Monday, April 24, 2006

 

re: the recent Israeli Elections

Here's an excellent article from Arutz 7, by Yedidya Atlas:

Postmortem: Israel's 2006 Elections

by
Apr 23, '06 / 25 Nisan 5766
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This postmortem analysis is an after-the-campaign report to all those who were involved in implementing a national campaign to prevent a leftist victory in the Israeli 2006 elections, with all its ramifications.

Results
Approximately two months prior to the elections, it became clear to concerned people on the ideological right that the new party of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon posed an existential threat to the State of Israel should they garner the number of expected Knesset seats (44-45) then being predicted by the various polls promoted by Israel's leading media vehicles. It was further obvious that the various parties on the right of the Israeli political spectrum - including, and perhaps especially, the Likud - seemed (and later proved) incapable of launching a successful campaign to alter the media-advocated results before the fact. The last important point was that Kadima, a party comprised of opportunistic and corrupt politicians with no binding ideology (in fact, no ideology at all beyond a secular left-wing agenda), was a party without infrastructure, few if any field workers, and relied solely on gifted PR manipulators and massive media promotion; i.e., without the across-the-board overt advocacy of the Israeli media, Kadima would have sunk significantly in the polls.

After intensive and professional research to determine who made up the Kadima voter base - from which parties they came – and what issues did or didn't move them, etc., a campaign finally revved up barely six weeks prior to the elections. The campaign was on two fronts: a challenge to the nearly total active support of the media for Kadima; and face-to-face meetings throughout the key target areas to convince potential voters to not vote Left and to vote for the Right.

It is not the purpose of this analysis to elaborate the operational details of what was done. Rather, I will concentrate on the following:
1. what major difficulties activists were faced with;
2. what was accomplished;
3 what said activists failed to achieve; and
4. what is to be done now.

The major difficulties were:
a. lack of time;
b. insufficient resources in real time;
c. an absence of a positive campaign; i.e., for a particular candidate that would galvanize active support and votes; and
d. a shell-shocked or lackadaisical voting public.

In order to appreciate what was accomplished in practice, it must first be clear that this campaign more or less rose from Israel's grassroots almost in place of the various party-based campaigns, which even later on never seemed to really take off. Moreover, this campaign began without a budget, gathering basic minimum resources along the way. The campaign was, by its very nature, a negative campaign aimed at reducing support for Kadima and then hopefully shifting said support back to the right-oriented parties, primarily the Likud. This latter aspect was particularly difficult because of Binyamin Netanyahu's own lackluster and confused campaign waged by the Likud, which was hampered from day one by Netanyahu's mixed messages and his deliberate inability to declare a nationalist policy with clarity.

Following the Gush Katif and northern Samaria expulsion, executed by a Likud-led government and in utter betrayal of its voters and even its party members, many people simply "turned off" and refused to be involved in the elections on any level, including voting. They were shell-shocked by the electoral betrayal, the blatant corruption and the apparent ease and ruthlessness with which the expulsion was implemented. Only after the "Amona incident" was part of the nationalist camp's foot soldiers reawakened.

Meanwhile, arrayed against the grassroots was virtually the entire Israeli media, whose pro-Kadima campaign went into overdrive after Ariel Sharon's stroke and Ehud Olmert's ascension to party leadership.

The following is an excerpt of an article published on April 14, 2006 in Haaretz and written by left-wing columnist Ari Shavit, which documents the above in stark terms:
"You know full well, Mr. Prime Minister [Olmert], that your selection was to a
great extent unfair. Had the Israeli media done its job faithfully, you would
not have been elected. Your arrogance, your colorful lifestyle, your
appointments, the affairs connected with you and your failure as mayor of
Jerusalem would have prevented your election. But you are after all the most
networked politician in Israel. You have at your disposal a safety net of
several of the newspaper owners, and you have at your disposal a safety net of
several of the newspaper editors, and you have at your disposal a safety net of
many of the senior journalists. These nets did their part. They caused part of
the Israeli media outlets to operate in the election campaign not as your
critics, but as your security guards. If Sharon was a precious citron in cotton
wool, you were a diamond in a safe. From every quarter, your well-being and
comfort were looked after. You were led to the prime minister's bureau in an
investigation-proof limousine."


Campaign accomplishments
Despite the above, a broad campaign was created and pursued. It faced with the following possibilities:
a. a left-wing victory - a serious and dangerous possibility;
b. a right-wing/religious victory - a possibility only if people voted; or
c. a situation where no one wins a clear victory - a probability.

While activists tried hard to achieve the second possibility, for the reasons listed above, they were unable to do so. However, in six weeks they did succeed in denying the Left their clear-cut victory.

The grassroots campaign, in addition to and in cooperation with the campaigns waged by the parties right of center, brought Kadima down from a high of 45 seats down to 29. While not a stellar success per se, the inability of Olmert and Kadima to form a government of the Left was a tactical victory of sorts. The only semi-stable government he can form is a quasi-paralyzed coalition government, with his party platform severely watered down, and his government's ability to carry out his stated goal of mass expulsion of Jews from the communities in Judea and Samaria crippled. To what degree, time will tell.

Meanwhile, valuable time has been bought during which many things can happen - from expanded war with our Palestinian Arab terrorist non-partners (inevitable), to development of global issues with Iran, et al (apparently also inevitable), to simply a freeze of the status quo despite much verbal posturing. This, together with an economic crash as the recently restored fragile national treasury gets looted between the Kadima crooks and the Labor Bolsheviks. The latter is certainly probable owing to the contrasting policies between potential and probable coalition partners, whether on economic issues or in relation to national defense and ideological direction.

What we failed to achieve
For the reasons stated above, the aforementioned campaign did not succeed in denying Kadima first crack at forming the coalition government, and obviously failed to achieve a victory by the Right/religious coalition of parties.

Had the elections taken place a month later, it is probable that we would be witness to a right/religious victory, but, of course, said time did not exist. A key failure was the inability, despite massive efforts, to convince the potential voters that represent as many as 10 potential right-wing Knesset seats not to stay home on Election Day.

While there was success in shifting most of the Likud-originating voters from voting Kadima (originally estimated at 37% of Kadima's voting base), it is a matter of record that the campaign failed to convince more than a third of these voters to vote, period. The low turnout particularly hurt the Likud. As stated previously, this was due to the Sharon betrayal, and to Netanyahu and other top Likud ministers who simply wimped out and buckled under Sharon's pressure; and then, in the post-Sharon Likud, Netanyahu made almost every mistake possible in his campaign, especially refusing to be perceived as a clear nationalist alternative candidate to Olmert's left-wing-oriented Kadima platform.

What is to be done now?
From the campaign's limited success, it is clear that it is imperative to continue to wage the war with the principal Israeli media outlets, by offering and expanding the Jewish-Zionist alternative media tailored to all the various population sectors in Israel.

It means developing alternative newspapers, radio and television programming. The advent and rapid expansion of the Internet as a source of public information is part of the answer. This is especially so in the imminent (3-5 years) dominance of digital TV broadcasting. However, in the short term, weekly newspapers and alternative electronic broadcast methods are a must for the next several years.

A significant grassroots campaign (i.e., "face-to-face" meetings, public stands, free bus tours to Judea and Samaria, etc.) can only be successful if backed and promoted by sympathetic media.

Activists must begin the campaign for the next elections now. Not in two years, not two to three months before the election, but immediately. Such a focused campaign will whittle away at the influence of the Left-dominated Israeli media. It will strengthen the right-wing opposition and those right-leaning and religious parties that join the next coalition government (assuming Olmert succeeds in putting it together).

Moreover, as one of the major difficulties faced was a lack of credible and charismatic leadership on the Right - in all of the various parties - it will help significantly in building support for better candidates (even among the existing MKs) to achieve the necessary leadership positions in their respective parties.

If activists do not build now on what was accomplished, they can only blame themselves in the future if they fail to revitalize a weary nation and effect the sorely needed positive change.

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