Report: How Netanyahu Won Reelection

A guide how to win an election in one day: concentrated base-aimed messages via SMS.

According to a report by Israel’s Channel 2 on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial remarks about Arabs flocking to the polls on Election Day was part of a last-minute strategy that was brought to use after months of compiling phone data and conducting focus groups on soft Likud supporters.

The report, by political correspondent Amit Segal, describes the Likud election campaign as one reliant on polling and focus groups, which had suggested that the only way Netanyahu would win his reelection bid was to play to right-wing voters fears of the consequences of a victory by the left.

A focus group at the beginning of the election cycle concluded that there’s a sense of weariness of Netanyahu among traditional Likud and right-wing voters. However, when confronted with the following scenario: “You wake up on Election Day with a little headache and fever, the weather is terrible, you don’t feel like going out to vote. There’s a tight race at the top between Likud and Labor (in this case the Zionist Union),” most of the participants said they would vote Likud. According to Aron Shaviv, Likud’s campaign manager, if the election were to be focused on economic issues, the Likud would lose. Therefore, the only way to move voters from side to side and rally the base was if there’s a real close race for the top.

To reach the maximum potential of support, the team built an efficient and lethal machine which marked a million people as potential Likud voters. They obtained their phone numbers and Facebook accounts and created a route that bypassed the mainstream media. Those voters would get personalised text messages with talking points that would suit the strategy and touch their feelings to move them to rethink their support to some of the parties on the center-right.

According to Segal, the strategy was used to its fullest extent on Election Day after internal polling had suggested that the comfortable lead Netanyahu had managed to build during his aggressive media blitz in the last 96 hours of the campaign was diminished with the declaration of Tzipi Livni that she is giving up the rotation deal with Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu’s main challenger.

On Election Day alone, some five million text messages were sent with the cost of eight million shekels, Segal reported. Text messages sent to voters from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. included “Voter turnout triples in the Arab sector! The fear is coming true: Abu Mazen’s calls and American money are bringing the Arabs to the polls. Go vote!” and “Arab residents of Beersheba vote en masse. Don’t let them appoint the ministers in the next government.”

By 8:00 p.m., voters got two video messages by Netanyahu, including the infamous “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out.” Exit polling stations closing at 8:00 p.m. already indicated a slight one-seat lead for Likud. But what happened in the next two hours until polls were closed was extraordinary, according to Segal. “In the previous election, about 230,000 people voted between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. In 2015, however, almost 600,000 people flooded the polls—the vast majority, Likud voters.”

The final result was 30 mandates for the Likud Party. Netanyahu went on to form his 4th government with a goal to remain Israel’s leader for the decade to come.

Watch the entire report with English subtitles at the top of this post.

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