President Clinton is well known for his comment “Its the economy stupid”, and one of the prime archetects of his political victories Paul Beugala has arrived in Israel to consult for the campaign of the Zionist Party led by Itzhak Herzog. By all accounts they can use that help. Not that this week has been a bad one for them. A week ago it looked like Labor was in feel fall and Likud the party of Prim Minister Netanyahu was on the rise, with the Likud taking the lead for the first time in polls of the Israeli electorate. This weeks polls show a change in that direction with the Zionist Camp once again seemingly holding a small lead. or being equal to the Likud That change seems not so much a result of any gains made by Herzog and his team, whose campaign seems unable to get started as too the continued weakness and overall unpopularity of the Prime Minister.
In every public opinion poll the public has overwhelmingly stated that they are more concerned who will do a better job in economic matters, when it comes to voting on election day. While the Israeli economy as a whole is doing fine, individuals on the other hand are finding it much harder to make ends meet. The cost of Living in Israeli for food and housing is higher then that of the United States but the mean income based on the latest OECD figures is half that of the US, so for most Israelis the economy a dominate factor in their lives. Israel’s high tech sector has had amazing success in the past decade but that success has not had a large effect on the rest of the economy. Thus Prime Minister Netanyahu who has been Prime Minister for 6 years is very vulnerable on the issues relating to the economy. However, despite what people tell pollsters, most observers believe that once Israelis go into the voting booth, or in Israel’s case behind the voting curtain, they end up more often then not voting on the issue of security.
If that is the case Prime Minister Netanyahu has been very successful these past weeks of keeping the national debate to issues of security, whether its been Hezbollah in the North, or the issues of the agreement with Iran, the national discussion have all been on the field in which Prime Minister Netanyahu seemingly has an advantage. That discussion this week has continued to be largely about Netanyahu’s coming speech to the Congress about Iran. The Israeli media has been closely covering the controversy that surrounds the speech, and reports every time a Democratic lawmakers announces that they will not attend. Based on recent polling 54% of Israelis believe that Netanyahu should not speak to Congress. Most however stated that the question will not effect their vote.
Herzog has decided to make the speech a major campaign issue. Tonight on a TV interview he blamed Netanyahu for undermining Israel relations with the US. He stated that Netanyahu is making Israel a partisan issue and undermining the bipartisan support for Israel. On the question of Iran, he stated that he no less opposed to Iran gaining nuclear weapons then Netanyahu, but first he would not try to create panic among the Israeli public, and secondly he does not believe that they P5 is that close to an agreement, and instead of strengthening them
them Netanyahu is weakening the opposition to Teheran.
So far its been a strange campaign, Its been more then a decade since there has been a debate between candidates in Israel. Herzog has challenged Netanyahu to a debate, but that challenge has been ignored, instead the campaign seems to be made up of a series of dueling You Tube ads and parlor meetings held by candidates from all the lists. The other battleground has been Israel two largest newspapers, the largest a fee paper funding by Sheldon Adelson which is 100% supportive of Netanyahu and the Yediot Achronut owned by Arnon Moze which has been extremely critical of Netanyahu. Yediot has been so critical, that Prime Minister Netanyahu published a tweett yesterday charging that paper has behind all of the recent scandals that have involved Netanyahu
The current numbers indicate that Netanyahu will have an easier time then Herzog creating a coalition. Herzog tonight claimed that quietly many more potential partner will be willing to support him then are saying so publicly. Of course we will only know that in the weeks after the election.