Thursday, March 28, 2019

12 Days Until the Israeli Election: Hamas, Trump and Netanyahu

In the past month two major political developments have forced dramatic and polarizing action in the conflict between Hamas in Gaza and Israel under Netanyahu.  With a tweet from Trump, Netanyahu may find enough chaos in play to stay on top of the fray once again.

First, the Israeli Attorney General moved on February 28 to indict PM Netanyahu on several separate bribery charges.  Much like scandals in America these days, the supporters of Netanyahu consider it irrelevant, and his detractors advocate for removal of Netanyahu for corruption.  The inner circles of Likkud, however, are concerned and planning for a world - perhaps - without Netanyahu later this year.  In the meantime, he is weakened but still in charge.  What is the answer?  Netanyahu has a well earned reputation for strength in security issues, and a conflict usually immunizes him from criticism while he manages the crisis.

Second, Hamas has failed in its ability to provide economic development, salaries, and charitable aid in the Gaza Strip.  Qatar has been physically moving U.S. dollars into Gaza to distribute some of these resources through the postal offices, but in the last month massive protests against Hamas broke out inside the Gaza strip, and Hamas cracked down with large scale arrests and heavy handed repression of the protests.  Hamas' popularity in the Gaza Strip is based on two primary issues: 1) a network of social supports and subsidies called ikhwan, and 2) its identity as primary resistance to Israel.  The real power lies in the former and the political attention accrues to the latter.  With #1 collapsing, Hamas has chosen to fire missiles at Israel to create a larger conflict which will force its population to focus on #2.  Hamas has learned the lessons of distraction and manipulation well.

Meanwhile, Kahol Lavan's leadership includes 3 former Israeli Army chiefs of staff, but as people get to know Benny Ganz the shine is off the chrome and early energetic leads are cooling off.  Netanyahu is certainly under pressure.  Given Hamas rocket fire deep into Israel proper, Netanyahu has called up the reserves and mobilized the tank corps.  However, it's not clear how a military strategy will play with so many generals running in opposition.

Add to that President Trump's recognition of the complete annexation of the Golan Heights, and the resume of right wing topics are all in play during the last 12 days of the election.  The left usually seeks to emphasis economic development, civil obligations and rights, and peace.  No one is talking about that agenda seriously in the moment, and the outcomes are extremely murky.

One important development today is that Eli Yishai, former head of shas and current head of Yachad (a far right religious party) has withdrawn from the elections and thrown his support to United Torah Judaism.  Shas and UTJ together will account for 11-13 seats under current polling and would certainly be a necessary part of any coalition.

Also interesting, the Bennet/Shaked party "The New Right" has become embroiled in a controversy over a recent ad, and are suffering a momentary drop in support - barely meeting the electoral threshold for the Kenesset.  Presumedly, they will rebound, but who knows?  Should they fail, it will be a tremendous miscalculation by former stars of the right.

Finally, on the far left in the Arab parties, Ra'am-Balad look to be losing all 8 seats and not meeting their threshold either.  This is important because Balad is the main Israeli Arab citizen intellectual party, seeking pure democracy regardless of ethnic or religious identity and Ra'am is the largest Beduin party.  The remaining "Arab" parties (Hadash-Ta'al) are problematic:  Ta'al is a very strong critic of Israel's policies, particularly in Gaza and the West Bank, and Hadash is the Communist party.  Should Ra'am and Balad  be represented by Ta'al in the new Kenesset, it could further polarize internal debate.

Here are the Poll Numbers over the last few weeks.  Scroll the chart to the right to see the entire display:

DatePolling firmHadash
MeretzLaborBlue &
Current seats[3]5851811101530N/A357661
27 MarYahad announces withdrawal[4]
27 MarPanels Politics/Walla![5]8(1.9%)59304(2.6%)4315674759
26 MarMidgam/Army Radio[6]8(1.6%)51030444284556755
26 MarTNS/Kan[7]7558306(2.6%)(2.1%)286756759
24 MarMidgam/Channel 12[8]7441032(2.6%)44284556751
24 MarPanel Project HaMidgam/Statnet/Channel 13[9]74510315(1.6%)(2.4%)286585657
22 MarPanels Politics/Maariv[10]9693045314564757
22 MarMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[11]546930444266574652
22 MarSmith/Jerusalem Post[12]8458305(2.8%)4274666757
20 MarMidgam/iPanel/Channel 12[13]84410324(1.6%)4274655754
20 MarPanel Project HaMidgam/Channel 13[14]7459315(2.3%)(2.2%)295675759
19 MarPanels Politics/Walla![15]9(2.5%)68294(2.9%)5324674659
17 MarDirect Polls/Kan[16]846930(2.1%)(1.1%)4314666655
14 MarMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[17]6(2%)87335(2%)5265675756
14 MarMidgam/iPanel/Channel 12[18]74410314(2.3%)4284476756
13 MarDirect Polls/Makor Rishon[19]9(2.6%)61032(2.7%)(1.7%)(2.9%)324776759
11 MarPanel HaMidgam Project/Statnet/Channel 13[20]7567314(2.3%)4284675656
7-8 MarMidgam/iPanel/Yediot Ahronot[21]74510334(2%)429(3.1%)566757
7 MarDialog/Haaretz[22]84410314(1.8%)(2%)284785759
7 MarMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[23]9(2%)88334(2%)(1%)264884858
5 MarTNS/Kan[24]8457355(2%)(2%)304555757
5 MarSmith/Channel 20[25]94573144429(3%)665656
5 MarMidgam/Channel 12[26]8449365(2.2%)(2.7%)30(2.0%)566759
5 MarPanels Politics/Walla! News[27]9(1.6%)68366(2.7%)(2.8%)31(2.6%)674761
3 MarPanels Politics/Channel 12[28]9(2.2%)68385(2.8%)(2.1%)30(2.9%)674759
1 MarPanel HaMidgam Project/Statnet/Channel 13[29]9466364(2.3%)(2.3%)30(1.6%)576759
1 MarTNS/Kan[30]7566375(3%)(2%)29(3%)756759
28 FebMaariv[31]11(1.5%)56355(3%)429(2.9%)675759
28 FebMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[32]7(1%)67384(2%)(2%)29(3%)896662
27 FebNumber 10 Strategies/The Times of Israel[33]7448364(1%)429854757
24 FebMaagar Mochot/Israel Hayom & i24 News[34]7(2%)7836(2%)(2%)(3%)31(2%)987762
24 FebMidgam/iPanel/Yediot Ahronot[35]7549354(3%)429(3.1%)655756
22 FebMaagar Mochot/Radio 103 FM[36]6856344427674654
21 FebDeadline for party lists to be submitted[37]

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