A new poll on Friday showing the possible demise of Shas should make Sephardi Rabbi Chaim Amsalem and right-wing Otzma leader Michael Ben-Ari think twice about running the elections, but their egos probably will seal their ears.
If each of them insists on running in their own independent parties, they are unlikely to win the minimum number of votes to enter the Knesset and will waste tens of thousands of votes that otherwise would go to the Jewish Home and the other two Sephardi parties.
That means the other parties, particular those on the center-left, get a bigger slice of the pie and could end up with enough votes to form a coalition government, thanks to those who are dead-set against it.
It will be tougher for a party to enter the Knesset this year because the new threshold has been upped to 3.25 percent of the vote, meaning that a party needs approximately 125,000 votes to win representation.
In the last election, the threshold was only 2 percent, but Otzma still missed being elected.
Ben-Ari is known to support the Lehava anti-assimilation group, whose leader Bentzi Gupstein and nearly a dozen others were arrested this month.
Ben-Ari is a true ideologue. He compares Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Labor party chairman Yitzchak Herzog, both of whom are left-wingers in his opinion. He calls himself the real “right wing,” a label Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon claims for himself in his campaign to defeat Netanyahu as party chairman in elections next week.
As for taking votes away from the Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) party and ending up with zero seats in the Knesset, Ben-Ari apparently has no answer. When asked by Channel 20, “Aren’t you afraid of wasting right-wing votes?” he simply blamed Yisrael Beitenu for raising the threshold, as if blaming someone else for the likely result justifies his being the reason.
Ben-Ari’s anger at right-wing politicians who compromise in order to stay in power is absolutely correct but also proves why he should not be in politics. There is an old expression, “Would you rather be right or be president?”
In his case, he would rather be right, in both senses of the word, a position that could help Herzog and his sidekick Tzipi Livni become the rotating prime ministers.
Rabbi Amsalem’s Am Shalem party, like Otzma, failed to enter the Knesset in the last elections, and he is not likely to fare better this time around.
That did not stop him from meeting with supporters this week to discuss tossing his kippa into the political ring again and splitting up the Sephardi religious vote that already is divided between Shas, headed by Aryeh Deri, and Eli Yishai’s new party.
And now for today’s poll released by Panels, rated as one of the most accurate election campaign polls.
Shas would not win enough votes to enter the Knesset, and Yishai would win only four, which is marginal, compared with nine Shas MKs in the Knesset that disbanded this month.
That means votes for Shas are wasted.
The poll was taken before Ben-Ari announced his intentions to run and it gave the Jewish Home a very impressive 18 seats in the Knesset.
The Otzma party could easily cut that down to 16.
Here is the lineup if elections were held today, according to Panels:
Labor-Livni – 24;
Likud – 24;
Jewish Home -18;
Arab parties – 13;
Lapid (Yesh Atid) – 11;
Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) – 7;
Yehadut HaTorah (Ashkenaz Haredi) – 7;
Meretz – 6;
Yisrael Beitenu – 6;
Eli Yishai – 4.
If Amsalem enters the race, he could take away enough seats away from Yishai to leave the three religious Sephardic parties with zero.