You don’t have to be a brilliant campaign strategist to see who the Israeli center-left parties should be targeting in the run-up to next week’s election: women.As a recent poll by the Saloona women’s website shows, women are the real swing voters in this election. Though 76 percent say they definitely plan to vote, nearly 40 percent have not yet decided which party will get their ballot. That means that a huge percentage of Israeli voters are still open to being swayed one way or another—and, if the center-left parties are smart, they’ll use this last week to seize on that uncertainty and turn it to their benefit.
Tzipi Livni is doing just that. Perhaps because she’s finally realized that 50 percent of the women who say they will vote for her Hatnuah Party also say they have not yet solidified their loyalty, Livni took to social media networks today to address undecided women voters directly:
I am turning to the undecided women—and I know that there are many. I decided to enter and then return to politics because I thought about my children and about what kind of country we are leaving to them. I advise each one of you to think about what kind of country you want to leave to your children and, accordingly, to cast the right ballot at the polls!
Livni’s “think of the children” tactic is a not-so-subtle attempt to get women voters worrying about the impact of a militaristic government on their children’s lives, and to imply that she, as a mother, is more inclined to work for peace and to resist the harmful militaristic mindset of leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu. And her platform bears this out, putting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at the top of the agenda at a time when the rest of the center-left bloc is reluctant to do so.
But appealing to women’s maternal impulses in relation to a peace process that the majority of Israeli Jews don’t believe will ever bear fruit anyway is not the only—and certainly not the most effective—way to swing their vote. This election cycle, Labor chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich brought on board charismatic young women like Merav Michaeli and Stav Shaffir, whose demonstrated commitment to feminism and social justice issues is a big part of why that party has been polling so successfully among women voters. Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On, another strong proponent of women’s rights, also understood how important it is to formulate a slate that gives equal representation to both sexes. According to the Saloona poll, Labor and Meretz currently enjoy the strongest loyalty among women voters, with 18 percent of their voters saying they are secure in the choice.
Livni is belatedly realizing that, in order to secure that same level of loyalty, she will need to work a lot harder over the coming week. Today’s direct address to undecided women is a good though somewhat ineffective start, and her campaign strategists, if they’re smart, will be sure to put her in front of a women’s group or two between now and January 22. There, she will be able to make a stronger, more compelling case to women voters, and to make it in person. But by then it may already be too late.