Health Care a Top Concern for Swing Voters in Israel Election, Polls Discover

Kahol Lavan, Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor-Gesher-Meretz rush to announce their would-be-picks for health minister in an attempt to garner errant votes

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a hospital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a hospital.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The pick for Israel’s next health minister sparked a surprising clash Sunday among Kahol Lavan, Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor-Gesher-Meretz.

Briefly abandoning the campaign trail, Yisrael Beiteinu said it would back Prof. Leonid Eidelman. The Labor-Gesher-Meretz electoral alliance said it would push for Gesher Chairwoman Orli Levi-Abekasis to get the nod, while Kahol Lavan said it would keep the portfolio for itself if it forms the next government.

Polls showing that fixing the sad state of Israel’s health care system is an issue that resonates with swing voters seems to be behind the sudden attention these parties are paying to the position of health minister.

“This campaign won’t bring us 10 seats,” a Kahol Lavan campaigner said. “It is aimed at undecided voters, people who are looking for a change in the system and aren’t satisfied with the usual ‘anything but Bibi’ talk, but rather are looking for examples of priority changes we will make.”

Gantz himself has been pounding the issue for quite a while in meetings he has been holding. On Sunday, he issued a mysterious announcement on social media: “Tomorrow at 8 A.M. I will expose Netanyahu’s Case 5000,” alluding to the current corruption cases dogging the prime minister numbering from 1000 to 4000. A short time later, it turned out 5000 didn’t represent another criminal case, but the number of people who die annually because of the “collapse of the health system due to a lack of physicians,” as he put it. “Because of crowded departments. Because of infections. Because of 13 years of neglect.”

Yisrael Beiteinu officials prepared well for Gantz’s declaration. A few minutes after his announcement Sunday, the party issued a campaign ad warning the public to “do everything to avoid the hospital because you don’t know what you will find there.” The video features images of Eidelman and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and asks, “Who will be your next health minister, a rabbi or a physician?”

Amir Peretz, Abekasis and Nitzan Horowitz held a joint press conference in which they declared their intention to appoint Levi-Abekasis as health minister. They said they will also insist that Horowitz serve as education minister while Peretz would get a special economic portfolio.

“I’m happy the parties abandoned the question of ‘only Bibi’ or ‘anyone but Bibi’” and are finally focusing on social issues after a tiring year of debating personalities,” Peretz said Sunday. But not everyone in Labor-Gesher-Meretz was pleased with the move. One Knesset candidate called the press conference a “fantastic own goal.” He observed: “We have the opportunity to take away seats from Kahol Lavan over the diplomatic mess and instead we rush back to the social agenda. No one will vote for us because he prefers Orli Levi-Abekasis as health minister over Yael German.”

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