Standing on the Electoral Precipice, Labor Party Recruits Ross and Rachel

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Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay at a convention in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2018
Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay at a convention in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2018Credit: \ Moti Milrod

Israel's Labor Party launched a new campaign ahead of the upcoming election, aimed at winning back thousands of voters who have gravitated over the past several months to other parties in the center-left bloc.

The campaign is based on internal, in-depth polls trying to answer the most pressing question: Where did 18 out of the 24 seats won by the Zionist Union in the last election go, and how can voters be brought back in?

The party hopes it can restore its standing to 12 seats – though recent polls predicted an unprecedented low of six seats only. Labor's grim poll standing has put an end to party head Avi Gabbay's promises to establish the next government. Now, he's focusing on a campaign seeking to deter those who would vote for other centrist parties.

"The only insurance policy for our camp's voters in order to make sure that their vote doesn't go to [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is to vote Labor," Gabbay said over the weekend. "Any vote for another party is a vote that could go to Netanyahu's government."

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Most of the voters, according to the Labor poll, moved to Benny Gantz's Hosen L'Yisrael, Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid and Orli Levi-Abekasis' Gesher. Labor found in its polls, though, that a substantial percentage of Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu (currently part of the coalition government) define themselves as center-left.

The internal Labor poll, conducted by Stephan Miller, found that a majority of Gesher, Yesh Atid and Hosen L'Yisrael (66 percent, 89 percent and 95 percent, respectively) said they want Netanyahu replaced. It also found that a majority of Kulanu voters (69 percent) who would prefer Netanyahu vacate his seat. The poll was conducted last month, before Gantz's speech, among 1,054 respondents.

Besides Gabbay, not one of the aforementioned party leaders has committed at this point to not recommend Netanyahu to form the next government.

Gantz has stressed he will not join Netanyahu only in the case of an indictment; Yair Lapid has said he would not join if an indictment is served pending a hearing; and Orli Levi-Abekasis sufficed with vague statements on how difficult it would be for Netanyahu to run the country while a trial is taking place, and did not respond to Haaretz's request for a clear stance. 

The campaign videos make use of a gimmick in which leading Labor MKs spoil the plots of well-known TV shows and films – telling viewers that Ross and Rachel end up together at the end of the popular television show "Friends," and give away the endings of "Harry Potter" and the "Titanic."

The video concludes that the biggest spoiler of all is that all other political parties will eventually partner with Netanyahu in a coalition government, while Labor commits not to.

Aside from the new campaign, Labor is looking at other ways to win back voters. It plans to present itself as a social party with a clear agenda on health, education and anti-corruption. In addition, Gabbay plans to shine a light on the MKs who have been active on these issues, and who will likely get elected in next week's primary.

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