With Eight Days to Go to Israel's Election, Likud, Kahol Lavan Vie for ‘Soft Right’

Gantz’s party is wooing educated, well-off Likudniks while Netanyahu is focusing on the Ethiopian community

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz greets supporters at a conference in Kiryat Bialik, February 22, 2020.
Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz greets supporters at a conference in Kiryat Bialik, February 22, 2020. Credit: rami shllush
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

With eight days left before the general election, internal polls conducted by both Likud and Kahol Lavan show two Knesset seats’ worth of soft-right voters are still wavering between the two largest parties – and they may hold the fate of the next government in their hands. The parties will focus most of their efforts in the remaining days on these voters, in addition to motivating their existing ones.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 63Credit: Haaretz

Likud has set its sights on the Ethiopian community in Israel, which seemingly leans to the right, but for a number of reasons favored Kahol Lavan in the past two rounds.

At the same time, Kahol Lavan is targeting a group of educated, well-off Ashkenazi voters who live in the large cities – some of whom come from families that traditionally voted for Herut and Gahal, the antecedents of Likud – even though they would normally be considered classic left-wing voters. This group is characterized by its disgust for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his indictments, as well as its hawkish nationalist line on security and other issues – similar to that of Kahol Lavan MK Zvi Hauser.

The parties have also identified a trend among still-undecided young voters with lower- or middle-class incomes who are switching from Likud to Kahol Lavan. This group supports Netanyahu’s security and strategic policies, but is finding it difficult to survive financially. Likud research shows that this group wants to replace Netanyahu because of how long he has been in power, even if they can’t explain how Benny Gantz would help them.

Polls conducted by both parties show that the issue of the largely-Arab Joint List is critical for the bloc of undecided, soft-right voters. This is the reason the Likud campaign is constantly repeating the message that Gantz will establish a government with the Joint List. In response, Kahol Lavan is repeating its message that it will not form a government with the support of the Arab MKs of the Joint List, and for now this two seats’ worth of voters tend to believe Gantz.

Likud is trying to attract this group by emphasizing economic issues – and this is why after an entire campaign without a word on the economy, Netanyahu visited a branch of the Rami Levy supermarket chain and discovered the high cost of living, notably housing. For now, the two parties’ polls show that Netanyahu’s promise of appointing MK Nir Barkat as his next finance minister has not changed any voters’ minds. For now, only one pollster – Shlomo Filber, who is more famous for turning state’s evidence against Netanyahu in the Bezeq-Walla case, and who polls using an internet panel – has found any seats moving from Kahol Lavan to the undecided column. Last week he said two seats’ worth of voters had moved in that direction – and he is the only pollster who has Likud leading Kahol Lavan.

The investigation of the artificial intelligence company Fifth Dimension, which Gantz chaired – and in which he is not suspected of any wrongdoing – seems to have no effect on voters, so far. Netanyahu’s inner circle is debating between two approaches: flooding the campaign with the issue as much as possible to create the feeling that “everybody is corrupt,” so it is better to vote for Netanyahu; or a different approach that says the issue obscures the message about the Joint List and motivating voters, and in any case will not penetrate the wall of electoral fatigue after 14 months of campaigning. Netanyahu released a number of video clips on the Fifth Dimension on Friday, but as the campaign’s final stretch begins, many voters remains undecided.

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