On November 1st, Israelis go to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years. The readers of our space certainly know this, since Israeli politics is a very present topic here. In the last few weeks, we have even had some news with interesting potential in relation to the election, and it is worth seeing these changes here.
The main news came on the last day 14 of August. Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party and current Israeli defense minister, announced the creation of a new party. In July he had already announced an alliance with New Hope, Tikva Hadasha, further to the right. Now, the alliance has received reinforcements from the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Gadi Eizenkot, and the ex-MP Yamina Matan Kahana.
The new party will be called the National Unity Party and will certainly please more right-wing voters. With that, Benny Gantz will likely have the power to replace Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman as the “kingmaker” of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The term in English literally means “king-maker”. A political actor of influence that can enable, or detain, someone in power.
This same actor, in turn, does not have the capacity to be an occupant of that power himself. An essential pillar whose graces can decide the future of a country. The term is more used in parliamentary regimes, such as the Israeli one, when a Parliament dispersed between three or more forces implies a coalition. A smaller party, then, cannot hold power by itself, but it becomes essential for a viable government.
Until the last elections, Lieberman and the seven parliamentarians of his party decided the viability of a coalition. After refusing to form an alliance with Netanyahu and the parties of the religious right, due to differences with these parties already explained in our space, Lieberman still had transit in the secular right and in the center, supporting the formation of the government of Naftali Bennet and, now, of Yair Lapid.
Benny Gantz was part of both the last Netanyahu government, as alternate prime minister and defense minister, and the current Lapid government, holding the position in Defense, the second most important in the Israeli government. . By adding more local political figures to his party, Gantz increases the value of his membership in a coalition. Election polls project to the National Unit about 13 seats.
Or that is, more than 10% of a parliament that has been pulverized in recent years, demanding delicate calculations, both political and literal, to compose a minimally viable government. Something that has not happened, see the current electoral situation. Whoever governs Israel will need Benny Gantz, although Gantz will not necessarily be the occupier of the government. The same thing happened with Lieberman.
Happened in the past. Lieberman will continue to carry some weight in coalition building, but he will no longer be the balancer, even more so after his party loses lawmaker and former diplomat Eli Avidar, who left in early August and founded a new party, Free Israel. . Most likely, however, the new party will need to form some electoral alliance, since, alone, it will hardly pass the barrier clause.
Current polls project Yisrael Beiteinu with five seats, less than it has today. It will be interesting to see if the Russian invasion of Ukraine will affect the votes in the party, since a reasonable part of its electorate is made up of Jews born in countries of the former Soviet Union who made the aliyah, the migration to Israel, after the decade of 1990, in addition to their descendants.
Another novelty is a split in one of the main alliances of the Israeli ultra-orthodox right, with the Jewish Power party, Otzma Yehudit, deciding to contest the elections alone. The party defends a Jewish and religious State of Israel, heir to the ideas of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was convicted of terrorism and murdered in New York, in a topic that deserves a column of its own.
This split between parties of the ultra-Orthodox religious right could compromise their ability to cross the barrier clause, effectively excluding them from the Knesset. That could change yet, however, as the deadline for electoral party alliances runs until mid-September. On the topic of alliances, the latest news was signed at the end of July, between Yamina and Derekh Eretz, the Zionist Spirit.
Alliances and calculations
Yamina was the party of former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Right-wing nationalist, it came out quite divided and weakened from the controversial anti-Netanyahu coalition. The negotiation, although it swore in Bennett as prime minister, included leftist parties and, for the first time, an Arab party. Netanyahu accused Bennet of betraying Yamina voters and the accusation, in a sense, had its effect.
From the premier’s party, Yamina had to make an alliance to avoid being detained by the clause of barrier. And even the alliance doesn’t seem like it will save the party, as the latest polls show that it falls below the barrier clause. Another thing that the polls show, and it’s not new, is that the first two places in the elections will go to Netanyahu, from the right-wing Likud, and Yair Lapid, the current prime minister, from the centrist Yesh Atid.
Bibi Netanyahu, eager to return to power, would have something around 34 chairs, the 120 of the Knesset. Lapid would have something around 24. Two highlights. First, since he was made official, Lapid has risen in the polls. This may also have something to do with your government’s response to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad attacks, as security issues always weigh heavily in Israeli election polls.
According to current polls, the impasse in parliament would continue. Netanyahu’s Likud plus the religious right would not get the 61 necessary seats. Yair Lapid and his current coalition parties also fail to get the “magic number”. No religious parties will join Lapid’s government. And the Arab Joint List, which does not intend to integrate any government, is “left over”.
The possibility that dominates the political field, then, is whether Benny Gantz can leave Lapid and form a government with Netanyahu. Today, he has the knife and the cheese in his hand. He can ask whatever he wants to form a coalition, and obviously he wants to be prime minister himself one day. For the next few months, one thing is for sure: Benny Gantz’s phone will not stop ringing and he will be showered with hugs and slapped on the back.