January 19, 2020

The End of Israeli Consensus

“To make sense of what’s going on as Israelis head to the polls Tuesday, one would need to be part mathematician and part psychologist. Determining who will sit with who in a prospective coalition is like choosing sides at a schoolyard pick-up basketball team.

Blue & White will consider forming a unity coalition with Likud if Netanyahu isn’t its head; Deri would sit with Liberman but Liberman won’t sit with Deri or join any coalition with haredi members, likewise Blue & White; Liberman also isn’t crazy about sitting with Blue & White at the helm; the haredim will sit in any coalition that lets them keep their subsidies and draft deferments; the Joint List will support Blue & White from outside but won’t join a Zionist coalition; Netanyahu will talk with any party that would conceivably enable him to stay in power – even the outside-the-tent- Otzma if they pass the electoral threshold; and poor Amir Peretz (the chubby, glasses-wearing last player picked) would probably accept an offer from just about anyone.

The numbers game is equally murky. If Liberman sticks to his policy that forced this second election in five months of not sitting in a coalition with haredi parties, it looks like we’re headed for another stalemate. Some polls show neither Likud nor Blue & White having enough support to form a coalition without each other. Others show Netanyahu squeaking through with a narrow 61 majority if Otzma sneaks in. If President Reuven Rivlin throws the gauntlet to Benny Gantz, the Blue & White leader will have a tough time forming a coalition even if Liberman goes with him – unless the Yisrael Beiteinu’s anti-haredi stance resonates with voters and he surprises the pollsters by stealing more votes than expected from Netanyahu.”

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