Likud Entering 'Panic Mode' Over Bayit Yehudi Gains
With barely a week to the election, the Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu is running out of time to “bring home” the masses of voters that the polls indicate have abandoned the party, many of them finding a new political home in Naftali Bennett's Bayit Yehudi. In what appears to be a last-ditch effort to pull out all the stops, the Likud renewed and amplified one of its main claims against Bayit Yehudi – that the party did not believe in women's rights, and would impose religious strictures on their behavior.
When the Likud first announced that it would join with Yisrael Beiteinu last October, the polls showed both parties garnering as many as 42 Knesset seats. Since then, though, the joint list has been in a slide, with the latest polls showing that the list would get 34 or 35 seats - significantly fewer seats than the parties currently hold in the Knesset. Meanwhile, Bayit Yehudi has gained significant support in recent weeks, with polls showing Bennett's party hitting 14 or 15 seats. Many in the Likud believe that the Likud's losses have been the source of Bayit Yehudi's gains.
A new ad appearing Monday on the Internet claimed that the number 13 candidate on the Bayit Yehudi list, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, “opposes women singing in public. The ad includes a link to an online article that purports to “reveal” Horowitz's “true beliefs.” The campaign against Horowitz joins another one that purports to portray other members of Bayit Yehudi as anti-women, a theme that has appeared numerous times in TV ads broadcast by the Likud.
Also slamming Bayit Yehudi Monday was Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who accused Bennett of “stealing” the Likud's project to encourage cultural events around the country. According to Livnat, the Bennett plan, which seeks to “export” serious cultural events from Tel Aviv to the periphery. Livnat pointed out that the Likud government has for the past four years done exactly that, citing statistics that show how millions of shekels have been spent on cultural events in the Galilee and Negev.
In a statement Monday, Bayit Yehudi said that the government clearly had good intentions, but as a result of the allocation system it used, most of the money budgeted for culture still ended up in the center of the country. Under the party's plan, which would distribute funds via local authorities, it was much more likely that more funds would reach the periphery, Bayit Yehudi said.