I’ve been forwarded results of a new Israeli election poll compiled over the past few hours. I know the pollster’s name, though I can’t name it. It’s one of Israel’s most reputable. I don’t have physical possession of the actual poll. If the poll is accurate it predicts a massive implosion of the Likud-Beitenu campaign. The last published poll by Haaretz showed the Party dropping down to 32 seats. This in itself was a massive slide from its previous projection of over 40 seats. This more recent poll shows further erosion down to 29 seats. This is only marginally better than Likud polled alone in the last election (27). If you add the Yisrael Beitenu seats, the two parties may have lost around 13 seats by tomorrow. Most of those lost seats appear to have gone to the insurgent, farther-right party HaBayit HaYehudi. The other beneficiaries of this result appear to be parties of the left and center:
Labor- 15 seats
Likud – 29
Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) – 16
HaBayit HaYehudi (Naftali Bennett) – 16
Meretz – 6
* Eretz Hadasha – 4
Kadima – 3
Shas – 10
Israeli-Palestinian parties – 10
* UPDATE: Nitay Peretz has tweeted a poll by the same pollster which show different results. After some research, I’ve discovered that the poll results Nitay offered are from three days ago and the results I’m quoting are from earlier today. So the result quoted above is more recent than what Nitay is quoting. Nevertheless, there are some striking differences in that 2-3 days interval. Eretz Chadasha goes from 0 to 4 seats and Otzma Yisrael, a Kahanist party, goes from 3 to 0 seats. It’s pretty astonishing and, if true, shows that Israeli voters are incredibly volatile in the closing days of this campaign.
If these results prove accurate, then the losers besides Likud-Beitenu are Labor and Shas. The winners are Meretz (+2), Naftali Bennet’s party (+2 from its last poll result) and Yair Lapid. Though Kadima has lost virtually its entire mandate, it has risen from nowhere in earlier polls to three seats, which is a modest victory in a sense. Eretz Chadasha is one the biggest winners with four seats.
As I wrote in an earlier post, this still doesn’t massively change the political complexion of the next Knesset. It will still be right-wing dominated. Bibi will still form a government that includes Bennett’s party and other far-right factions. But if the results above hold, then Bibi will be profoundly weakened personally. This also means his vacuous, issueless campaign turned out to be disastrous. This will give free rein to competitors within the ranks of right wing parties like Lieberman and Bennett to begin jockeying for the certain generational shift that will be coming in future elections. It presages a further rightward drift in the Israeli political majority.
Labor, which had been polling at around 20 seats, has sunk to its lowest polling result since election surveys in this cycle began. It means that the center-left party has bled voters to those farther to its left, including Meretz and Eretz Chadasha. Lapid has virtually taken over the spot in the political spectrum Kadima used to occupy and becomes the de facto centrist party in Knesset.
Eretz Chadasha’s results show the continuing resonance of the social justice message in Israeli society. It also shows a successful campaign can be run almost entirely via social media and the internet. In its case, the party was virtually boycotted by the entire establishment media, which wouldn’t (except for two exceptions) even accepts its ads. This campaign has shown that many of the conventional parties failed to move the electorate with their stale, value-free platforms. Voters have become extremely cynical and the fault lies with the mainstream parties themselves. This cynicism has enabled the innovative and unconventional parties to make major inroads. It remains to be seen whether newcomers like Lapid, Bennett and Eldad Yaniv can transform their insurgent campaigns and show staying power and relevance to the Israeli political scene.
A media campaign by outlets like Haaretz (and even the Arab League!) urging Israeli Palestinians to vote appears not to have moved the community, as its share of the Knesset remains stable at 10.
UPDATE II: I’m very proud of this tweet from the 7the Eye, the Israeli media blog which says:
At a time when in Israel it’s forbidden to report election surveys, the American blogger, Richard Silverstein, publishes a survey leaked to him.
Israel’s censors and guardians of proper political decorum seem to have missed that we’re now in a digital age and not the age of the telegraph or Pony Express. The believe that just as Israel has build a physical Separation to keep Palestinians out, it can build a virtual wall to keep information from its citizens. But news is not confined to TV or radio and it’s not confined to reporting from within the boundaries of your own country. Those borders can be penetrated by information like what’s published here.
I should say that this reporting could not happen without the support of Israelis who themselves have joined the digital age and want their country to do so as well.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.