May 25, 2019

Israel’s Election Handbook: Rockets and Smears

Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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

Rockets come from Gaza, smears from all political parties. At the moment, both do not seem to have much impact on Israel’s voters.

Main News

The Gaza situation is the main news. So far, an all-out breakout of violence was avoided. But this can change any minute. Today and tomorrow (Friday, Saturday) are especially sensitive, as Gazans plan to have rallies near the border.

Blue and White leaders suspect that Likud is spying on them. Likud tries to paint Blue and White leaders as paranoid.

The opposition is still trying to utilize the submarine controversy against the PM. Likud attempts to convince the public that there is a parallel scandal involving Benny Gantz.

Developments to Watch

Material: Gaza. Benjamin Netanyahu is exposed to attacks by his main rivals – all of which argue that his policies are too mild. Sudden eruption of a larger scale military operation could impact the voters in unforeseeable ways (or not at all).

Political: Blue and White fails to gain. It fails in its quest to build a significant and consistent advantage in the polls. If the chances of the party to become a ruling party seem diminished, many so-called “strategic voters” might go back to voting for the parties they like, rather than voting for the party they do not like as much in search of victory. In other words: the more Gantz declines, the higher the danger of a dynamic that could lead to ultimate collapse.

Legal: It is still unclear if a formal investigation of the PM’s part in the submarine purchase is forthcoming. This could be an important development, but time for it is running out.

The Blocs and Their Meaning

The closer we get to election day, the more technical we must become. Let’s begin with the two main parties. Both need to convince the president to hand them the key to form a coalition. Netanyahu hope to have a case – in the form of an easier more obvious path to a coalition. Gantz can counter this case by getting a lot more seats in the Knesset. One or two more might not be enough. This graph shows all polls since the beginning of March. For now, what we get in the polls is a closing gap between the two main parties. If the outcome is almost a tie, or a tie, Gantz has little chance of even getting a chance at forming the next coalition.

And here are the polls of the last three days, and what they tell us about the head to head battle between the two main parties. The last column is the averages based on these polls.

Next: the wildest of all wild cards. Many parties are going up and down in ways that put them in real danger. They might cross the electoral threshold of 3.25% or might not. They might get in with four seats or more and might not. If Kulanu gets 3.24% of the vote, the right-wing bloc loses close to four seats. If Balad-Raam does not get in, the anti-Netanyahu camp shrinks by three to four seats (note that the averages presented here are somewhat misleading. When a party does not close the threshold in a poll we count it as zero  seats. In reality, zero seats usually means that the party got 2-3% of the vote, not 0%).

The electoral threshold could easily become the determining factor in this election. If such thing happens, all bets and predictions are off.


Last but not least: the blocs. Specifically, the question of whether Netanyahu is going to be strong enough to declare victory on election day. To do such thing two factors must be considered. 1. Does the right-religious camp has more than 60 seats. 2. Is this a reliable conglomerate of parties that would all be committed to forming a right-religious coalition.

Since we last checked, Netanyahu’s position improved somewhat. Based on polls published in the last three days (seven polls) we can say that 1. He has a coalition. 2. He is close to having a coalition even if one of the two most problematic parties – Kulanu and Zehut – make trouble. 3. This still does not cover for a case of electoral threshold complications (for example, if Israel Beiteinu ends up not getting in). 4. This coalition will be unruly and possibly unstable and very right-wing. 5. For Gantz, forming a coalition seems almost impossible (that is to say, in a polite way, impossible).