If five Knesset seats move from the Likud to a party presenting a real rightist-centrist alternative, it will be the end of Netanyahu’s rule. Can Moshe Kahlon succeed where Livni, Lapid and Herzog are insisting on failing?
In the past few weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been shifting to the right. It seems to work in the polls, which show that the rightist-haredi block is gaining strength.
We have been through all this. That’s exactly what the polls said before the last elections. The results were slightly different. The rightist-haredi bloc got 61 Knesset seats, but the centrist-leftist bloc gained a bit more votes.
Election polls mainly reflect a state of mind. After the summer conflict with Hamas, after initial signs of an intifada, after aggressive statements made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the left-wing bloc appears somewhat ridiculous. Not because the right-wing bloc is providing solutions, and not because it is leading Israel to a better future. Far from that. But the state of mind does not benefit the centrist-leftist bloc.
That doesn’t mean that most people will vote for the right. Nearly 30% of the Likud’s voters support solutions which the centrist camp accepts. They voted for a centralized Netanyahu, not for a Netanyahu dressed up as Danny Danon. So these voters are not in anyone’s pocket. They are nationalist, but they are not nationalistic. They examine things individually.
They, and people like them in the centrist-leftist camp, are the most important public of voters, because their vote isn’t automatic. They assess each issue individually.
The problem is that the Likud takes the party members into consideration rather than the voters. The majority of the party members listen to vote contractors. This gap between voters and vote contractors is causing the Likud to deteriorate to the right.
Outstanding Knesset members like Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan have been discharged from the party. Many of the Likud members wanted them, but the vote contractors managed to oust them, creating a situation in which Netanyahu has become the left marker of the Likud.
If most of the Likud’s Knesset members had known about the far-reaching concessions Netanyahu made during the negotiations with US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Likud would have gone through another bang. But Abbas said no, and there was no need for Netanyahu to reveal his concessions. It’s safe to assume that he wasn’t keen on them. He was dragged into them. And the Likud remained united.
The right-wing bloc benefits from the fact that the centrist-leftist parties are more leftists than centrist. Tzipi Livni is a Zionist, a nationalist and a patriot. But occasionally, in the past few months, she has succeeded in positioning herself more in the left than in the center (by saying, for example, that “the ISIS problem cannot be solved without a real effort to resolve the Palestinian problem.”) It’s a shame, because she will not be an alternative for Netanyahu this way. She will be an alternative for Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On.
The Labor Party and Yesh Atid are showing similar tendencies. This is not the way to attract moderate Likud voters.
The nationality bill has the noisy support of the right-wing circles. The centrist circles, which are as patriotic, are a lot less enthusiastic about it. They know that the only thing that will come out of the this initiative is not strengthening Israel’s Jewish character but undermining Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.
So why is it too early to be impressed by the polls? Because former minister Moshe Kahlon‘s new party is entering the ring, positioning itself in the important rightist-centrist spot. This is the party which could be a tie breaker. In order to change the political map, there is no need for a 20- mandate win. If five Knesset seats move from the Likud to a party presenting a real rightist-centrist alternative, it will be the end of Netanyahu’s rule.
It’s too early to say whether Kahlon is capable of providing this alternative. But it is clear that through sensible conduct, he can succeed where Livni, Yair Lapid and Isaac Herzog are insisting on failing.
So it’s not a done deal yet. The show is just about to begin.