What will happen in Israel’s very exciting Tuesday election? – Washington Examiner
On Tuesday, Israelis will vote in a new election. The opinion polls suggest that the race for Israel’s next prime minister is between incumbent Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.
This election is a rerun following an April election which failed to give Netanyahu a stable coalition. Once again, opinion polls show a near dead heat. The final pre-election polls released by Israeli channels 12 and 13 on Friday suggest that Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz-Yair Lapid’s center-left Blue-White coalition will each win 32 seats. With 61 seats needed to command a majority in the Knesset, coalition-building will be critical. That’s where things start to get very interesting.
For a start, it’s not at all clear that Netanyahu will be able to forge a majority government, even if he comes out ahead. But to win, Netanyahu will need the support of the far-right Yamina alliance (projected to win 8-9 seats) and the Orthodox religious parties Shas (projected to win 6-7 seats) and the United Torah Judaism alliance (projected to win 7-8 seats). But even if the projections hold true, those parties would give Netanyahu just 21-24 additional seats. At best, he would be be six seats short of a majority. What does he do then?
Ideally, he would form a coalition with the Otzma Yehudit party, projected to win four seats. Except for two problems: first, that only gets Netanyahu to 60 seats. Second, Otzma Yehudit is a citadel of racist vitriol against Arabs, including Israeli Arabs.
Netanyahu has already aligned himself with extremists in the form of the ultra-Orthodox parties — which prevent the provision of adequate transport services, believe they’re entitled to generous welfare payments, and won’t help their fellow citizens defend Israel — Otzma Yehudit is an unmitigated disgrace. Were Netanyahu to form a coalition with them, he would be inviting a snake into the heart of a great democracy. He would burn his own legacy.
Netanyahu knows this and his increasing desperation is showing. The prime minister endorsed a crazed conspiracy theory on Friday, blaming the Blue-White coalition for Netanyahu’s own Mossad operation to scatter signal intercept devices near the White House.
Okay, so that’s Netanyahu. How about Blue-White?
Well, Gantz’s coalition doesn’t appear to have it much better. Assuming it wins 32 seats, Blue-White will hope to form a coalition with the Democratic Union party (projected to win 5-6 seats), Labor-Gesher (projected to win 4-5 seats), and Yisrael Beiteinu (projected to win 8-9 seats). Again, however, a familiar problem arises. Because that would only get Blue-White to a total of between 49 and 52 seats. Blue-White does have one outside-the-box option: include the Arab Joint List (projected to win 10-12 seats) in its coalition. But while that would possibly give Gantz his majority, it would invite popular concern over the inclusion of some overt anti-Zionists in government. Gantz is thus resisting Joint List’s flirtations here.
That leaves us with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beinteinu party.
While right-wing and ideologically closer to Likud than Blue-White (the party is a former partner to Netanyahu’s coalition), Lieberman has shifted his support towards Blue-White in disdain for Netanyahu’s engagement with the ultra-Orthodox parties. That said, if Lieberman performs well enough, he may be able to persuade Netanyahu to abandon the ultra-Orthodox partners in return for his support of a new government.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. As with the last election, Tuesday’s will be very exciting.
But one thing is certain: If Netanyahu is able to form a coalition, Trump’s unpublished peace plan will be dead on arrival.