One week before elections I wrotean article that said the following; “Likud will win the elections… Bibi is the strongest contender and will emerge victorious.” While this seems obvious now, it was far from obvious when I wrote those words. At the time, Likud was trailing Labor in the polls by 4 seats and every expert was predicting a victory for the joint team of Herzog and Livni. In the end, it was not as the polls and experts stated as Netanyahu coasted to a convincing and decisive victory, even greater than I thought. My prediction was Likud at 26 seats while the final tally was actually 30. How did this happen?
The answer is really quite simple. Throughout the entire campaign, pollsters kept asking the public 2 basic questions: Who are you voting for and which party chairman is most qualified to be Prime Minister? The second question is actually a bit amusing since in Israel, you only have one vote for a party. You do not vote for the “Prime Minister”! You vote once for a party and the biggest party is the one whose leader becomes the Prime Minister. I am simplifying the system because there are exceptions to this rule but that is how it works 99% of the time: You vote for a party ONLY. Therefore, when pollsters asked these 2 questions, it was really shocking to see that while Labor was leading in all of the polls, it was Bibi who the public preferred as Prime Minister almost 2-1!! This made absolutely no sense to me. How can you state that you will be voting for Labor (led by Herzog) when you really prefer Likud (who is led by Netanyahu)??? I therefore concluded that, when answering the pollsters, people simply stated what they felt in their stomach, that Likud had led this country long enough and that it was time for a change. However, on Election Day, it wasn’t that gut feeling or the emotions that decided who to vote for – it was the intelligence. People realized that a State of Israel led by Prime Minister Isaac “Bujey” Herzog would be a disaster and – contrary to their emotions – they used their brain ad not their heart and voted for Likud which insured the continued leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This proved the point that I have been saying all along. Israelis are concerned about leadership. While each party has its own strengths and ideology, at the end of the day, the concern for the average voter is not how many seats his/her party will win but who will lead our great and special nation. This is why Moshe Feiglin and I started a group called “Manhigut Yehudit – The Jewish Leadership Movement” back in 1998 because THAT is where the battle lies – in the leadership of the Jewish State! What does it matter if the Agudah party moves from 7 seats to 15, if the leadership of the country is against Torah? What does it matter if Bayit Yehudi gets 17 – or even 20 seats, if the leadership of the country is pro-Palestinian state? All these things mean very close to nothing because they wind up being relegated to “influencers” as opposed to “leaders”. The name of the game – and this was proven in these elections – is NOT how big your party will be but who will LEAD the nation. Please engrave this on your forehead because if you are interested in Israeli politics, you need to understand and digest this point.
When I made my prediction, most of my friends called me crazy but after the elections they started referring to me as Jimmy “The Greek” Sackett! They asked how I knew Likud would win and I told them what is written above. I explained this concept of leadership and how vital it is to the average Israeli, from bus-driver to college professor. The problem, however, is that most Israelis see Netanyahu as that great leader when in fact, he is simply just better than Herzog. This void of leadership is what must be filled in the coming years and with Hashem’s help, this is exactly what will be done!