In the wake of terrible polling news for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, Bibi is pulling out all the stops in a last-ditch effort to stave off the possibility of an embarrassing performance at the polls on Tuesday. On Friday, the Israeli Prime Minister posted to Facebook, ”Right-wing rule is in danger. Leftist elements and the media in this country and abroad have joined forces to illegitimately bring Tzipi and Bougie (his opposition) to power”. Netanyahu also made similar claims on broadcast radio, suggesting that a leftist conspiracy, funded by unnamed foreign contributors, is seeking to illegitimately influence the Israeli elections to have him ousted as Prime Minister.
Netanyahu is going on the attack, after a number of polling organizations released polls showing his right-leaning Likud Party, trailing the centrist Zionist Union Party, in the run-up to the March 17 election. Because of Israel’s multiparty system, even if his party fails to win as many seats as the Zionist Union, Netanyahu might still have an opportunity to remain Prime Minister, if he can cobble together a ruling government coalition.
However, the polling evidence points to the likelihood that, at the very least, the Likud Party will not secure more seats than the Zionist Union opposition party. An aggregation of recent polls, project the most likely outcome to be that Herzog’s Zionist Union Party will win 25 seats, to the Likud Party’s 21 seats.
Netanyahu seems to recognize that he is in political jeopardy. His political stunt in the United States, where he addressed members of Congress, has created blowback for him back home. That compounded with other governing failures has Netanyahu growing more desperate.
He is ratcheting up his rhetoric in the hopes of scaring Israel’s voters back into the Likud fold. He insisted in a radio interview that voters must select Likud over other right-wing parties to fight off the leftist conspiracy. On an interview with Voice of the South radio, Netanyahu stated: ”The right-wing is splitting. The right-wing must unite behind me and vote Likud.”
Even members of Bibi’s own party are growing increasingly nervous. Reuters reports that at least one senior Likud delegate was hinting that if the election turns out poorly, Bibi might even be ousted as the party’s leader. The delegate ominously said, “We’re closing ranks now, but if Tuesday turns out badly for us, there will be a reckoning.”
While the outcome of the election remains in doubt, what is clear is that Benjamin Netanyahu has alienated a broad segment of the Israeli public. An election he once thought was a sure thing is now slipping away from him. As the Prime Minister’s party continues to crumble in the polls, he has turned to conspiratorial rhetoric about foreign leftist plots, to try to rally the Israeli electorate to his side. However, the voters have heard this song and dance before. After months and months of hearing Netanyahu “cry wolf”, and pull political stunts like his speech to Congress, Bibi’s desperation rhetoric may have an impact on Tuesday. However, it may not be in the direction he intended.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.