1. Surveys say — Nothing! Polls published Thursday evening and Friday morning show that for all the excitement around political wheeling and dealing, not much is changing.
- Surveys published by the three main television channels Thursday — and another couple by Israel Hayom and Maariv on Friday — show the newly formed Democratic Camp, a merger between Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party along with Labor defector Stav Shaffir, garnering 8-12 seats.
- The problem is that most of those votes come from Blue and White and Labor, which are both seen falling, putting the right- and left-wing blocs pretty much exactly where they have been all along.
- The upshot is that Yisrael Beytenu will remain kingmaker, acting as the decisive swing party between the camps.
- “Only Avigdor Liberman will decide who will be the next prime minister,” Channel 13 says.
- This is all of course with the caveat that one should never really take much stock in these polls, as they are done quickly and sloppily. (If you think it’s possible to effectively poll for something that happened hours earlier, especially as the poll will be automatically biased by the news cycle, I have a bridge to sell you.)
2. The decider: Liberman has been clear that he won’t decide on who will be prime minister but will rather force a unity government between Likud and Blue and White, and he doesn’t care who they pick to be prime minister.
- In Yedioth Ahronoth, Amit Segal raises the possibility that Liberman may himself be gunning to be prime minister. “If he’s going to be kingmaker, why not make himself king?”
- Israel Hayom reports that new Likud talking points will hammer home the party’s opposition to any sort of unity government.
- Likud has also been trying to leach as many votes from the Yisrael Beytenu base of Russian immigrants as possible, and isn’t really hiding that fact.
- That includes the somewhat strange Moe Szyslak-esque tactic of both making derisive reference to Liberman as an immigrant while trying to woo immigrants to their side. Last week, Yisrael Hayom’s editor Boaz Bismuth, in an interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to Liberman as “that immigrant from Russia” (He’s actually from Moldova).
- On Friday the paper’s Haim Shine writes that the message at a recent conference was that immigrants “see themselves as proud Israelis and don’t want to be thought of as a community that votes for a sectoral party, especially not for someone at the head of an immigrant party who pretends to be right-wing and sells their votes for his own needs.”
3. Blood on your head: Unsaid by the paper is the fact that Likud would bleed right-wing support if it even entertained the idea of a unity government with Blue and White before the election.
- Also helping it bleed right-wing support, according to the Israel Hayom poll at least, would be a united right-wing list headed by Ayelet Shaked, which it claims would win 16 seats, and drop Likud down to a paltry 25. The same list headed by Peretz, according to the poll, would win nine seats, and leave Likud at a comfortable 30. In both scenarios, the bloc is short of a government without Liberman.
- According to polls by Channels 11 and 12, the joint right-wing list led by Shaked would not hurt Likud by nearly that much.
4. Just get together already: Netanyahu is said to be pushing for Peretz to head the list, but it seems the people may not be behind him.
- Arik Blumberg writes in Israel National News that despite lingering unhappiness at Shaked over her failed New Right gambit in the last elections, it’s the size that matters at the end of the day. The polls show she can lead a united right-wing list to more seats “and turn the united party into a significant and leading actor in the coalition alongside Likud.”
- Even URWP No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich is pushing for unity, denying a report by Kan’s Zeev Kam that the prime minister offered the party a sweetheart deal to reject Shaked and bring in extremist party Otzma Yehudit.
- “There’s no chance we won’t run with the New Right. That would be an irresponsible danger for the country and I am convinced that Netanyahu and our partners in Jewish Home understand that. I also believe New Right does.”
5. Be like Bernie: In Makor Rishon, Ariel Schnabel makes a case for right-wing unity by citing a totally unrelated example: “If Bernie Sanders can run in the same party as Joe Biden — though the two agree about almost nothing — then Rafi Peretz can sit together with Naftali Bennett.”
- On the other side of the political spectrum, Noa Landau raises the exact same point (with the exact same figures, plus Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) to make the case for unity on the left in Haaretz: “True, it’s not the same political system, but they prove it is possible to benefit from the power of a united camp together with the internal tension that shapes its image.”
6. Pressure on (another) Peretz: Others are also pressuring Labor head Amir Peretz and his partner Orly Levy-Abekasis to join up with the Democratic Camp as well.
- “The left can’t afford to lose votes in the critical battle it is waging to prevent Israeli democracy from disappearing,” Haaretz’s lead editorial reads. “Peretz and Levi-Abekasis must recognize the urgency of the moment and join the rearguard battle for Israeli democracy.”
- Peretz has insisted he will do no such thing. In ToI, Biranit Goren goes against the grain and says maybe there is reason to keep the parties separate. “While the new party makes Labor redundant on the left, it does not make it redundant as a social democratic party. Peretz, along with Levy-Abekasis, will now focus on distinguishing the party from Blue and White and the Democratic Camp, and filling the social slot that is sorely missing right now on the Israeli political map.”
7. How bad are things in Labor though? According to Ynet, members of the party turned to Avi Gabbay, who was the latest of a long line of leaders seen as having failed the party, to rescue it from Peretz.
- According to the paper, senior party members are appealing to Gabbay, who remains on the party’s central committee, to bring up a vote to boot Peretz from his leadership position at an upcoming meeting.
- The dysfunction of the party, which has switched out its leader nine times since 2001, is downright Browns-esque.
- “Labor brought Mitzna to fix Barak’s mistakes, and then brought Fouad to fix Mitzna and Peretz to fix Fouad and Shelly to fix Peretz and Bougie to fix Shelly and Gabbay to fix Bougie. A month ago they brought back Peretz to fix Gabbay and now they are asking Gabbay to save them from Peretz’s damage. This is how they want to run the country,” twitterer Igal Malka writes.
8. Flag-bearer: Stav Shaffir’s role in engineering the Democratic Camp merger brings her some kudos, but not everyone is on board.
- Yedioth Ahronoth’s Sima Kadmon calls Shaffir’s role in the merger “critical” and notes that she was the one who insisted that the non-selfie selfie of the three celebrating the merger be done with an Israeli flag in the background. When nobody could find one around, she remembered she had one in the trunk of her car and saved the day yet again.
- In the same paper, Nahum Barnea writes that the merger would not have happened at all without Shaffir and even if it won’t have a decisive effect on these elections “it created a new reality, with historic potential, in the center-left bloc.”
- Avi Benayahu in Maariv praises Shaffir for keeping her word when she said “before the primaries that she would quit if she wasn’t chosen. She said it and did it.”
- But some note the fact, though, that Shaffir said a day before leaving Labor that she would do no such thing, like Haaretz’s Yossi Verter, who calls it “immoral.”
9. Lipstick and a pig: Verter, though, has a bone to pick with her, casting doubt upon her claims of chauvinism, especially against him.
- Haaretz’s Yossi Verter writes that Shaffir misquoted him in a column a week ago claiming that he had called her a “girl” in order to belittle her.
- In fact, he says, he called her and Itzik Shmuli “kids,” which he says is not belittling, and certainly not chauvinistic.
- “The myth [that I hate women] is the exclusive preserve of Shaffir. In the absence of substantive arguments, she prefers to take the populist dialogue to her comfort zone: ‘chauvinism,’ ‘misogyny” and ageism,” he writes, adding that editors removed sections from her piece which attacked him over his age, 59.
- Verter writes that “Shaffir carried off a brilliant move on the political chess board,” But he adds that, “Morally, it might have been better if she hadn’t declared a day earlier, on a radio program, that she wouldn’t run in a different party [than Labor].”
- Channel 12, meanwhile, recalls the time when Shaffir was just a wee social protest organizer and Barak was a government minister, back in 2011. According to the channel, when 26-year-old Shaffir came into the room Barak, then in his 60s, asked her, “Do you have a dream to have a career as a model?