Everyone said that here in Israel we’d see an election that is all a about Iran, and today the largest opposition party started to set that agenda.
“Netanyahu is entangling us,” Kadima’s newly-revealed election slogan claims. The Hebrew word “entangling” has the strong connotation of endangerment.
Kadima’s claim is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party, lacks restraint and is prone to obsession on the issue of Iran. “Netanyahu is busy with only one thing — bombing Iran,” declared party leader Shaul Mofaz when presenting the slogan today. “Nothing else interests him. Not the middle class, not young couples, not society — only his uncontrollable urge to bomb Iran.”
Kadima is arguing in its campaign that Netanyahu’s lack of restraint on Iran is more problematic since Likud joined forces with the avowedly rightist Yisrael Beytenu party led by Avigdor Liberman last week. Mofaz claimed that “there is no responsibility and no logic, only one obsession.”
Mofaz suggested that Netanyahu’s focus on Iran has held him back in other areas. “The Prime Minister had a 94-member coalition to resume the negotiations, prevent the establishment of a bi-national state, change the system of governance and introduce a social budget — but all he did was choose to focus on bombing Iran,” he said.
It’s a clever campaign, because as we see from the way Mofaz presented it, it attempts to appeal to two groups of voters. The first is those who view the prospect of attacking Iran as dangerous. The second is those who are perhaps open to an attack or undecided but who feel that the Iran issue needs attention but not to the extent that Netanyahu gives it.
Netanyahu, the second group feels, is avoiding dealing with other issues by channeling all his energy to Iran.
But nobody is taking much notice of Kadima, however good its campaign. While it is now the largest single party in the Knesset, polling suggests that it could shrink from 28 seats to just four.
The Labor Party on its left has made serious gains. Former TV personality Yair Lapid has attracted a significant following. And former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and back-from-scandal ex-premier Ehud Olmert are talking about a coalition.
And so, Kadima has tried to tie the campaign to Iran, but that says very little about what the campaign will actually focus on. That will be decided by the parties which Israelis think matter for the January 22 ballot.