January 5, 2013 -An Election Update Marc Schulman

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

January 5, 2013 -An Election Update

While there is no real news regarding the elections, I thought it would be useful to give an update of where things stand now- with 17 days till the elections. There have not been any dramatic shifts during the campaign to date. The biggest surprise has been the swell of support Bayit Hayehudi's party seems to have received. Some polls have them Habayit Hayehudi with as many as 17 seats in the next Knesset; others show them receiving as low as 13 seats. Either showing represents a major gain. The Habayit Hayehudi party is the successor to the old Mafdal, (National Religious Party). However, the new party is more right-wing and has gained at the expense of votes to the Likud.

The reason for the gains of Habayit Hayehudi, I believe, are two fold. On one hand, the leader of the party is Naftali Bennet from Ra'anana. Bennett was an army officers and a very successful entrepreneur. He sold his hi-tech company for millions. Bennett projects a new and authentic message. He has also successfully kept the other members of his list hidden from the public. So, as strange as it seems, some people are undecided between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett. Lapid is a clear centrist and Bennett's positions are in fact far right.

The second reason for the rise of Habayit Hayehudi was the merger of Likud/Yisrael Beitenu. The merger has been a disaster for the Likud. Some of the official polls show the new combined party receiving as low as 32 seats (though some predict they could even end up with much fewer than that.) The reason is relatively simple. Some Likud supporters cannot stand the idea of voting for Lieberman, who they do not like. The end result - instead of 1+1 equaling 2, (like both Netanyahu and Romney's advisor projected) the result is that the combined list will most likely get no more than 70% of what their two lists would have received alone.

The overall balance between right and center-left seems relatively unchanged. Most polls show at least a 6 seat difference between the two blocs- though one poll this weekend showed only a 2 seat difference, with the Likud faltering. There has been some renewed hope, however, in the Center-Left possibly stopping Netanyahu. So far, that hope looks a little quixotic. However, two factors provide a little hope for the Center-Left. Two weeks before the election, among those who say they are going to vote, the "undecided" make up an uprecdented 40%. The percentage of undecided voters is even higher among those who are not sure if they are going to vote. Most of that uncertainty is among the parties within the each of the blocs. If you read my article in the Times of Israel last week, you know I fall with that group of undecided. The same is true with a very large percentage of my politically aware friends. The other big unknown factor is voter turnout. Will those who protested in the streets last summer come out to voting booth this January 22nd?

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