Netanyahu vs. Gantz: Your Comprehensive Guide to the 2019 Israel Election

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Should you trust polls? How will the settlers vote? Can Arab Israelis swing the election? How about the undecided? Everything you need to know about Netanyahu, Gantz and the political battle royale ahead of Israel's election:

Anshel Pfeffer | This is How the Israeli Election Will Play Out: Six Scenarios

The opinion polls, like the Israeli public, are split right down the middle. Half the surveys conducted last week, before Friday’s cutoff, put Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan slightly in the lead. The other half had Likud with a similar-sized advantage. It’s a dead heat between the two largest parties. But on one thing the polls were in consensus: The bloc of right-wing and religious parties had a small majority over the center-left opposition. Small, but not that steady, as it’s a majority based on seven parties that are all pretty close to the 3.25-percent electoral threshold. So nothing is certain and the polls are questionable anyway. The following are the six likeliest scenarios for the results that we’ll start hearing as the polls close at 10 P.M. Tuesday night. Full story >

Noa Landau | Israeli Election's Dangerous Surprise: Pro-pot Jewish Evangelist Who Wants a Holy War

Moshe Feiglin is poised to play kingmaker in the Israeli elections. Many of his supporters are young, first-time voters. Others have come to his party, Zehut, from the political fringes, and some describe themselves as center-left. It isn’t clear how many of them bothered to read the party’s detailed platform, but the morning of Election Day is the last chance to warn them: Feiglin’s diplomatic platform is as far as could be from the “champion of freedoms” disguise he’s adopted. Reading the books promoted by Zehut and the party’s campaign material leaves no room for doubt. Moshe Feiglin is the Jewish version of the Evangelicals who are dreaming of Armageddon and the jihadists who seek to take revenge against the infidels. The man seriously fantasizes with great passion, about a comprehensive holy war to conquer the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in particular the Temple Mount – not in the name of nationalism, but in the name of God. Full story >

David B. Green | Israel's Arabs Could Kick Netanyahu Out of Office. There's Only One Problem

Could Israel’s Arabs swing the election against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, a kind of payback for 2015, and be the kingmakers of the 2019 election? MK Ayman Odeh promised to do as much last December when the snap election was called and he declared that “Yes, Netanyahu, we the Arab citizens will flock to the polls in droves”. In purely numerical terms, Israeli Arabs make up enough of the electorate — about 17 percent, equivalent to slightly more than 20 seats in the 120-seat Knesset — that if they turn out en masse this year, their vote could push Gantz’s presumed bloc over the top on April 9. On the other hand, if they sit out the election in larger than usual numbers, it’s likely to be the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu that will benefit. Full story >

Anshel Pfeffer | A Look at Israel’s New Political Map: A Lurch to the Right

The balance between Netanyahu’s governing coalition and the anti-Bibi opposition parties seems very similar to the polls in the final weeks leading up to the 2015 election. Two opposition parties have joined up to challenge Likud and enjoy a small lead in the polls. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still has a better chance of forming a coalition as his right-wing and religious bloc still has a small overall majority in most polls. A closer look, though, shows one significant change: Across the board, everything has shifted rightward. Full story >

Allison Kaplan Sommer | 'I Want to Vote Likud. But I’m Fed Up With Bibi': The Undecided Voters Who Will Decide the Election

Revital Mansour has been a Likud voter her entire adult life. For the past decade, the 41-year-old house cleaner from Herzliya has given her vote to Benjamin Netanyahu — but says that this year she may not. She is tired of hearing about his scandals, court cases and indictments. “I’m definitely right-wing, I want to vote for Likud. But I’m feeling fed up with Bibi. Maybe I’ll vote for someone else,” she says, referring to the prime minister by his nickname. But if she does vote for another party, it won’t be the newly formed Kahol Lavan. Mansour is part of what seems like Israel’s largest voting bloc: undecided voters. Indecisiveness is not considered a common characteristic among Israelis — they can usually be relied upon to express a strong opinion or preference on almost any given topic. But with the election just days away, ask Israelis who they plan to vote for on April 9 and the answer is frequently: “I don’t know yet.” Full story >

Judy Maltz | In ‘Occupied Scarsdale,’ There's Only One Question: Is Far-right Right Enough?

As West Bank settlements go, Efrat is considered pretty moderate. Not that there’s any real support among residents for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And not that more than a handful would even consider voting for anything but a right-wing party. It’s just that Efrat is not a major hotbed of radical extremism, at least when compared with some of the more isolated settlements and hilltop outposts. About 90 percent of its residents identify as religious (many of them affiliated with the more liberal branch of Orthodoxy), and close to half are English-speakers — mostly immigrants from the United States. The split in the religious Zionist movement has placed many Orthodox voters in a bind. Full story >

Anshel Pfeffer | These Seven Parties’ Fates Will Decide Israel's Election

In Israeli politics, you can’t find a closer pair than Arye Dery and Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman and Dery find issues to fight about, rile their supporters and boost their figures with their respective communities in a very convenient electoral battle. It’s the perfect win-win scenario. This time around, however, the fake fracas between the two parties may not be enough, especially for Lieberman. Going by the latest polls, there will be at most 14 parties in the next Knesset. But that is just the potential number. It is likely to be much lower. Half of the parties currently in the running are hovering below or perilously close to the electoral threshold of 3.25 percent of the total vote. And they hold Netanyahu’s fate in their sway. Full story >

Anshel Pfeffer | Why This Is the Most Difficult Israeli Election to Predict in 23 Years

Constant change in the configurations of many Israeli parties, in addition to splits and mergers and the emergence of new parties in every electoral cycle, makes it almost impossible for pollsters to establish voters’ previous voting patterns to improve their models. “The last time we were so unsure was in 1996, when just a fraction of a percentage point divided Netanyahu and Shimon Peres — and we got it wrong,” says Dr. Camil Fuchs, Haaretz’s pollster, recalling Israel’s first direct election for prime minister (a format subsequently abandoned in 2003). He adds: “This is the most difficult election for me as a pollster in 23 years.” Full story >

Trump's peace plan and the Arab vote in the Israeli election: A talk with lawmaker Ahmad TibiHaaretz

Jack Khoury | Lawmaker Ahmad Tibi: Netanyahu works toward Apartheid-based binational state

Ahmad Tibi, a member of Knesset and the co-leader of the Hadash-Ta'al slate, told Haaretz in an interview that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "killed the two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, explaining that this is why many on both sides are beginning to think about a one-state solution, although his political party still supports the two-state solution. Full story >

Dina Kraft | Painted as ‘The Enemy,’ Young Israeli Arabs Struggle to See the Point of Voting

“We keep hearing that we’re the enemy, that Israel as a country needs to be strong, a place only for the Jews,” says Shadi Nassar, 22, of the anti-Arab campaign rhetoric on Israel’s right wing. Israeli Arabs, both young and older, express bewilderment at how to proceed as the April 9 election approaches. “We need a voice in the Knesset, but I don’t know who will represent me,” says Christina Abu Ram, a 23-year-old sociology student. At the moment Abu Ram is considering not voting at all, saying the opinion that Israeli Arabs should boycott the election speaks to her: The notion that supporting a system that will never support you is futile at best, she says. Full story >

Ben Lynfield | Bibi or Benny? Palestinians in West Bank Refugee Camp Fear Israeli Election Will Bring More of the Same

Only a few miles away from Israel, in the West Bank’s crowded and impoverished Deheisheh refugee camp, no one is holding their breath about the upcoming Knesset election. This is the case even though whoever is prime minister can affect all aspects of life: From the economy to personal safety to the ability to move around. In short, an Israeli prime minister holds the power to inflict greater misery on the camp’s over 16,000 inhabitants — or, in theory, ease their plight. Full story >

Anshel Pfeffer | Benny Gantz, the General Coming to End the Netanyahu Era

Benny Gantz isn’t just any former chief of staff. Even out of uniform, at 59, with his commanding height, patrician bearing and gray-blue eyes, he’s still the general from central casting. The polls – both those in the media and the internal polling carried out by his campaign team – have established that Gantz is on the brink of a rare opportunity: For the first time in over a decade, a candidate is within striking distance of Benjamin Netanyahu in the all-important “suitability for prime minister” polls. Most old generals like to recall the commands they held and wars and operations they fought in. Benny Gantz has plenty of those, but prefers to talk about his brushes with history. Who is the general coming to end Netanyahu’s reign? Full story >

Anshel Pfeffer | Netanyahu Deserves to Win. And We Israelis Deserve Him

Benjamin Netanyahu is almost certainly about to win a fifth election. He deserves to win. He has won a ruthless and brilliant campaign, anticipating nearly all his rivals moves. No one has even come close. Just listen to Benny Gantz. He sounds tired and beaten. Relieved that it will all be over in a week. Just compare Gantz to the energetic Netanyahu, a man ten years his senior, who has been doing this for over three decades, is running in his tenth election, and the seventh as leader of Likud and candidate for prime minister. For four years he hasn’t given a real interview to a real journalist, but in the final stretch he’s back and it’s like he never left the fray. Sharp, on-message, expertly parrying awkward questions. You can hear he still loves every moment of it. Full story >

Judy Maltz | Having Been ‘Knifed in the Back,’ These Israeli Druze Won’t Be Backing Bibi This Time Around

Israel's Druze are hurt and angry. They are hurt and angry about the nation-state law, which they believe turned them into second-class citizens. They are hurt and angry because they have fathers, husbands and sons who served and serve in the Israeli military and had always believed in their so-called “blood alliance” with the Jews. They are hurt and angry because until that law was passed, they had always felt part of Israeli society. “I voted for Kulanu in the last election,” says Suha Hasson, referring to the center-right party that is part of the governing coalition. “But I will not give my vote again to a party that supported the nation-state law.” Lobna Naser el-Deen used to vote Likud. “But never again,” she says. Full story >

Judy Maltz | In Likud Heartland, These Israelis Are Ready to Turn Their Backs on Netanyahu

In the right-wing stronghold of Ashdod, there are still lots of folks who adore Benjamin Netanyahu. “There’s nobody who can replace Bibi,” says Tina Shamenashvili. She has always voted for his Likud party and promises to do so again come Election Day. Yet support for Netanyahu and his party appears to be dissipating in this large southern city, located on the Mediterranean coast. “For the past 25 years I’ve lived here, I’ve always voted Likud,” says Rosti. “I thought Bibi was the future of Israel, that he would bring peace. But something about him has changed – it seems like he’s only interested in solving our problems abroad and doesn’t care about what’s happening inside the country.” Full story >

Allison Kaplan Sommer | Fighting Netanyahu and Ilhan Omar at the Same Time: The Strategist Working Both Israeli and U.S. Elections

At a moment when both Israeli and U.S. politics are swirling at a furious rate, Mark Mellman finds himself in the eye of two storms. The veteran D.C. pollster currently serves in dual roles that no single figure has occupied at the same time before. He is both a key campaign strategist for a major Israeli political party — Kahol Lavan — and at the helm of a new American pro-Israel organization: the Democratic Majority for Israel. Ask Mellman whether working for a party trying to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem while defending Israel against Netanyahu’s critics in Washington might not be a recipe for a conflict of interest and he’ll give you a firm “no.” Full story >

Danielle Ziri | These Israeli Expats Are Flying Home Especially to Vote Bibi Out (They Hope)

Ever since she’s been of voting age, Noa Shusterman hasn’t missed an Israeli election. So even though the 30-year-old has been living in New York for the past two and a half years, she knew this time wouldn’t be any different. Unlike many other countries, Israel does not allow its hundreds of thousands of citizens abroad to cast absentee ballots (only official Israeli emissaries stationed overseas can do so). “As someone who’s very involved politically and constantly follows what is going on in Israel, this was very important to me,” the Kfar Sava native tells Haaretz, “and I think it’s my civic democratic duty to go and vote.” Full story >

Judy Maltz | Israelis Poised for Their Gayest Parliament Yet

Among the few things it is safe to predict about Israel’s next Knesset is that it will have a record number of openly gay members — possibly more than double the number in the outgoing Knesset, which at barely two (since one only came out midway through the term) was in itself a record. Based on recent polls, four members of the LGBT community are pretty much guaranteed a seat in the next Knesset to be formed after the April 9 election, and another has a good shot. Two are incumbents and three are brand new faces. They represent three different parties across the political spectrum, and all are men. Full story >

Chemi Shalev | Gantz & Co. Bet On Sleaze Factor to Make Them The Four Horsemen of Netanyahu’s Apocalypse

Benny Gantz’s campaign advisers would do well to put a small pebble in one of his shoes and pray to God it irritates him immensely. For the past week, Gantz has been visibly incensed — by his strait-laced standards at least — at the unrelenting storm unleashed by the leak that Iran had hacked his phone and the ensuing organized rumor campaign about his alleged illicit dalliances. After weeks of anemic campaigning that is bleeding support for his Kahol Lavan party, Gantz’s sudden show of emotion did him a world of good. Anger, in moderate doses, becomes him. Full story >

Allison Kaplan Sommer | The Jewish Supremacist, Pro-marijuana Party Tipped to Be in Israel’s Next Parliament

It’s happened before in Israeli elections: A minor party, in the right place at the right time, becomes the party of choice for those who are sick and tired of the status quo. And if two new polls are accurate, 2019’s protest darling for the April 9 election appears to be Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut — a party whose platform is a grab bag of disparate elements that range from out-of-the-box to the extremist fringe. Key to Feiglin’s ability to attract support from Israelis who would normally not identify with his far-right politics: The legalization of cannabis. Full story >

David Rosenberg | Forget Marijuana, Feiglin’s Been Smoking Some Pretty Strong Ideological Stuff

Normally, there would be no sane reason to devote 800-plus words to Moshe Feiglin and his Zehut Party. The latest polls, giving him just four seats, show his party may squeak into the Knesset. But the same polls show that Netanyahu may well need Zehut to form a coalition, and a few of Feiglin’s ideas may yet see the light of day. Most of the media attention has revolved around Zehut’s call for legalizing marijuana; and indeed much of his electoral strength appears to be coming from voters who would normally have supported the pro-pot Green Leaf Party, except that it dropped out of the running. Full story >

Allison Kaplan Sommer | Where are the Women? Israel's Blue and White Boys Club Wants Your Vote

The newborn Blue and White alliance (in Hebrew, Kahol Lavan) was celebrated in a buddy-movie Instagram photo taken after a long night of negotiations. It featured three men who had commanded the Israeli army, Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and the newest soldier to join the ranks battling to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 9 – Gabi Ashkenazi. Rounding out the quartet is the sole non-general: Former journalist and television personality Yair Lapid. Noticeably missing in the Insta-snapshot of the new centrist kid on the block: Any sign of a woman in this blue and white landscape. The fact the portrait of these four amigos is the dominant image of Israel’s new political reality is depressingly reflective of the minimal female presence in the highest levels of government. Full story >