Phase 1 Prediction Analysis

Yesterday I posted the Knesset Jeremy Model Prediction for 2015.

Zionist Union 25
Likud 22
The Joint (Arab) List 12
Yesh Atid 12
Bayit Yehudi 12
Kulanu 9
Shas 7
UTJ 7
Yisrael Beitenu 5
Meretz 5
Yachad 4

Few quick notes:

*For those who are wondering, I am expecting a 2-seat margin of error for the larger parties and a 1-seat margin of error for the smaller parties.

*Additionally, there is an indication that many undecided voters will simply end up not voting in this election over choosing a party.

Phase 1 Recap:

#1 – Zionist Union 25 seats:

Background: If you would have told me that the Zionist Union would be the largest list when the election cycle started, I probably would have looked at you funny. That is because it didn’t exist. To be honest, when Opposition Leader Herzog announced he was running for Prime Minister, few people took him seriously, myself included. Labor was averaging third place in the polls, behind the Bayit Yehudi, with 13.4 seats in Week 1, down from the 15 seats Shelly Yachmovich captured in 2013. Meanwhile, Tzipi Livni was polling under the electoral threshold and all of her MKs were looking for their next jobs, negotiating with other parties.

Best Move: Herzog’s decision to save Tzipi Livni’s political career. Word in the Knesset is Livni got her Prime Minister Rotation deal because Herzog was more desperate to make a splash, and Lapid passed because he thought he could snag Kahlon. Labor MKs were furious with the Herzog-Livni deal that left them less spots to compete for in the primary, but knew that voicing their frustrations would make their political survival even more difficult, so they swallowed it.

Before the last elections Livni convinced seven MKs to break off from Kadima to form her party. Her party got six seats, but six of those seven MKs lost their jobs due to low placement on the list that they created for her. Livni knew that Amir Peretz was already on his way back to Labor, following his resignation as a Minister in Netanyahu’s government, and abandoned the rest of her list to join Herzog.

Following the Herzog-Livni merger, the new Zionist Union became the largest list in the polls.

Worst Move: As Zionist Union’s numbers increased, Herzog’s biggest issue remained that many people cast doubt on his ability to form a government. Liberman won’t sit with Meretz, the Haredim won’t sit with Lapid, Kahlon won’t sit with the Arabs. Herzog had an opportunity to prove everyone wrong.

Eight of the eleven lists have a voter exchange agreement. Herzog failed miserably in an attempt to increase their bloc by getting The Joint List to sign a voter exchange agreement so Zionist Union could sign with Yesh Atid. Not only did this harm the seats total of two of the four lists that are part of the Anti-Netanyahu bloc, but it raised serious doubts of The Joint List’s ability to assist Herzog in other technical moves such as nominating him to President Rivlin in Phase 2 or the crucial Knesset vote in Phase 3. This was a leadership type situation in which he needed to prove he could overcome the odds and he was not successful.

Takeaway: Zionist Union has 21 seats together and is expected to win Phase 1 with 25, a simple increase of just four-seats. Livni does own six of those 25 seats and that is her leverage in case Herzog tries to get out of his rotation agreement.

#2 – Likud 22 seats:

Background: Benjamin Netanyahu has been Prime Minister for nine years. Only the country’s founder David Ben-Gurion has sat in that seat for longer. By now you know what you are going to get with Netanyahu, for better or for worse. Netanyahu became increasingly frustrated with his coalition partners following Foreign Minister Liberman’s decision to break up their joint faction. Eventually Netanyahu fired Lapid and Livni and we ended up with the second shortest Knesset in Israel’s history.

Best Move: Netanyahu is still the darling of the Israeli right by turning the election into game theory instead of issues. The slogan “It’s me or them” has been very successful in right-wing circles and has prevented his voters from realizing he hasn’t put out a platform or list of accomplishments on domestic issues. For many nationalists, the fear of a Herzog-Livni led government was enough for Netanyahu and the Likud to stay neck-and-neck with the Zionist Union for a majority of the campaign.

Of course giving a reserved slot to popular former Minister Benny Begin and son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin was a slam dunk with hardcore Likud voters. The “trade” of ultra-nationalist Moshe Feiglin for Begin was a move that allowed Netanyahu to appeal towards the center while maintaining his base.

Worst Move: A majority of Israelis answer they want Netanyahu for Prime Minister, but they have issues with the Likud. The Likud failed in its attempts to create an alliance first with Bayit Yehudi and later with Kulanu. Netanyahu has a track record for preferring alliances such as Likud-Gesher-Tzomet, Likud-Achi and Likud-Yisrael Beitenu over running alone.  The failed attempt to bring in Kahlon which collapsed on the day of the deadline for submitting the final lists might go down in history as the moment that will haunt Netanyahu.

Takeaway: Likud, like the Zionist Union is expected to gain four-seats. The issue for Likud is that the Zionist Union started with 21 jumping to 25, while the Likud is increasing from 18 to 22.

#3 – The Joint List 12 seats:

Background: Four parties Hadash, Ra’am, Balad and Ta’al were facing the new electoral threshold of 3.25%. They knew that had to get together for a joint list but found it difficult to do so because of internal party issues and egos.

Best Move: Many questioned if it would be possible to have a list with communists, nationalists and religious Muslims on the same list. After four veteran MKs retired the four lists were able to agree on a joint list. All four parties will survive thanks to the technical bloc.

Worst Move: The infighting within the party prevented a vote exchange agreement which will cost them an additional seat. Their increased turnout would have a bigger impact if they were not just one of three lists without an agreement.

Takeaway: MK Tibi was smart to give up the #1 spot and take the #4 spot in return for that crucial #12 seat. This will be the first time Ta’al has 2 MKs.

#4 – Yesh Atid 12 seats:

Background: Yair Lapid went into this election as the largest party with 19 seats. However, Yesh Atid averaged as the sixth largest party with single digits at the start of the campaign cycle. Lapid, who entered politics just two years ago, kept most of his list in tact by choosing just two new names for his top 12. Three MKs made it easy on him by agreeing to retire.

Best Move: Lapid’s campaign took off once he made clear that he plans to stand up against the Haredim. Lapid doubled down on this approach when he tore apart Aryeh Deri during The Debate. People who voted for Lapid in 2013 and had sworn to themselves for the last two years that they would never vote for him again have suddenly decided to return to Yesh Atid because of the Haredim.

Worst Move: Not running on a joint ticket. Lapid passed on Livni, flirted with Liberman and struck out with Kahlon. If Lapid would have signed with one of them, it is very possible it would be Lapid fighting Netanyahu for the Prime Minister chair. Instead Lapid will settle for the consolation prize of hoping for third place.

Takeaway: Despite dropping from 19 seats to 12, Lapid intends to force Herzog’s hand to drop Manuel Trajtenberg and hand him the Finance Minister position because Lapid will have more seats than Kahlon.

#5 – Bayit Yehudi 12 seats:

Background: Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi entered Week 1 as the second largest party with a 16.6 average. Bayit Yehudi was polling consistently as the second largest party in the country in the six months leading up to this campaign cycle.

Best Move: Open Primaries. Bayit Yehudi dropped to third place following the Zionist Union merger, but maintained an average of 15-16 seats in the polls consistently due to the buzz of the only open primary of the campaign season. Just three of the eleven parties have primary elections to choose their list. Bayit Yehudi was the only party this cycle to allow new members to join and vote for their list. A field of new candidates contributed to the spectrum of debate in the primary.

Worst Move: Eli Ochana. Reserved slots are used to balance out a list. It appeared like the Bayit Yehudi list was lacking that right-wing, traditional but not too religious, and from a Sephardic background. Apparently Eli Ochana was the wrong call.

Takeaway: Despite polling as the second largest party for the six months leading up into the election, the current average has Bayit Yehudi repeating its previous 12 seat performance.

#6 – Kulanu 9 seats:

Background: Moshe Kahlon flirted with the idea of starting a new party in the previous election but decided he would wait for the following election so he could be the next “Yair Lapid”. He flirted with joining Lapid and later Netanyahu before deciding to run by himself.

Best Move: Kingmaker attitude. His poker-face on Phase 2 along with his ability to stick to domestic issues has helped him throughout this campaign. Making it clear he is running to be Finance Minister has drawn the interest of many Israelis who believe in his Housing Plan.

Worst Move: Amateurish technical moves. Kahlon didn’t bother to check if there was another party registered with the name Kulanu. The “Na Nach” Breslov Hasidim Party knows as Kulanu Chevraim (we are all friends) registered the party name to run in these elections again, a day before Kahlon. Kahlon had to negotiate with a no-name party for the rights to use the party name he had already unveiled. Kahlon also had to give up on two candidates from his party list because he forgot to tell them to resign in time from their government jobs in time to qualify to run in these elections. You have to feel bad for the poor candidates, although one did benefit from the mass exposure of a press conference.

Takeaway: Moshe Kahlon who succeeded in taking seats from everybody is going to be in the next government as a senior minister, no matter what.

#7 – Shas 7 seats:

Background: The leadership trio of the previous election broke up when Aryeh Deri took the reins of Shas. Ariel Attias left politics and Eli Yishai opted to break off to start his own party.

Best Move: Endorsing Netanyahu for Prime Minister. Deri prefers Herzog, but his voters prefer Netanyahu. Committing to backing Netanyahu for Phase 2 has helped Shas rebound from a very tough campaign.

Worst Move: Performance on the Debate. Yair Lapid ripped Deri apart and almost brought him to tears when he called him a convicted felon who needs to be rehabilitated. Eli Yishai also hammered Deri hard on the content of the leaked tapes and scored a few brownie points.

Takeaway: In a campaign cycle where Shas fell under the threshold early, Deri is proud to drop just four seats and get away with seven seats.

#8 – UTJ 7 seats:

Background: UTJ decided to run the same seven people for the top seven seats again.

Best Move: They had entertaining television advertisements and turning their campaign into the anti-Lapid campaign helped morale among those who don’t have a television.

Worst Move: Not reaching a deal with splinter groups within Ashkanazi Jewry, both Lithuanian and Hasidic sects,  that will probably take their votes elsewhere or remain home on Tuesday.

Takeaway: It is all about turnout for UTJ on Election Day with the goal of maintaining their strength.

#9 – Yisrael Beitenu  5 seats

Background: Yisrael Beitenu went into the election with five ministers and 13 seats.

Best Move: Placing popular MK Orly Levy in the #2 position on the list. She is a very popular among the public, but more importantly among the other parties MKs and staff in the Knesset.

Worst Move: Corruption scandals and loss of right flank of the party. It wasn’t just the corruption scandals that plagued the party but the loss of the right-wing side of the party – Ministers Shamir, Landau and Chairman Rotem.

Takeaway: With a loss of eight seats Yisrael Beitenu will be remembered as the loser of this election. Perhaps Liberman regrets his decision to not allow the Haredim to join the government after Netanyahu fired Lapid and Livni.

#10 – Meretz  5 seats

Background: Meretz jumped from 3 to 6 seats in the 2013 election and sat in their usual place in the opposition throughout another term.

Best Move: Clearly articulating that Herzog is not ruling out sitting with Netanyahu in Phase 3 to prevent bleeding to the Zionist Union.

Worst Move: A complicated closed process for selecting their Knesset list by Central Committee instead of an open primary kept Meretz under the radar during the drama of primaries in some parties and new stars being added in others.

Takeaway: Despite polling at four seats in many polls, Meretz had a good week in the last week of polling and should be able to pass the threshold if nothing changes before Election Day.

#11 – Yachad 4 seats

Background: Shas MK Eli Yishai needed a new political home after fighting with Deri and so did Bayit Yehudi MK Yoni Chetboun after he went against Bennett on the new party constitution. Certain Rabbis such as Rabbi Lior and Rabbi Tau were looking for a new Torani political movement to arise.

Best Move: Signing a technical bloc with Baruch Marzel allowed them to pass the threshold.

Worst Move: Signing a technical bloc with Baruch Marzel prevented them from reaching out to more moderate voters.

Takeaway: They should be able to squeak by and pass the electoral threshold.

 

 

Upcoming Posts:

Monday – Phase 2 Prediction Analysis.
Tuesday – Phase 3 Prediction Analysis (before polls open).
Tuesday – Election Day (7 AM-10 PM Israel time/No post activity)
Tuesday late night – Exit Polls, Initial Results through the night & Analysis

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