Netanyahu Forms New Strategy to Win Israel's Election

The PM 'doesn’t think' Likud, Yamina and ultra-Orthodox parties can win Knesset majority, and is now refocusing efforts on his own party, campaign official tells Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a government meeting, Jerusalem, August 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out a new campaign strategy on Tuesday to go on the offensive against the hard-right slate Yamina to persuade voters to opt for Likud in the September 17 election.

Netanyahu believes that if his party receives a significantly higher number of Knesset seats than Kahol Lavan, he could convince some Kahol Lavan or Labor-Gesher lawmakers to defect and join a Likud-led coalition.

The strategy emerged from a meeting at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv with campaign staff and lawmakers including Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev.

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In the meeting, Netanyahu said that the party should focus its attacks on Yair Lapid and former union chief Avi Nissenkorn, who surveys conducted by Likud suggest are Kahol Lavan's weak links.

Netanyahu called for a return to the “big Likud” concept, a change from his earlier focus born of efforts last month when he had tried unsuccessfully to prevent a merger of Hayamin Hehadash with Habayit Hayehudi, for fear an alliance of “liberals” Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett with ultra-Orthodox Zionists would lead voters to back Kahol Lavan.

Despite the prime minister’s efforts, Rafi Peretz renounced the top slot on the slate, allowing Shaked to lead Yamina (formerly United Right) and Netanyahu is now refocusing his efforts on his own party.

One Likud campaign official told Haaretz the prime minister “doesn’t think" Likud, Yamina and ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism can win 61 Knesset seats. "There’s a glass ceiling around the 58-MK mark,” the official said.

The current Likud strategy is to win enough votes to emerge as the largest party by a margin great enough to “stun” the political machine, by going on the offensive against Yamina and trying to convince voters to choose the bigger party, or Likud.