All the recent changes in the political balance of power have one thing in common: Those who were seen as unwilling to commit to a defined plan based on solid ideology suffered. Those who were seen as the opposite profited, and their power grew dramatically.
As long as Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich maintained a solid social-democratic ideology, the polls predicted an upswing for her party. But then two things emerged: The first was that Yachimovich's behavior ran contrary to her declarations — by protecting the powerful workers' unions, backed by Ofer Eini, she was causing damage to the middle class. Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party profited from this as voters abandoned Yachimovich in favor of Lapid's economic platform. The second thing was Yachimovich's decision to completely ignore any kind of diplomatic process, which ended up helping Meretz, obviously.
Kadima was nearly wiped off the political map because the public realized that the party was made up of a group of opportunists and that it had originally been established by stealing votes from Likud, only to use its electoral power to go against the Likud political platform. Later it became clear that many of the individuals who defected from Likud to join Kadima were the same individuals who had given Likud a bad name while they were still members, as reflected in the high number of criminal convictions among Kadima members. The only thing that may have saved Kadima head Shaul Mofaz from total extinction in this election was the turning of the tide, and the fact that his campaign managed to strike a chord by emphasizing Mofaz's military experience.
Tzipi Livni's fledgling Hatnuah party immediately came off as a safe haven for political opportunists with little respect for the rules of the game of democracy. That is why she won less than a quarter of the number of votes that Kadima, which she headed, won in the last election.
Likud lost a significant amount of its power because the party failed to present a clear diplomatic ideology, and thus lost votes to Naftali Bennett and his party, Habayit Hayehudi. These voters didn't trust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the chairman of Likud, not to use their votes to implement policy that goes against what they believe — policy that will bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The vacuum that Likud created on the issue of equality in sharing the burden of military service for all was immediately filled by both Bennett and Lapid with very clear declarations. The voters' interpretation was that Likud was reserving the right to keep doing nothing and ignoring the High Court of Justice's ruling. These voters hoped that Lapid and Bennett will push with all their might to put an end to the current immoral discrimination and bring the ultra-Orthodox into the workforce, thus increasing the national product and tax base and easing the burden on the middle class.
The general sense was that Likud was semi-absent from the election, despite having achieved impressive successes during the course of the party's term in power: revolutions in the fields of mobile communications and transportation and a significant upgrade in education on all levels (where the improvement is only beginning to be perceptible, as these processes are slow). In addition, Likud managed to protect the Israeli economy from the global economic crisis.
But Likud's campaign did not focus on the party's achievements. It was wise to mention that Netanyahu's vast experience makes him best suited to lead the country at this time, but it was a mistake to make that point the focus of the campaign. Things would have turned out completely differently had Likud presented an ideological platform on all the issues — diplomacy, economy, social issues — to face their political rivals. It is wrong to put political tactics above ideology.