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Voter turnout push could challenge Israeli leader

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013

Political parties are conducting classic get-out-the-vote campaigns, with automated phone calls, parlor meetings, transportation to polling stations and specific appeals to groups, like women and young voters.

Other groups not directly affiliated with specific parties are also getting out the message.

Israel's president, Shimon Peres, teamed up with people from Israel's popular TV satire "A Wonderful Country" to produce a get-out-the-vote video clip for his Facebook page. In his largely ceremonial post, Peres, 89, is supposed to avoid politics, but the Nobel peace laureate's dovish leanings are well known.

Social activists who drew hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets last year to demonstrate against the gaps between rich and poor have recruited dozens of artists, TV personalities and journalists to take part in an ad campaign called "2013 elections — this time we're all voting." In ads, they don black shirts that read, "Vote or they'll vote for you."

Israeli film producer Ofir Kedar, who is based in London, is pushing a get-out-the-vote campaign with two YouTube videos he hopes will go viral. One of the clips, produced with the "One Voice" non-profit organization, shows a potential voter having a nightmare in which he is fired from his job and Israel is under attack and isolated internationally. He snaps out of it only when his young son says "wake up," followed by a call to go vote.

"I'm trying to help the center-left bloc, not necessarily a specific party, but those who support a two-state solution," Kedar said.

Under Israel's system of proportional representation, voters cast ballots for parties, not individuals, and parties receive seats in parliament based on the percentage of votes they win. To enter parliament, a party must win at least 2 percent of all votes cast, or about 70,000, giving them a minimum of two seats.

"If two ... parties on the left pass the threshold, that could change the blocs," Fuchs said. "The chance for a big change is small but it exists."

A recent poll by the University of Haifa predicted that just half of Israeli Arabs will vote. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they have no faith that Arab parties will be able to improve the lot of their communities, which suffer from poverty and discrimination.

If the Arab voters were to increase their turnout by 10 percentage points, they could win an additional five or six parliamentary seats, said Ytzhak Katz, of the Maagar Mohot survey service. "They could tap their electoral potential and strengthen themselves, but they don't do it," he said.

Helmi Kittani, executive director of the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development, has appealed to Arab voters directly, telling them it's not too late to speak up.

"It's not right to sit in your chairs and watch others wage your just struggle," he said. "Elections are an opportunity to change your lives. Don't sit at home."