Opinion

Israel's Center-left Camp Can Win on Tuesday

Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid during a press conference in Jerusalem, September 9, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

A day before the election, what’s left to say? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s march of accusations, insults and snickers on all on all the TV channels on Saturday night demonstrated how superfluous this entire ritual was. The editors and interviewers on Channels 12 and 13 were clearly incapable of waiving the opportunity, and their main objective was to present – what, actually? – a reproachful but heartwarming personal conversation with His Royal Highness?

Nobody still expects to get businesslike answers from Netanyahu, and what we actually saw was a baseless clown show. Michal Rabinowitz on Kan 11, the public broadcasting channel, was the only one who displayed seriousness and stamina in the face of the prime minister’s anger, and like all the channel’s public opinion polls, which also seem reliable, she didn’t celebrate her self-importance, and left the shame to him alone.

At this point it is totally clear that all of Netanyahu’s pleas and entreaties were aimed at a single objective: to draw voters from his satellite parties and to bring every last one of them to the polls. With a supreme effort, he may end up with 61 Knesset seats without the support of Yisrael Beiteinu.

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Haaretz Weekly Ep. 40Haaretz

But his tremendous exertions, which to some extent even succeeded in dragging in the president of the United States, who clearly does not want to commit to him too much, indicate something else: that Netanyahu’s bank of options is gradually diminishing. He has already used the vast majority of voters at his disposal, and has emptied the reservoirs. In effect he is helpless in the face of the still unknown potential of residents in the center of the country, and of course of Arab citizens, who until now have refrained from involvement and did not join the campaign against him.

These citizens, who clearly have little confidence in the political system, are capable, if only they so desire, of going to the polls on Election Day and completely upsetting the present calculations of Knesset seats. A significant addition of such voters to the opposition bloc would clearly hand a victory to the center-left and send Netanyahu home to his criminal trials (pending a hearing).

It is important to understand these facts: Netanyahu has nowhere to turn for additional voters to enlarge his support base. The center-left does. At a time when on the right side of the map every drop of potential support has already been squeezed out, on the map’s other side, which includes Arabs and plain old bored Israelis, there is still a substantial number of the “uninvolved,” who are capable of tipping the balance if only they choose to leave the house and vote.

That of course is why Netanyahu and his people are trying everything possible to deter Arab voters. But will Tel Avivians agree to keep sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing?

Until the April election the prevailing assumption was that most of the nation is with Netanyahu and there is no way to beat him. The constant political focus on the left-wing parties led to a dangerous optical illusion, which led many voters to the conclusion that the opposition bloc has no chance and that therefore there is no point in going to the polls.

Until then, the outcome fulfilled the expectations: repeated victories for Netanyahu. The April election proved for the first time that the center-left camp is effectively equal in size to the right-wing bloc, and apparently bigger. As opposed to Netanyahu, the center-left parties are still capable of increasing their strength and recruiting additional supporters, who until now have stayed home, mainly in the center of the country. That is now their mission, and it can be accomplished.

Netanyahu is hanging by a thread. Another flick of the finger, and he’s through. Rise up, Tel Avivians, and join the battle. Everything now depends on you.