If Tuesday exit polls turn out to be true, the Likud
will mostly remember the election for the 19th Knesset as one of great disappointment. The great hope the party put in its merger with Yisrael Beiteinu
seems to have shattered, as the number of Knesset seats the Likud-Beiteinu ticket gained in polls was 12 fewer than predicted.
The merged number of Knesset seats for the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu in the current Knesset is 42 (27 for Likud, 15 for Yisrael Beiteinu), and according to pre-election polls, the merger should have gained the parties the joint number of 45 mandates.
Three exit polls, however, conducted by Israel's three largest TV channels, all showed that the Likud-Beiteinu's Knesset seats number is 33; 9 fewer than its current number.
Though still the holder of the greatest number of mandates, the Likud is rife with inner-criticism. Top party members have leveled harsh criticism on the Likud-Beiteinu campaign and the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Avidgor Lieberman, second on the Likud-Beiteinu list. "Lieberman tricked us with this merger," one Likud member said.
Top Likud members insisted that there was no devised campaign and that enormous funds were spent on PR and advisors, while neglecting field work and activists.
"Nothing really worked in this campaign," a top Likud member said. "In fact, we didn’t really have a campaign. They thought we didn’t really have competition; that there was no real candidate opposite us; that a win was in the bag."
As for their party chairman, Likud members stressed that during the campaign, Netanyahu failed to focus on the issues that were most important to the public – the economy, housing policies and real-estate prices, specifically the economic distress of the underprivileged and the poor.
"Netanyahu ran a campaign based on Jerusalem and the Kotel as if we were about to give Jerusalem away tomorrow morning," it was said.
As for Lieberman, the overall sense among Likud members is that they were tricked. A party source said: "He sold the prime minister surveys by Arthur Finkelstein who said we'd get 45 mandates. On Saturday, Lieberman said we'd get 40 mandates. What doe he care? He made sure his people were in, at the expense of Likud people."
"(Yesh Atid Chairman Yair) Lapid went all out in his field work, and we fell asleep," the source added.
In spite of the disappointment within the party, Minister Gideon Sa'ar
of the Likud stressed following Tuesday release of exit polls' results that Likud-Beiteinu still got the largest number of Knesset seats, despite the fact that the numbers were lower than predicted.
"The next prime minister will be Netanyahu," Sa'ar said. "This government should be as wide as possible, so as to cope with economic, social and security challenges. All Zionist parties should take part in such a government."
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