Last polls out of Israel

The election isn't until next Tuesday in Israel, but the final polls are released today on Friday. The momentum of Lieberman's far-right, "no citizenship without loyalty" movement has pulled into a solid 3rd place. Since most of their gains have come as the cost of Likud, it presents a scenario where Kadima could pull ahead of Likud, and Livni become the PM.

The spread of the last polls done, between Netanyahu's Likud and Livni's Kadima is just 1-4 seats, a significant narrowing in the past two weeks:

An internal Kadima poll conducted by party pollster Kalman Geyer Wednesday night found that the party actually had a one-seat lead.

"I'm going to win against all odds," Livni said in closed conversations Thursday. "This is a historic opportunity, and I believe the public will make it happen. The momentum of the last week and a half will bring victory."

Kadima strategist Lior Chorev said that despite the significant lead for the right-wing bloc over the Left and Kadima, Livni would have no problem forming a government. He said it would actually be easier for her to form a government than Netanyahu, because as the leader of a centrist party she could bring in virtually any party, while the Likud might have to struggle to bridge the gaps between Shas and Israel Beiteinu on civil issues.

"If we get one seat more than Likud, we will prove that there really are no blocs, and we will easily form a government," Chorev said. "The undecided decided one thing. They don't want Bibi. Now we just have to persuade them to vote Kadima. We just have to let the wind blow our sails as it did the last week, and we will win the race."

There are also some signs that Greens have a bit of momentum, and may pass the threshold, but not in any of the last polls.

The WaPost yesterday had an article on how the parties are borrowing from Obama:

...[Livni] invites Israelis to "vote for change." Her campaign distributes T-shirts emblazoned with the made-up word "Believni"...."The American people voted for hope," Livni told an audience of college students recently. "This is also possible in the state of Israel." ...But the Netanyahu campaign answers with its own T-shirt: "No, She Can't." ...The ultra-Orthodox Shas party, for instance, has a familiar campaign slogan: "Yes, we can." The party has printed thousands of bumper stickers that feature the phrase in big blue letters, along with the small-type addendum: "with God's help."

Likud also "launched a billboard campaign that shows a grimacing Livni beside the caption "It's too big for her." I looked around, but couldn't find a copy of the ad. There does appear to be a gender-split happening, at least in the targeting of the 20-25% or so of undecided voters (most of whom are women).

Update [2009-2-6 14:55:22 by Jerome Armstrong]: Great wrap, Kadima, Likud are neck-and-neck with 4 days to go.

As for the sexist slogan ("It's too big for her") that Likud is attaching to Livni, the Kadima negative ad raps Netanyahu, saying: "Small on me, small on you, small on everybody." Ahem.

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Israel going right, with opposition

Anywhere but the Labor middle. I've seen three recent polls out of Israel, and the others show about the same trend as this poll on IMRA:

Results expressed in Knesset seats. Current Knesset seats in [brackets].

25 [29] Kadima headed by Livni
07 [19] Labor
37 [12] Likud
11 [12] Shas
08 [11] "Israel Is Our Home" (Yisrael Beteinu)
08 [06] Yahadut Hatorah (United Torah Judaism-UTJ)
08 [05] Meretz
04 [09] "Jewish Home" (previously Nat'l Union/NRP)
03 [00] Green Party
09 [10] Arab parties *
00 [07] Retirees Party
You don't know cynicism until you've talked with young Israeli progressives. Here's how Gil, the 'Retirees Party' above, got those seven seats last election:
We have a retirees party here in Israel (talk about going out with a bang before you croak). Well, we never had it before, but now all of a sudden we do. Most stunningly, much of the electoral strength of the party is actually derived from disaffected twenty and thirty-somethings. The deal with the Retirees is that they weren't expected to win any seats, but then, once one of the polls showed them winning two seats, everyone who was looking to enter a protest vote voted for them. Their popularity spread like wildfire, kind of like a Cialdini experiment on social proof. Overnight it became cool to vote for the Retirees; talk about buzz marketing. Meanwhile, none of the people who voted for the Reitrees have ANY idea what the party members stand for expect for getting retirees higher pensions. The funniest quip of the elections was in fact by the head of the Retirees' Party, Rafi Eitan: "I can't see [points at his glasses], I can't hear [points at his hearing aid], and next week I'm having an angioplasty." He wasn't kidding. I guess that the joke is on us.
My take, from being on a NJDC tour of Israel earlier this year, was that the Meretz party had the best hope of a place for something of an left-of-center opposition to form. While there, I met with a number of bloggers, including Yochai Ilam from Black Labor blog, but they didn't seem to have much of an interest in any of the prominent political parties. Perhaps, with the prospect of PM Netanyahu looming, that's changing (here's a good look into the current blogosphere of Israel). I've read recently that the left/progressive parts of Labor are moving into Meretz. While that doesn't seem to have played out, Meretz does seem to have had an infusion of new activism into its party. Labor just seems tired and defeatist, and though Kadima's Tzipi Livni is a better alternative than a repeat of Netanyahu as prime minister, that's not where Israel is headed, by the looks of the above poll.

Livni was ahead, but has fallen dramatically behind in recent weeks, as the global economic downturn has settled into Israel. She's not seen as someone with much economic experience, and Likud's Netanyahu leads on economic preference in recent polling. That said, I'm not sure where Netanyahu is going to go to get partner Likud with other parties to get above 60; perhaps with Kadima led by Mofaz? That's a chilling prospect. Another prospect would be for Netanyahu's Likud to join with Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu, pay off Shas, and pull in other rightwing or Orthodox parties if needed for a majority.

Though the center is collapsing in Israel, and the prospects for the left forming part of the majority are not that bright at the moment, a different scenario is unfolding. Labor is on the demise, Gil will vanish, and perhaps Meretz will pick up enough seats to become the third largest party, and become a voice of clear opposition:

"I hope the expanded leftist movement will become a replacement for the Labor Party," the Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted author Amos Oz as saying. "The Labor Party has finished its historic role, it isn't putting forward a national agenda and it joins any coalition." The internationally acclaimed author was among 30 prominent Israelis who announced the formation of the movement on Friday. Other members include former parliament speaker Avraham Burg and Tsali Reshef, founder of the Peace Now movement. Both men are Labor breakaways. The new group is not forming a new party. Instead, it hopes to bolster Meretz, a leftist party that has been largely confined to the political fringe in recent elections and now holds just five seats. ...The new movement that's coalescing also opposes Netanyahu's approach, and urges energetic efforts to achieve a final accord between Israel and the Palestinians. Meretz chairman Haim Oron told The Associated Press that the new movement hoped to draw votes from "the parties of apathy and despair"— disillusioned Labor voters, centrists who voted for the ruling Kadima Party in the last elections in 2006, protest voters and people who haven't voted in the past. Oron said the intent was to mobilize voters who identified with Meretz's goals but were reluctant to vote for a party with a small presence in parliament. The new party would not sit in a Netanyahu government, he said. Skeptics questioned whether the new movement's appeal would extend beyond the circle of likely Meretz voters. But it could have an impact if it manages "to wake up other voting populations," like young people who ordinarily wouldn't bother casting ballots, said political scientist Gideon Doron.
There's some hope.

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