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The Mini-Debate

There was a very weird, unplanned moment yesterday in the Israeli election campaign. Both candidates were, I think it's fair to say, essentially ambushed when the interviewer on Israel's Meet the Press pushed the two together for a short mini-debate. Both Isaac Herzog and Benjamin Netanyahu were appearing on the show in successive interviews. In the brief moment when Herzog's interview was ending and Netanyahu's was about to begin, the host said in so many words, 'Hey, you're both here, why not ask each other some questions?' As best I can tell, neither man had any idea this was in the cards. And it's possible even the host only had the idea in the moment. In any case, it was a bitter and intense, albeit brief exchange, lasting a couple minutes.

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Herzog and The Under-Appreciated Eshkol

If you're following the Israeli elections closely you're not going to the Times to follow it. Like on every other issue, it's a generalist's read. What gets published there is an attempt at the take for the record on developments reported hours or days earlier in more tightly focused publications. But there is a funny, fascinating passage tucked away in last week's Times article on the burgeoning campaign of Zionist Camp/Labor chief Isaac Herzog. Asked what Prime Minister he would aspire to emulate, Herzog pointed to Levi Eshkol, Prime Minister from 1963 until his death in office in 1969. I am going to make a bet - and I doubt I'd get much disagreement from anywhere on the political spectrum - that this is the first time any aspiring PM has ever done that.

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Bibi Gripped by Panic & Paranoia As Polls Slide

Six polls were released in Israel today, the last day when public polls can be published before the election. Five of those polls showed a four seat Zionist Camp/Labor Party lead over Likud. One showed a two point lead. It now seems highly likely that ZC/Labor will end Tuesday night with the most seats in the new Knesset. And if the polls are broadly correct, it seems increasingly likely (though by no means certain) that Herzog will get the first chance to form a new government. The question is whether he will be able manage the complicated math and coalitional politics to pull it off.

With all the uncertainty, one thing seems certain. The result for Likud can't possibly be as bad as the bleak headlines and agitated panic out of the Prime Minister and his party would suggest. This evening, Netanyahu or whoever posts to his Facebook page penned a slashing series of accusations against the ZC/Labor list claiming his rivals' campaign is "illegitimate" because it is the creature of a world conspiracy involving foreign governments, international tycoon, Israeli media, NGOs, all banding together to bring him down. The claims read so febrile and unhinged that if Netanyahu weren't a Jew and the head of government of the Jewish State you would almost expect to end up claiming a global Zionist conspiracy was plotting to bring him and the right to its knees.

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Likud Long Knives Come Out for Bibi as Poll Numbers Drop

We have four more polls released today, only a handful of days out from the Israeli election. They show a small but clear and hardening lead for the Zionist Camp/Labor Party over Netanyahu's Likud. Three polls show ZC/Labor with a four-seat lead over Likud. Another shows a two-point advantage for ZC/Labor. (Here's the best aggregation of all the polls here.)

(Just after I published this post, two new polls were released, each also showing a four-seat ZC/Labor lead.)

Two points stand out in the polls. Likud is dropping and now ZC/Labor seems to be rising — at least a bit. Also notable is that the center-right bloc itself seems to be under pressure.

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Amazing

Even after everything we've seen, I was surprised that Tom Cotton was able to get almost the entire Republican Senate caucus to sign on to his letter advising Iranian hardliners to walk away from a bargain with President Obama and the other world leaders involved in the Iranian nuclear negotiations. But it's almost more amazing to me how many of them are surprised this may not have been a good idea. Sen. Ron Johnson is the latest to try to distance himself from the letter he signed.

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Yes. Netanyahu is Suddenly in Real Trouble

I had meant to write this post Monday or Tuesday. But odds and ends and a business trip got in the way. As it happens, another twenty-four hours has only increased the signs that, with less than a week to go before the Israeli elections, Netanyahu is slipping and perhaps in real danger of being ousted as Prime Minister.

As we noted last week, the initial polls after the Prime Minister's speech to Congress painted an equivocal picture: perhaps a very small bump of support but one that seemed to subside quickly and still leave the Zionist Camp/Labor Party with the slenderest of leads. But over the weekend something changed.

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Stunt Of The Day

A while back, a Texas GOP legislator greeted visiting Muslims on Texas Muslim Capitol Day with an Israeli flag and an admonition to renounce terrorism and swear allegiance to 'merica. Noble stuff.

Today, Planned Parenthood is visiting the Texas Capitol, so another GOP legislator greeted them with this.

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