The single most important finding of Friday’s Ha’aretz survey, which will be the subject of discussion here for some time to come (maybe not as intense as the Pew survey, but close), is how unsurprising it is. Yair Lapid’s meteoric rise from zero to 19 in under 3 months is proving to be identical to the rise and fall of every single “center” party since 1977. As of that year, practically every election sees an attractive newcomer, secular, free-marketer, usually with little past political track, who captures an astonishing slice of the vote only to fizzle out of existence in the very next election, as Israel’s special, and uniquely annoying crowd of “undecided” discovers a new, shiny star.
Poor Shaul Mofaz, chairman of Kadima, experienced this drill in January, coming down from 28 to 2 seats, while most of his voters headed for Lapid’s smile and amazing promises. And have no fear, there will be somebody just as promising come next election, to scoop up Yesh Atid’s votes and put them in a totally new, promising and trustworthy bucket. Because, were the vote to take place today, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and his merry band of total- and near-unknowns would be dropping from 19 to 10 seats. And that’s today, without a seductive, yet untested alternative.
The Ha’aretz survey was conducted by Dialogue, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs from Tel Aviv University’s Depart. of Statistics, one of the country’s most reliable numbers guys. It questioned 501 Israelis with a 4.4 percent margin of error. So, take it or leave it, it’s a snapshot.
Likud-Beiteinu stays exactly the same, with 32 seats. This means Bibi stays on as the permanent Israeli prime minister, mostly because folks have no idea who would be better at this. It also means that MK Aryeh Deri should probably shelf his plot to yank Avigdor Lieberman out of his pact with Bibi. That dog ain’t hunting.
In fact, Aryeh Deri should be very concerned that mere days after all the sympathy and pomp his party received from the public, following the departure of their spiritual leader, Shas drops from 11 to 10 seats. It may just mean that the voters do not necessarily see a connection between the great leader, who they loved, and his party, about which they’re cooling down.
That one seat most likely went to Jewish Home, which probably also siphoned off 2 seats from Lapid, to grow to 15 seats in this survey. That’s a 25 percent growth for a party that’s in the government and isn’t particularly delivering big time on its campaign promises (no major housing spurt in Judea and Samaria, and don’t forget the loss of the Chief Rabbi’s post).
Srugim suggests this is because Jewish home has been aggressive in its campaign for local municipalities, with the vote coming next Tuesday. The public sees the Jewish Home brand, day in and day out, and it’s becoming more comfortable and acceptable. Maybe the Bennette marketing approach, stressing nice feelings and broad, generalized ideas, does attract the Masorti-traditional crowd in the middle. Who knew?
The other very big winner is left-wing Meretz, which doubles it seats from 6 to 12, while Labor, like Likud, stays the same – 17 seats.
UTJ stays at 6, Tzipi Livni 5, Kadima still at 2, and the Arabs still with 11 seats.
I have no idea what Yair Lapid’s marketing consultants are telling him he should do to avoid the one-term-flash syndrome that befell his own late father a decade ago. I doubt they’re telling him to go even harder on the Haredim – it’s a very tired horse. If anything, he should mend fences with the Haredim, if he’s looking to grab anyone’s attention.
He could unite with Bennett, you know, in a kind of mildly traditional coalition. It’s never happened before in Israeli politics, but of all the things that seem to be getting positive marks from Israelis, the friendship between those two successful leaders is still way up there.
Finally, the survey asked the voters which politician fulfilled his or her promise and which was a disappointment. Most of the responses cancelled each other out, with about the same percentage fulfilled and disappointed. Two stood out: Bibi had 6% disappointed vs. 19% fulfilled; and Lapid had 4% fulfilled vs. 51% disappointed. That’s off the chart letdown.
Good luck retooling that one…