ANALYSIS: How Bibi Won and Benny Lost

Thursday, April 11, 2019 |  Yochanan Visser

It happened again.

Like in 1996, when polls and surveys predicted Shimon Peres would beat Benyamin Netanyahu and Israel woke up only to find out that the Likud politician had won the race for Israel’s premiership the same happened on Wednesday morning.

Not Blue and White of Yair Lapid and Israel Resilience head Benny Gantz but Likud got the majority of votes in the 2019 Knesset election. 

Likud took 26.27 percent of the votes while Blue and White, that had already celebrated its ‘victory’ on Tuesday evening after the publication of three exit-polls, received 25.94 percent of the casted votes tying it with 35 mandates to Likud.

The Hebrew Bible uses the same word for polls and surveys as the word for lies my colleague David Lazarus wrote on Monday.

Lazarus cited Professor Avshalom Kor, a linguist and expert on Hebrew grammar and semantics,who explained that in Hebrew the word for lie is sheker written with a right-handed shin.

The word for survey is seker written with a samech and Kor explained that “a left-sided shin, or sin, and samech are interchangeable in many Hebrew words in both biblical and Talmudic writings.”

De renowned linguist came to the conclusion that both words come from the same root.

There is certainly a big problem with the polls and surveys used in Israeli election  campaigns.

In 2015, the same happened when the media polls predicted a victory for the now disbanded Zionist Union only to find out that Netanyahu did it again and won that election too.

The fact that polls and surveys in Israel are wildly of the mark in virtually every election campaign could be blamed on the way Israelis deal with them. During recent interviews with Israeli voters a significant number of them admitted to me that they tend to lie about their favourite party or politician when they participate in a survey.

Another reason for the unreliable polls and Netanyahu’s surprise win is that during the last days before the elections publication of surveys is forbidden.

And here lies the rub. Netanyahu is an expert in last-minute campaigning and knows how to circumvent the mainstream media who are in majority hostile to him.

Just as in 2015, the Israeli PM took to social media to reach out to his six million followers and it worked again.

Via videos which were posted on his social media accounts throughout the day Netanyahu told Israelis that they should go to the polling stations and went to beaches where families enjoyed there day off before casting their votes to deliver the same message.

Israelis had the choice between ‘Bibi and Tibi’, a reference to Ahmed Tibi the controversial Arab Israeli MK who sees himself as Palestinian and could have ended up being a member of a Gantz-led government, Netanyahu also said. 

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, on the other hand, made strategic mistakes throughout the campaign and made a blunder when he went home to be with his family after casting his vote on election day.

Gantz biggest mistake has been that he started to make blistering below-the-belt attacks on Netanyahu the moment his Israel Resilience party merged with Yair Lapid’s Yes Atid.

During a speech for Blue and White supporters in February, Gantz described Netanyahu as a US-trained fake who spent his time learning flawless English and attending cocktail parties in the US while he, Gantz, was risking his life in trenches with IDF soldiers.

Likud and Netanyahu easily countered this outrageous claim by telling the Israeli public that Netanyahu had been busy freeing hostages held by Palestinian terrorists on a Sabena plane while Gantz was making preparations for his son’s Bar Mitzvah.

The PM later addressed Gantz remarks and pointed to the fact that he had been serving in the IDF elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal and had been injured on several occasions.

Last week, Gantz made a new blunder when he dared to compare Netanyahu to Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is one of the most unpopular foreign leaders among Israelis.

Asked if he really  thought Netanyahu was turning Israel into a second Turkey Gantz insisted that this was indeed the case and claimed he was “very worried” about it.

The Israeli public, however, is very much aware that this is not the case because it knows that Erdogan is a ruthless Islamist dictator who suppresses the Kurdish minority in Turkey, jails journalists and academics while cracking down on opponents not only in Turkey but also abroad.

By indulging in such a dirty campaign against Netanyahu Gantz destroyed his image as mister clean and as a gentleman with statesman-like qualities.

Another reason Gantz’ party lost the election is that the former IDF Chief of Staff closed a rotation agreement for the premiership with Yair Lapid.

Israelis, including those on the left, think Lapid lacks the qualities to become Prime Minister due to his lack of experience in military and security-related matters and is a talking head with a blurred vision on vital issues.

For this reason, Netanyahu constantly warned Israelis that a vote for Blue and White would mean they would end up with Lapid as their PM.

Experts think the rotation deal between Gantz and Lapid cost Blue and White at least four mandates.

Then there is the fact that Netanyahu achieved a number of impressive political successes during the last part of the election campaign.

First, he secured American recognition for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights something that could have great consequences for Israel’s ability to take action against Iran in Syria.

The second success was the PM’s recent visit to Moscow where he solved the crisis over the downing of a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance airplane by the Syrian army which erupted last September during a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The reconciliation between Russia and Israel also resulted in the release of the remains of Israeli MIA Zachariah Baumel whose body was dug up in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus with help of Russian soldiers.

Baumel had been missing since the Second Lebanon War in 1982 and he was buried at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem last Thursday.

All this contributed to what Netanyahu called “a tremendous victory” on Tuesday night.

The Likud politician will now become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister and is expected to form a right-wing government with a 65 mandates majority.

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