Netanyahu's Party to Spend Millions on Door-to-door Canvassing as Election Looms

Realizing difficulty of getting voters to switch blocs, Likud hires activists to visit areas with high right-wing voter turnout. Media attacks are also part of the strategy

A Likud rally on Election Day in Tel Aviv, April 9, 2019
Tomer Appelbaum

With two weeks remaining until the election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party is channeling millions of shekels into door-to-door campaigning by activists, instead of buying media time and producing video clips. (For the latest election polls – click here)

The party believes the canvassing will help boost right-wing support and achieve its goal of winning a 61-seat majority in the next Knesset. To that end, it is hiring people to go from home to home to encourage people to vote Likud.

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Recent analyses by Likud campaign headquarters found that support for right-wing parties, encompassing Likud, Yamina and the ultra-Orthodox parties, maxes out at 58 seats. Attempts to break through that ceiling – for example, by running negative advertisements about Kahol Lavan's Yair Lapid as a potential prime minister or Avi Nissenkorn as finance minister – failed to arouse excitement and were perceived as not credible.

A broad-based poll conducted last week by Likud found little chance of getting voters from one bloc to switch to another, hence the decision to focus on boosting the vote within the right-wing bloc. One result has been the belligerent stance Likud has been taking toward the media, particularly Channel 12 (proper disclosure: this writer routinely appears on its morning news show), and its reporter Guy Peleg. Party leaders hope that its attacks on the press will rouse voters to action.

Historically, voting turnout is low in towns associated with the right. For instance, in the April election in Bat Yam, where Likud won 38 percent of the vote, only 52 percent of residents cast ballots.

Ahead of that election, Likud launched the Moving to the Right (Zazim Yamina) campaign, which also involved canvassing. Now that effort is being expanded. The party has tapped David Harlap, an activist from Petah Tikva, to map areas where the right has historically commanded a high voting turnout. In the four days before the September 17 vote, people hired by Likud will be combing the chosen locales, noting where support is guaranteed, encouraging residents to vote and trying to sway doubters.

In July, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided against opening a criminal investigation into Moving to the Right, on the grounds that Likud had funded it while concealing its role, and pretending it was a non-partisan initiative. At the time, the head of the Central Election Committee, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melczer, thought an investigation was appropriate.