October 20, 2019

I Did the Math, and I Don’t See a Coalition

In the midst of all the promises of “coalitions” after the razor-close Israeli elections, who’s doing the actual math?

On one side, you have a right-wing block that maxes out at 56 seats, and on the other, a center-left block that maxes out at 53 seats, both of them agonizingly short of the magic number of 61.

Forget all the fancy analyses—right now, all that matters are those numbers.

A desperate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must surely be losing sleep over his missing five seats, which would allow him to stay on the throne and fight off a criminal indictment.

He can bluster all he wants about a “Zionist coalition,” but where will he find those missing seats? From his ideological enemies at Labor-Gesher (6 seats) or Democratic Union (5 seats), who have been waiting years to see him replaced? From Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman (9 seats), who has staked his whole reputation on opposing Bibi’s ultra-religious partners?

And what about Benny Gantz’s center-left block of 53 seats? Ganz can bluster all he wants about a “secular unity coalition,” but where will he find his missing 8 seats? From the Arab Joint List (12 seats), which Liberman swore he’d never join? From an extremist party that would be unacceptable to anyone in Blue and White?

Even the much-discussed union of Bibi’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White, which Bibi is apparently considering, looks like a pipe dream. Why? Because it would necessitate two highly unlikely scenarios. The first is that Bibi would be replaced as leader of Likud, something he’d fight to the death. The second is that Gantz would team up with Bibi, something he’s sworn he’ll never do.

And in the middle of this messy stalemate is President Reuven Rivlin, who has promised he’ll do everything he can to ensure a coalition is established so as to prevent yet another “do-over” election. 

But numbers are numbers. No amount of effort from Rivlin or anyone else can fit square pegs into round holes. Over the next few days and weeks, we can expect lots of posturing and horse trading, lots of analyses about cynical politicians selling their souls to gain power, but that won’t change the stubborn numbers.   

Of course, this is Israel, the land of miracles, so it’s always possible something dramatic will happen to break the deadlock, like a revolt in Likud against Bibi, who has now failed twice this year to bring victory to his party.

At least one thing is for sure: Both sides will have plenty to pray for during the coming Holy Days.