By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
By all accounts, all political parties that can afford it use polls; they may publish only those that benefit their campaigns, but they study all of them very carefully. Commenting on results that appear elsewhere, often in newspapers, politicians who’re doing badly are anxious to tell us not to take the polls seriously; in Israel, some like to point out that in the last elections, Yesh Atid with Yair Lapid at the helm did badly in the polls but spectacularly at the ballot box.
Politicians who’re doing well in pre-election polls often hasten to tell their supporters not to get complacent by staying at home on voting day.
But what should ordinary readers make of the poll published in today’s Ha’aretz? When asked, “Who in your opinion will care more for people like you?” more respondents believe that Herzog, the current opposition leader, will in comparison to Netanyahu, the current prime minister (35% to 34%). Similarly, Herzog also scores better than Netanyahu in dealing with the country’s economic and social situation (38%- 35%).
But when it comes to security and diplomacy, Netanyahu wins hands down (55% to 24% and 52% to 30% respectively). Hence the conclusion of the public that Binyamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister (51% to 26%). And that despite the fact that 41% of those polled think that the misappropriation of funds in the prime minister’s official and private homes, implied in the auditor general’s report, must be investigated!
Though the outcome after the ballots have been counted on March 17 may be less than certain, the attitude of Israelis is telling: they seem to care more about Israel’s military security and diplomatic firmness than their own personal comforts. For all we know, the majority may even think that Herzog is a nicer man with more personal integrity, but that doesn’t seem to count for very much either.
Not only does that mean that Netanyahu is likely to stay at the helm and that the next government coalition will include hardliners like Naftali Bennett (the leader of Habauit Hayehudi) and – if they get enough mandates – Avigdor Lieberman (the “Russian” Yisrael Beiteinu), Arieh Deri (the ultra-Orthodox Shas) and even Eli Yishai, who broke away from Shas to form an ultra-right wing party that has on its list an ultra-Orthodox/ultra-nationalist who has often been at odds with the law (Baruch Marzel).
If – more likely, when – this happens, we can bid farewell to the peace process. The Palestinians will suffer more at home by Israeli measures and their own corrupt leaders, and Israel will be subject to more and more condemnation abroad, partly through the International Criminal Court but also in many other ways.
This will also mean that Israel’s Arab citizens may encounter new hardships, the asylum seekers will be given a hard time, etc, etc. And if Hillary Clinton becomes the next president of the United States, US-Israel relations may cool further.
Yes, it’s my usual pessimistic prognosis. However, it doesn’t just come from my warped imagination but from ostensibly hard data cited above.
As usual, I very much hope that I’m wrong – not because Israelis will vote differently, alas, but because Netanyahu may realize that he’s better off with a so-called unity government that includes Herzog and Livni. Not that he shares their politics, but he may dislike them much less and trust them much more than his natural partners.