May 25, 2019

Israel’s Election Handbook: Your Coalition Builder

Benny Gantz, head of Resilience party and Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, hold a news conference to announce the formation of their joint party. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

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

The two main parties aim to draw voters from small parties.

Main News

Benjamin Netanyahu attempts to convince voters from the New Right, Zehut, Kulanu, Israel Beiteinu that to preserve right-wing rule they must vote Likud.

Blue and White attempts to do the same with Labor voters (and possibly Meretz voters) – arguing that a significant win is essential for those wanting Blue and White to get a chance at forming a coalition.

Latest polls show that many Israeli Arabs to not intend to vote in this election cycle.

No new published polls until election day. This means that the public is in the dark.

Developments to Watch 

Material: All is quiet on the fronts. If this changes, it could help certain parties and hurt others.

Political: Will more parties make clear commitments never to join a Blue and White coalition?

The Blocs and Their Meaning

There is not much point in looking at polls from last week at this time. So today we begin our coalition building process. In Israel, Election Day is only the beginning. The outcome will set the stage for the next phase: forming a coalition. Bellow, we will show you five options for coalitions. The numbers are based on the average of the last 5 polls that we have. Obviously, these will have to be updated on election Night, when we have real numbers rather than presumed or imaginary. Look at the possible coalition formations, each followed by a few comments on the feasibility of it.

Base: This is Netanyahu’s desired option. But according to most polls, getting to 61 by putting together the members of the base coalition is far from assured. To get there, the parties on the right will need to perform a little better than expected, without any of them falling below the electoral threshold. At least three parties might not make it: Kulanu, Israel Beiteinu and Shas.

Base, expanded: The same coalition with the addition of libertarian Zehut. This is assumed to be the most likely coalition to emerge on election Day. It will be very right-wing and very religious. It will not be easy to assemble and handle (because all parties know that they are essential and hence have many demands). It will complicate Netanyahu’s position when the Trump Plan is published (because many parties in this coalition will reject all plans). But – it could give Netanyahu what he desperately wants: an escape route from his legal troubles.

Unity: If Likud and Blue and white decide to form a coalition together life will be easy, on paper. All they need (and might not even need that) is to get one or two smaller parties to join in and have a broad coalition acceptable to most mainstream Israelis. Or maybe not? Blue and White voters will have a hard time adjusting to a coalition with Netanyahu. Blue and White leaders vowed never to join a coalition with Netanyahu (they agree to a coalition with Netanyahu-less Likud). Netanyahu also vowed not to form a coalition with Blue and White. And he is not likely to trust them to see him through his legal troubles. One way to get over this obstacle: Netanyahu retires, the two main parties form a government. Obviously, the PM does not appreciate the idea.

Blue and Right. Benny Gantz believes that ultra-Orthodox parties, and other right-wing parties, who currently say they will not join his coalition, are about to change their minds after the votes are counted. Zehut and Kulanu are candidates, and never say never. United Torah Judaism and Shas did say never – not to Gantz, to his partner Yair Lapid. Still, he hopes that when they face the dilemma of Gantz or nothing they will choose Gantz. Will there be such dilemma? In a way: If Blue and White get a lot more votes, if the President gives Gantz the option to form a coalition, if Netanyahu, no matter what he does, can’t form a 61 coalition. In such case it could be Gantz or nothing (or new election – a risk for everyone who managed to cross the threshold).

Center Left coalition. This is another Gantz option, if he decides to rely on Labor and Meretz to his left and add the ultra-Orthodox and Kulanu (assuming they agree to such arrangement). As you can see, the polls predict that such coalition will be very tight. It will also be very hard to manage. So, this is the least likely coalition to imagine, unless the numbers change dramatically. That is, unless we discover that the polls are completely off.