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Israeli Students Overwhelmingly Back Gantz’s Party in Mock Elections

Kahol Lavan wins 20 out of 24 elections in high schools across country, capturing 43 percent of the vote; Netanyahu’s Likud is distant second and left-wing Meretz third

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Students at Blich high school celebrating after Kahol Lavan won its mock election, March 5, 2019.
Students at Blich high school celebrating after Kahol Lavan won its mock election, March 5, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

The election results are in and it’s a knockout victory for Kahol Lavan, the centrist party headed by former army chief Benny Gantz ... well, at least among Israeli teens.

The brand new party beat out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud in 20 out of 24 high schools that participated in a special month-long election project meant to initiate young Israelis into the voting process.

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Out of the total number of votes cast in mock elections at these schools, Kahol Lavan captured 43 percent of the vote. Trailing way behind was Likud with 21 percent. Even further behind in third place, with 7 percent of the vote, was Meretz, the left-wing party that is hovering around the electoral threshold in polls conducted among voting-age Israelis.

Next in line were the Labor Party (6 percent), the center-right Kulanu (5 percent) and two right-wing parties — Yisrael Beiteinu and Zehut — each with 4 percent. Zehut, a party that came out of nowhere and champions a weird combination of West Bank settlement expansion and pot legalization, has emerged as the favored party among some hipsters.

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s Hayamin Hehadash, a new right-wing party that split away from the Orthodox Habayit Hayehudi, won only 3 percent of the vote.

Based on these mock election results, Gantz would have no problem forming the next government: Together with what are seen as his natural partners — Meretz and Labor — he would have a majority of 56 percent of the vote (which would translate into about 67 seats).

More than 15,000 students participated in the mock election project, organized and supervised by the Israeli news site Mako, in cooperation with Sky Productions, an event planning company.

The project did not include any Jewish religious or Arab high schools. That could explain why the religious and Arab parties all received less than 1 percent of the vote in these schools, which is not a true reflection of their strength among voting-age Israelis as a whole.

Recent polls show that the race between Likud and Kahol Lavan is very tight, with Kahol Lavan enjoying a small lead (although in the past week, at least two polls have put Likud ahead). According to the polls, Gantz would have an extremely difficult time hammering together a coalition, even if his party is bigger than Likud. That’s because the religious parties have said they will not join his governing coalition and he has ruled out inviting the Arab parties to join his coalition.

In 1977, the results of a mock election at Blich high school in Ramat Gan predicted the first ever victory by the right-wing Likud party. It has become tradition ever since for news outlets and pollsters to return to this particular high school outside of Tel Aviv before every election.

A wind-swept election banner promoting Benny Gantz and his Kahol Lavan party, at the Blich high school in Ramat Gan, March 5, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Blich’s own mock election earlier this month (held independently of the Mako project) also brought a decisive victory for Gantz’s party: Kahol Lavan received 41 percent of the vote there, way ahead of Likud (21 percent), Meretz (10 percent), and both Kulanu and Zehut (7 percent).

The idea that young Israelis are good predictors of general voting trends prompted the Mako project, which was first launched several elections ago. The voting age in Israel is 18, so some of the 12th-graders who voted in the mock elections organized by Mako will be voting in the real election on April 9.

One of the more surprising results this year was that Benny Gantz was defeated by Netanyahu on his own turf. At the mock election held at a high school in Rosh Ha’ayin, which Gantz’s son attends and where the prime ministerial hopeful lives with his family, Likud won 24 percent of the vote, while Hosen L’Yisrael — the name of Gantz’s party before he merged with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid — won only 21 percent. But since Yesh Atid took 39 percent there, the bottom line was still a Kahol Lavan win.

In general, Kahol Lavan performed strongest in high schools located in affluent neighborhoods and towns, as did Meretz. In some of these high schools, Meretz even outdid Likud.

In Nes Tziona, which is often seen as a bellwether for how the country will vote, Golda High School also backed Kahol Lavan, giving the party 44 percent of the vote. Likud was a very distant second (15 percent), followed by Hayamin Hehadash (10 percent) and Zehut (9 percent).

Kahol Lavan suffered its most devastating defeat in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. At that local high school, Kahol Lavan won only 5 percent of the vote, compared with 29 percent for Likud. The other big winners at the settlement were Zehut (23 percent) and Tzomet (21 percent) – a party headed by Oren Hazan, a former Likudnik notorious for his inflammatory rhetoric.

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