The largest campaign rally of the current election campaign took place tonight in Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv. The rally was not organized by a specific party, but by a coalition of non-political groups opposing the reelection of Prime Minister Netanyahu. This was the largest political rally in Rabin Square since the social protest rallies of the summer of 2011. Organizers were hoping for 20,000 participants when in fact over 50,000 people filled the square and the surrounding streets.
It was the first time during the election period that the opponents of Prime Minister Netanyahu turned out in large numbers and with enthusiasm. The crowd was there because they had enough. A man standing with his wife and children said, when asked, why he was there, “because of them, (pointing to his children) I want them to have a better future.” Others said simply they had enough. When asked whether they thought there was a chance that there would be change after the election, participants in the rally were clearly divided, some saying they were coming despite a feeling that there was no chance of change taking place. Another participant, a 50-something year old lawyer from from Tel Aviv said that the country was divided, from Tel Aviv and to the north, the people want anybody but Netanyahu, from Tel Aviv and south and east, the only option is Netanyahu. He thought that the momentum was now on the side of the anti-Netanyahu groups.
The main speaker of the evening was General Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad (Israel’s foreign Intelligence services). Dagan, who was once a member of the Likud party spoke out strongly against the current government, stating that he fears the current government. Dagan went on the say that the only policy that Netanyahu has, has been his own survival, and that making speeches is not a policy. Dagan stated that it was no accident that almost all of the former high ranking military officers and heads of the various intelligence services oppose the reelection of Netanyahu. He said he was speaking tonight on behalf of his children and his seven grandchildren who deserve a better future. The most emotional moment of the evening was a speech by Michal Dolev, the widow of Lieutenant Colonel Dolev who fell during this past summer's Gaza war. Dolev stated that she was there to say she wanted a different government - a government that would do all it could to make sure that no more soldiers would die for no apparent gain.
The weekend polls in Israel show no major change, with Netanyahu receiving a very slight bump, but at the expense of other parties on the right. His speech in Congress had very little impact. Israelis are evenly divided on whether he should or should not have gone. A poll tonight on Israel's Channel 10 showed that 50% of Israelis believe that he spoke to Congress only because of political considerations while 35% believed he spoke to Congress to address Israel’s true security needs.
One thing is clear - we are 10 days before the elections and the outcome is still very much up in the air.