Jerusalem, Israel -- Polls predicted the defeat of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party late into the evening of March 16th, the day before the Israeli general election. The media only added to the drama, the ''Netanyahu era (is) coming to an end'', ''his (Netanyahu) magic is gone,'' ''Bibi is done...Netanyahu's gamble has backfired.''
However, Israelis like Netanyahu know first-hand the sacrifices that were made, the price that was paid for the State of Israel to exist, on battlefields or in the concentration camps like Auschwitz and Dachau. For the former Sayeret Matkal team leader, one of the most prestigious Special Forces units in the world, twice-wounded in combat, accepting fate, or rather certain defeat would be somewhat out of character.
Defeat, if it was to be, would only come after he had shot every rhetorical bullet, thrown every figurative knife, and in the end, faced one last bloody hand-to-hand battle of ideas, to nothing else but his political death. Five days before E-Day the decision was made: Netanyahu and the Likud would go all in.
Rather than pretend the campaign confident, they would embrace their greatest weakness, defeat itself, and unleash it on the wider right wing electorate. They would use fear to galvanize and mobilize an expanded right wing electorate. They would scare the life out of them, and they would make them vote Likud.
Netanyahu would shift his strategic communications, his core messaging and narrative: he would now run his political campaign from the hard right of his traditional electoral pool, he would have time to adjust once elected when he would recover the center he needed to govern, but right now pragmatic realism would have to take center stage.
It became the campaign's core message: ''it's Us or the Left: only Netanyahu, only Likud.'' His new rhetoric wasn't heated, it was inflamed; it screamed opportunism, to win at all costs, mostly for his critics and political opponents, who became infuriated at the idea that Netanyahu could go so far and be ready to sacrifice it all.
The language that fed his narrative was coarse, direct and gloveless; this was going to be a bare knuckle street brawl to the bitter end. He promised to continue building Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and if re-elected, he would never accept a two-state solution or a Palestinian State, never mind that this last promise was a total reversal of his own position for the better part of the last 20 years and would alienate so many both at home and abroad. He could worry about that after the election. In fact, he would reverse his position, again, the very next day after the election.
Netanyahu took to what he did best, rhetoric. He delivered the message on every stage, in front of every camera and microphone he could put his hands on. For an uncomfortable moment, many now realized something was up, Netanyahu looked worried, even panicked. The message landed like rockets in the backyards of many right of center-leaning Israelis who never expected to ever see the day when they would see Bibi Netanyahu afraid of anything. He had their attention.
On election day, he dropped whatever reservations were left. It was time to get these ragging right-wingers out to vote, and to vote Likud. He restated his opposition to a Palestinian state, and now added that a conspiracy was facing Israel; the Left was in cahoots with the Arabs, who with 20 per cent of the population could hold the balance of power. The ''Right-wing government is in danger,'' and the left was ''bussing-in Arabs to vote''! The right voted. It voted for Netanyahu. It voted Likud.
Joseph Soares is an entrepreneur and author. Joseph's work is focused on strategic communication. He served as a political advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada, as well as a policy advisor to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. He blogs at www.josephsoares.com.
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