That Rally-Round-The-Flag Effect

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Israel’s Channel 12 released a new poll today. It told largely the same story every poll has told since the days just after the October 7th massacres: a big drop for the Likud, a huge jump for Benny Gantz’s National Unity party. Stepping back the current government loses about twenty of its seats while the opposition jumps to roughly 70. Again, this is broadly consistent with all the other polls over the last six weeks. I’ve noted before that while this is a rare occasion where the head of government hasn’t received any kind of rally-round-the-flag effect. Quite the contrary. But if we define rally-round-the-flag as rallying around the country, the war effect or national unity, there is overwhelming evidence of that.

But looking at this and other polls, I think we can make an additional observation.

There actually has been a rally around a tough talking national security focused leader. It’s just that it’s Benny Gantz rather than Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz is a former IDF Chief of Staff, one of those proven general officers Israeli politics have long gravitated towards. When the same poll asked respondents who they preferred as Prime Minister they chose Gantz over Netanyahu by 41% to 25%. Netanyahu had dominated that question basically forever, notwithstanding the fact that he had a notable but brief military career. When they asked the question about Netanyahu and the other opposition leader (actually the official leader of the opposition), Yair Lapid, the two were tied at 29%.

Lapid is a former journalist and his party’s demographic is secular Israelis, the more cosmopolitan culture of Tel Aviv. So he is a very different figure, personally and politically, from Gantz. This is certainly an over-simplification. But, broad strokes, Gantz and his party can be seen as representing the country’s confidence in the culture of its career military and the social solidarity and national unity it represents. They didn’t come up with the party’s name – National Unity – at random. In fact, ‘National Union’ is a coalition of a couple parties. The name of Gantz’s party is Blue and White. Almost literally, the flag. So that rally effect is actually there. It’s just showing itself in an odd way, molded around the collapse of support for the man who used to own the security mantle.

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