Political strategies

Analysis: Strategies for the final round of Israeli elections

Most of Israel’s final polls show what polls have shown for months: a stalemate between the pro-Benjamin Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu blocs.

They also show that In the political drama of Israel, the central character has not changed.

After four election cycles, it is still Benjamin Netanyahu.

As the Israel Public Broadcaster has said, as the campaign enters its final two days, Netanyahu and his Likud party are focusing on three key points

The main thing is to get your supporters to vote. Likud politicians have lamented that in previous elections, which all ended with Likud unable to win enough seats to form a coalition, not enough of their supporters voted.

It would also help Netanyahu achieve another goal: ensuring that his party has enough of a gap with other parties in the pro-Netanyahu bloc. Especially about the religious Zionism alliance and its “star”, incendiary politician Itamar Ben Gvir of the Jewish Power party, who received a lot of media attention during the campaign and appears to be threatening to take votes away from Likud.

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Ben Gvir continues to deploy its charisma to eat at Netanyahu’s base and also alienates voters from ultra-Orthodox parties. He is a religious nationalist, and the ultra-Orthodox, or at least the rabbis who control the ultra-Orthodox parties, do not share his nationalism to the same degree. The tension between Ben Gvir and the rabbinical leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties is felt, and could affect the final composition of the pro-Netanyahu bloc.

Netanyahu must also ensure that the Arab-Israeli vote remains low. If so, it would allow him to form the next coalition. The Likud party can monitor polling stations in Arab-Israeli localities for fraud, which could be construed as intimidation.

On the anti-Netanyahu side of the political divide, Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s strategy in the past few days is also three-fold, as Israel’s public broadcaster noted. He has avoided campaigning in Likud strongholds for fear of inciting a backlash against him, and the perception that he represents wealthy, elite Israel, as opposed to working-class neighborhoods that support Likud.

AP Photo/Oded BaliltyWorkers hang an election campaign billboard for the Yesh Atid party, showing Israeli Prime Minister and party leader Yair Lapid, in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, October 23, 2022.

Lapid also needs to be careful of two smaller parties allied to the left of his Yesh Atid party, the Labor party and the Meretz party. Although he is happy to draw votes from them, he cannot afford to attract too many, in case these parties do not obtain the 3.25% of the votes necessary to enter parliament. If that happened, under Israel’s proportional representation system, Netanyahu’s bloc would be strengthened, perhaps enough to form the next government.

Lapid’s third key strategy is to ensure Arab-Israelis go out to vote.

The Arab-Israeli vote is one of the few real wildcards that could tip the election one way or the other. In the four previous elections, turnout among Israel’s Arab citizens has fluctuated between 45% and 65% at most. While it was thought turnout would be low this time around, some pollsters say they’re starting to detect a slight uptick. Arab-Israeli participation, they say, could hover around 50% or more. It could make a big difference in the end result. A high, or at least not low, Arab-Israeli vote for Arab-Israeli parties will not necessarily strengthen Lapid’s bloc. But that could blunt Netanyahu.