Labor Lost in Israel and U.K. for Same Reason, U.S. Pollster Says

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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigns in the southern city of Ashkelon on election day, March 2015.Credit: Reuters

Stanley Greenberg, the American pollster who worked with both the Israeli Labor Party (the main component of the Zionist Union list) and the British Labour Party in recent elections, has blamed nationalist scare tactics for the defeats suffered by his clients.

In both elections, polls had Greenberg's clients running neck-and-neck with their conservative rivals right until the last moment and failed to predict the large conservative victories that transpired.

The reason, Greenberg wrote in an article on the Politico website, was that the Conservative Party in the U.K. and the Likud in Israel "played the nationalist card" at the last moment.

In Britain, according to Greenberg, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron focused on the Scottish bogeyman in the final days of campaigning, warning that a weak left-wing Labour government propped up by the Scottish National Party would put the country at risk.

"Tory billboards showed a prominent leader of the Scottish nationalists reaching out his hand and snatching England’s money."

The result, he writes, was "a strong counter-intense reaction in Scotland," the collapse of the Liberal Democrats, Cameron's coalition partner in the previous government, and the return of many UKIP voters to the Conservative Party. Labour was routed.

Regarding Israel, Greenberg recounts the failure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech in Congress to lift his polls, resulting in the premier's resorting to scare tactics – his statement that he would never support the two-state solution and his election day warning that Arab voters were "moving in droves to the polls."

The rest is history.

In both countries, Greenberg says, the conservative parties won – but at a price. The Tories now have only a six seat majority in the House of Commons, while in Israel Netanyahu was hard-pressed to weld together a 61-seat coalition.

Greenberg: "The lesson from Israel and from the UK, unfortunately, is that playing the nationalist card works electorally. It does not work so well for the nation."

As for the lessons of the British and Israeli experiences for the two parties in America, Greenberg writes: "America is a country of growing racial diversity, immigration and multiculturalism. America is a genuinely exceptional nation that embraces its multiculturalism and aspires to achieve unity out of diversity. Playing the nationalist card here in the U.S. will not work electorally—or, more importantly, for the nation—in 2016 and beyond.

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