July 15, 2019

Israel’s Election Handbook: The Gantz Coalition

We call this format a Timesaver Guide to Israel’s Coming Elections. This will be a usual feature on Rosner’s Domain until April 9. We hope to make it short, factual, devoid of election hype, and of he-said-she-said no news, unimportant inside baseball gossip.

Bottom Line

Netanyahu faces indictment; right bloc majority disappears.

 

Main News

The Attorney General states his intention to indict Netanyahu for bribery pending a hearing.

The public is split over the decision to indict and the validity and meaning of the charges.

Polls indicate that the Netanyahu coalition is eroding.

 

Developments to Watch 

Legal: Netanyahu and his backers hammer the decision to indict, the legal authorities could respond by leaking more damning information against him – to prove the reasonableness of the decision.

Political: The battle between two rightwing parties – the United Right and the New Right – is personal (for and against Bennet and Shaked), social (conservative Orthodox vs. moderate Orthodox), as well as political. It is a fascinating race.

Political: Few smaller parties still do not have clear indication if they can cross the electoral threshold. Their success/failure could impact the blocs.

 

The Blocs and Their Meaning

The bottom line is clear: the rightwing bloc is shrinking. This is not a dramatic shrink, but since the blocs were close even before the decision to indict Netanyahu, a shift of 2-3 seats is significant. To make it simple: In several polls in the last couple of days Netanyahu’s bloc no longer has a 61 majority.

 

 

What does this mean? It means that the bloc of never-Netanyahu parties is slightly larger than the bloc of forever-Netanyahu parties.

What it does not mean? It does not mean that we already see a coalition headed by Benny Gantz. The never-Netanyahu bloc has just this one commonality: Never Netanyahu. It does not have a shared platform that can hold a coalition.

To form a coalition Gantz will need three things to happen.

  1. A decisive victory – this seems likely.
  2. A rightwing bloc that stays bellow 61 – also seems possible.
  3. An ability to convince parties from the rightwing bloc to join his coalition – this is the trickiest maneuver.

How can Gantz form a coalition?

He hopes that if his victory is decisive enough, Netanyahu will be forced out by his own party. In such case, a unity government with Likud is his most desired outcome. The polls show that these two parties can form a coalition on their own terms. (see graph, Gantz coalition 1). His other option is to convince the ultra-Orthodox parties to join his government. He believes that this is possible, even if both these parties currently vow not to sit in a government with Yair Lapid – Gantz’ second in command. In the graph, this second option includes Kulanu, a party that seems ready to make such switch, and Labor. It does not include Meretz – as sitting Meretz and the Ultra-Orthodox parties together is going to be difficult.

 

 

Focus on One Party

The united right is a much talked about amalgamation of The Jewish Home, Tkuma and Otzma. A decision by PM Netanyahu to encourage this union, that includes disciples of the highly controversial Rabbi Meir Kahane, drew fire (see my cover story from last week). But politically speaking, this decision proved to be wise. That is, if the aim is to ensure that the party crosses the electoral threshold and strengthens the rightwing bloc.

What happened to this party since new elections were called? First, the two leaders of The Jewish Home and Tkuma – ministers Bennet and Shaked – jumped ship. The party sank in the polls. Then, the union was announced. The party recovered. Here is the graph: