Israel is less than two weeks away from going to the polls on January 22 and the campaign is now in its most—and only–intense period during the final three weeks. Advertisements are airing during the final two weeks according to a very strict formula mandated by law, with all television and radio ads paid for by the State. Each Party is allocated minutes as are MK’s and leaders, but all of the electronic media is held to a very tight format.
Meanwhile, Israel has been hit with its most serious snowstorm in a decade. The public is distracted—at least for the moment—from even watching the advertisements. For the current Government, how it handles this pre-election weather emergency could even have a decisive impact on the election’s outcome as some have suggested Hurricane Sandy helped Obama in November.
Prior to this meteorological mischief, it was the array of polls which were beginning to mystify at least some of the analysts. Virtually every major newspaper is running daily polls and some are employing tracking polls. Most of the scholars and analysts studying these polls admit that the error factor is high—over 4% in many instances. They also show a volatile electorate with– in at least one case–30% of the voters polled declaring to be undecided, less than two weeks before the election. Jews in the United States–and throughout the diaspora—also are discovering that indeed in Israel too, the most significant issue for the public is the economy; not peace, Iran, or the Palestinians.
For Netanyahu, despite much pre-election maneuvering and movement to the right, he may now be afraid that he faces a possible shock similar to the 1977 election which brought Menachem Begin and the Likud Party to power for the first time in Israel’s history. Those parties to his right may well sap votes from his Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu joint list especially given the fact that Avigdor Lieberman’s political future is now seriously in danger.
For the center-left parties a weak, indistinguishable group of potential leaders are desperately trying also to build a Likud blocking majority, without the religious parties and the ultra-Orthodox. The religious groups, on the other hand, are all trying to keep their rank and file together so they can ultimately be the king-makers once the voters have spoken.
This situation makes for fun in the snow, people stranded in a snow emergency, children likely off from school, and attention to all the election hype being ignored; at least until the weekend. The best news for Israelis, and only Americans can truly appreciate this, imagine if you had to endure a campaign for almost 18 months!