Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a living example of how an election campaign can be decided at the last minute, on the days the polls open. In 2015, he amazed everyone when he led the Likud to 30 seats, many more than the last polls had predicted.
Many attribute that victory to the blitz of interviews Netanyahu gave on Election Day, as well as his unforgettable warning that “the Arabs are flocking to the polls.” In April Netanyahu did it again, closing the lead polls had predicted Blue and White would maintain over the Likud, this time by broadcasting a live feed on his Facebook page.
But this September, Netanyahu won’t be alone—the other parties have learned their lessons and intend to fire back on Election Day. But they mean to focus not on the rivalry between blocs, but on internal strife within the bloc.
While Likud and Blue and White will try to collect as many seats as possible at the expense of the other parties in their respective blocs, the smaller parties will take advantage of the final day to drive home the message that it isn’t the size of the party that matters, but the size of the bloc.
According to one Likud official, “In general, the Likud doesn’t comment on its campaign, and the plan for the final stretch is under wraps and known to only a few very workers at the campaign headquarters, who have signed secrecy agreements.”
However, we do know that the Likud will be investing millions, mostly in identifying clusters of potential—a process of data analysis that has been underway for two months already. The Likud will be integrating figures from the field with information from social media and cellular phones in an attempt to deploy targeted ads at specific sectors.
We also know that because of the battle with Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, heavy resources will be invested in bastions of Yisrael Beitenu voters, including hostels and retirement homes, including free rides to the polls on Election Day.
Blue and White
Blue and White is also getting ready for the election by using technology to identify potential voters, as well as a targeted campaign that will call on members of the left-wing camp to support the biggest center-left party, one that is capable of posing a challenge to the Likud government.
Last time, Blue and White attracted the support of many left-wingers, prompting them to abandon satellite parties like Meretz and Labor. This time, Blue and White will try to recreate their April success, but the rest of the left-wing parties have already learned their lesson and are getting ready for a final Election Day push.
Blue and White campaign staffers have set up 200 headquarters nationwide to coordinate fieldwork. On Election Day, a Blue and White-branded bus will travel to various areas. Party activists will be assigned to 9,300 polling places to observe the voting and ballot count.
The Blue and White election office has divided the country into 26 zones, each of which is assigned to a Blue and White Knesset member. A special “situation room” will be in operation from 6 a.m., with legal counsel, logistics coordinators and computer techs.
The HQ will keep tabs on which voters have and have not voted, thanks to technology that will send the information to special staff who will spend the day calling potential voters.
The Democratic Union
The Democratic Union (the joint list comprising Meretz, the Israel Democratic Party and the Green Movement), for example, intends to run a scare campaign, not about the possibility of the party disappearing because it might fail to make it over the minimum electoral threshold, but about the possibility that “Israeli democracy might be obliterated.”
Party leaders will speak out against Netanyahu and the Likud and accuse Blue and White of intending to join a Netanyahu-led government after the election.
The joint party plans to use technological means to find potential voters, all from the left-wing camp, and drive home the message that any party that does not declare that it will work to replace the Netanyahu government is not a viable option.
In recent weeks, the Labor Party has set up a special office to create a campaign for the last week of the election, as well as a special headquarters for Election Day itself. Labor officials say that the last-stage campaign will include a surprise that will “shake up” politics—especially Blue and White. According to the officials, the campaign will keep Labor votes from migrating to Blue and White, and will also cause potential Blue and White voters to vote for Labor leader Amir Peretz.
In addition to a special Election Day HQ, the party will be sending volunteers to knock on doors in strategic areas identified ahead of time to convince left-wing voters, as well as residents of the periphery, to throw their support behind Peretz and Gesher Party leader Orly Levy-Abekasis. Labor officials are also saying that one of the sectors they will be focusing on is former supporters of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party. The party says that this is the largest field operations program it has ever organized and that millions of shekels were invested in its activities.
Yemina (formerly the United Right, the joint list of Jewish Home, the National Union-Tkuma and the New Right) is also gearing up to fire back at the Likud’s last-minute efforts at scaring voters. The list plans to station about 1,000 volunteers at polling places to give the party visibility. The list will make use of existing databases from its constituent parties. Yemina is planning a campaign of phone calls to urge supporters to go out and vote.
To thwart any attempt by Netanyahu to siphon off votes on Election Day, Yemina does not plan to wait until the last minute and is already planning to convince voters that the size of the bloc, not the party, will be the deciding factor in the election.
Yemina leader Ayelet Shaked said, “This time, Netanyahu is starting to try and siphon off votes from the [other] right-wing parties early, and that allows us to make our voters able to withstand the intense messages that will flood in on Election Day, and realize that the size of the bloc, not the biggest party, is what will decide.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.