A Friday Maariv survey showed once again that the National Camp led by Benny Gantz, with Gideon Sa’ar and former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot fails to increase the number of its above 12. But the same survey sounded another, even more ominous note for Gantz: in response to the scenario in which Netanyahu would encourage voters to support the Habayit Hayehudi slate led by Ayelet Shaked, Gantz’s mandates drop to 11.
In response, the National Camp launched a blitz campaign to win the hearts and minds of former NRP supporters who may not be able to bring themselves to vote for the Religious Zionism slate led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir and find it easier to support Shaked’s slate.
The National Religious Party (NRP), known in Hebrew as the Mafdal, was founded in 1956 as a union of the Mizrahi and the HaPoel HaMizrahi, two national-religious parties dating back to early political Zionism. In 1955, they ran on a joint list they called the National Religious Front, and one year later they merged completely, running as the National Religious Party for the first time in 1959.
Before the 2006 elections, due to concern the party would fail to pass the electoral threshold, it ran on a joint list with the National Union (Tekuma), then led by Uri Ariel and later by Bezalel Smotrich. The joint list received nine seats, only three of which went to NRP candidates. In late 2008, the party voted to disband, as part of a process that was intended to unite all of the religious Zionist parties. This effort failed, and in the 2009 elections, the National Religious Party ran with Tekuma as Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home). Four years later, it won 12 seats.
Gantz is using two of his recruits, who both sport the knitted yarmulke associated with the historic NRP: Matan Kahana and Hili Tropper. Kahana was elected to the 24th Knesset on Shaked’s Yamina slate and served as Minister of Religious services. Tropper, elected as part of Gantz’s Blue & White slate, became Minister of Culture and Sports.
Gantz’s clever copywriters put together the following sketch stressing the NRP qualities of the two candidates. It’s not enough to know rudimentary Hebrew to appreciate the effectiveness of this 2-minute ad on Facebook. Every exchange is rife with historic, cultural, religious, and political references. Both candidates tout each other’s achievements in the military and in civic life (Tropper served in the Duvdevan special force, Kahana was a combat pilot, and Tropper donated a kidney). They both also declare their benign positions on everything, appealing to the more liberal NRP crowd. In short, this is a masterpiece of political propaganda, portraying both men as possibly the most Israeli persons walking the planet.
Ayelet Shaked must strike back in kind if she hopes to cross the vote threshold come November 1. She must realize that her voters come to her because they reject the more extreme style of her opponents, Smotrich and ben Gvir, and are looking for a conservative, traditionalist leader. Instead, Shaked’s campaign just released the ad below, in which candidate Nitsana Darshan-Leitner attempts to out-Ben Gvir Ben Gvir:
הדרך היחידה לעצור את הטרור היא לפגוע במי שתומך בו וממן אותו.
כשאכנס לכנסת אגרום לרשות הפלסטינית לשלם מחיר יקר. pic.twitter.com/ftIgaIWr2F
— Nitsana Darshan-Leitner | עו’ד ניצנה דרשן-לייטנר (@AttorneyNitsana) October 16, 2022
Kahana and Tropper produced an ingenious propaganda piece – relaxed and confident, with a slew of liberal messages. If Gantz keeps pushing this line and Shaked keeps attacking the Palestinian Authority, Gantz wins.