did not materialize. The Likud won only 31 seats on September 17, near-final tallies show.

The Times of Israel examined the breakdown of voting in six cities, three Likud strongholds and three center-left leaning towns, in an attempt to understand how the merger affected voting patterns. In all six towns, the percentage of Likud voters remained unchanged or dropped slightly, despite the merger with Kulanu. Yisrael Beytenu improved its position in all six. Labor gained voters in traditional Likud strongholds while the Democratic Union alliance did significantly better this time around in towns like Tel Aviv, Kiryat Tivon and Givatayim, where its core party, Meretz, has its base.

On Tuesday, the Likud did particularly well in the towns of Dimona, Kiryat Shmona and Sderot, where it garnered 55 percent, 53% and 42% of the vote respectively. These figures are almost unchanged from April, when Likud won 56% of the vote in Dimona, 53% of the vote in Kiryat Shmona and 43% of the vote in Sderot.

The parties that gained voters in all three cities are Labor, Yisrael Beytenu and Shas.

In Dimona, Labor rose from 2 percent in the last elections to 4 percent on Tuesday. Yisrael Beytenu rose from 6 to 8 percent and Shas rose from 8 to 12 percent.

In Kiryat Shmona, Labor went from 2 percent to 5 percent, Yisrael Beytenu went from 9 to 10 percent, and Shas went from 6 to 9 percent.

A Labor Party activist outside a polling station in Sderot, September 17, 2019 (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

In Sderot, Labor went from 3 to 8 percent, Yisrael Beytenu went from 10 to 12 percent and Shas went from 8 percent to 10 percent.

Meanwhile, in the center-left cities, Likud’s percentage of the vote remained unchanged while that of Blue and White declined slightly. Labor’s percentage of the vote declined in Kiryat Tivon (from 13 % to 11%) and Tel Aviv (9% to 7%), while remaining unchanged in Givatayim (10 %). The parties that improved their performance in these three cities were the Democratic Union, which did better than its precursor Meretz did 5 months ago, as well as Yisrael Beytenu.

The Democratic Union won 15 percent of the vote in Kiryat Tivon (as opposed to 10 percent won by Meretz in April), 14 percent of the vote in Tel Aviv (compared to 9 percent that went to Meretz in April), and 11 percent in Givatayim (as opposed to 7 percent in April.)

Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu went from 1% to 4% in Kiryat Tivon, 1% to 4% in Tel Aviv, and 1% to 4% in Givatayim.

Incidentally, meanwhile, much of the unprecedented support enjoyed by Meretz from Arab citizens in April appears to have dried up five months later. The Arab town that gave Meretz the most votes was Kafr Kassem, where 26 percent of the vote went to Meretz. The sixth candidate on Meretz’ list, Issawi Frej, is from that town, but he appears not to have made it into the Knesset this time.

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