Poll positions: 7 things to know for April 8
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Poll positions: 7 things to know for April 8

With a day to go until ballot boxes open, parties are getting in their last licks, and fretting over what dirty tricks may be done to them

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz rides a motorcycle during a campaign event in Tel Aviv, on April 7, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz rides a motorcycle during a campaign event in Tel Aviv, on April 7, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

1. Pressblitz bop: With a day to go before elections, there is a total blitz on the media by everyone running for office and their mother.

  • That includes Benjamin Netanyahu, who seems to be following his script for 2015 and suddenly happy to give Israeli media the time of day, after years of shutting them out.
  • On i24 and in Israel Hayom, he doubles down on refusing to evacuate settlements, describing the act as “ethnic cleansing.”
  • Speaking to Army Radio, he says appointing Moshe Ya’alon defense minister and Benny Gantz IDF chief were mistakes, and vows “there will be no unity government.”
  • Hopping back to Channel 12, where he’s already appeared twice, he says you can’t believe what people say before the election about coalition negotiations, and appears to deny that he has embarked on a panic campaign to snag votes from the right, instead saying that the push is meant to convince right-wing voters who think they have the election in the bag to get out and vote.
  • “Likud people and those on the right are complacent. Some of them are staying home. They need to get out and vote,” he says.

2. The right is not all right: Nonetheless, many on the right are not taking kindly to the push.

  • On Facebook, New Right leader Naftali Bennett accuses Netanyahu of secretly plotting to decimate the right and enter into a pact with Blue and White.
  • “Netanyahu’s goal has two stages: Stage 1: To obtain the votes of the right and those who love the Land of Israel, at our expense. Stage 2: To establish a ‘peacenik’ government with Gantz on the basis of the Trump Plan,” he charges, sounding not at all like a conspiracy theorist.
  • Yedioth quotes New Right No. 2 Ayelet Shaked warning of Netanyahu planning a “tsunami against the small parties,” whatever that means, but in the same paper columnist Yuval Karni calls Netanyahu’s claims that the right is in danger “tired old spin.”
  • United Right-Wing Parties chief Rafi Peretz tells Army Radio that “Netanyahu is manipulating the public, which must not fall for it.”
  • Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev calls Netanyahu’s gambit “a high-risk, scorched earth strategy that, if too successful, could motivate not only reluctant Likudniks but also those who had intended to vote for other right-wing parties – thus dipping them below the threshold. By his own hand and out of his own fears, Netanyahu could undermine the right-wing bloc and scuttle his own chances of being reelected.”

3. Historical annex: Some are also casting doubt on Netanyahu’s claims of wanting to annex West Bank settlements, given his record on the issue.

  • “In February 2018, he buried the so-called Sovereignty Bill, proposed by first-time legislators Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), which would have done exactly what Netanyahu now vows to do after the elections: applying Israeli laws in all the settlements from teeming Ma’ale Adumim to the hilltop of Ma’ale Michmash,” writes ToI’s Raphael Ahren.
  • “In recent years, the greater the competition from his right flank, especially by former Jewish Home figures Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich, the greater the theoretical support Netanyahu expressed for the idea of annexation, behind the scenes and up front – while in practice, he actively thwarted all legislative initiatives in that direction,” Noa Landau writes in Haaretz.

4. Gird is the word: With a day of campaigning left, there’s likely plenty more to come.

  • “Cat and mouse to the end,” reads a headline in Yedioth, describing the parties’ attempts to outflank each other until the final moments.
  • Channel 13 news notes that both parties are girding for a final April surprise. In Likud’s case it’s worries over Blue and White leaking something embarrassing about the Netanyahu clan, and in Blue and White’s case, it’s the fear that details from Gantz’s hacked phone will worm their way out, which the paper calls the “doomsday scenario.”
  • And that’s not all: “The party is preparing Gantz for the possibility that he will be invited to a debate at the last moment. The party also claims they have internal info that Netanyahu will start to leak polls, which seemingly would be the same that were published by his son Yair Sunday on Twitter which show Likud losing by a lot.”
  • Ynet reports, though, that Gantz plans on using the last day to attack Netanyahu over the fact that he won’t debate him.

5. High on the hog: Meanwhile Haaretz notes that Likud and Blue and White are actually pushing the same message, albeit with different aims.

  • “The campaign messages of both Likud and Blue and White intersected over the weekend, with each side – for its own reasons – vigorously claiming that the latter party, led by Benny Gantz, is favored to win the election.”
  • While Netanyahu wants to get panicked voters to the polls, Blue and White wants to keep up the momentum and have his base convinced that they can actually take down Netanyahu.
  • On Sunday, Gantz decided to secure the all-important biker gang vote, riding around with a group of motorcycle aficionados.
  • Gantz tells Army Radio Monday that he is sure President Reuven Rivlin will pick the biggest party to form a coalition first, and doesn’t question the president at all.
  • A profile in the Telegraph has several people praising Gantz as a cool customer.
  • “Benny has a calm and collected type of charisma that is not necessarily a sign of our populist times. The question is whether that type of leadership succeeds in this day and age. If it doesn’t, that will tell us something about ourselves,” former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner tells the British paper.

6. Mixed messaging: With Netanyahu running against a constellation of former appointees, and both Likud and Blue and White putting out similar messaging, it is definitely the kind of election where one might have trouble untangling all the various knots.

  • It’s difficult, then, to blame some poor New York Times photo editor for failing to realize that an attack ad against Netanyahu that plays up his far-right alliances is not a campaign ad.

7. Voters’ guide for the perplexed: For that photo editor and any voters still undecided, or anybody just curious, a crackerjack team of reporters at ToI has compiled a dossier on all 39 parties and what they stand for, from big guys like Blue and White to parties most have never heard of, like the Bible Bloc.

  • “The Bible Bloc presents itself as the first Jewish-Christian list to run for the Knesset. The slate offers representatives from both faiths, including a Messianic Jew, David Friedman (not the ambassador). The party seeks to preserve “Judeo-Christian values” that it says are under threat from radical Islam and vows to fight for the under-represented Christian population in Israel, including non-Jewish Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union.”
  • And of course, how could they leave out perennial cellar-dweller Ilan Meshicha.
  • “The Social Leadership party, headed by veteran unsuccessful Knesset candidate Ilan Meshicha, says that it is committed to ‘caring for all of the people of Israel based on a commitment to the ideals of our forefathers.’ In the 2015 election, the party broke a record for receiving the least ever seats by any faction running in any Israeli election — it scored 223 votes. Amazingly, the previous record was also held by Mechicha who in the 2013 elections won 461 votes — then the lowest ever — with his now-defunct Tradition of the Fathers party.”
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