October 13, 2019

Election Handbook Return: The Winner of Israel’s Next Election

From left: Benny Gantz; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photos by Amir Cohen/Reuters

We call this format a Timesaver Guide to Israel’s Coming Elections. This will be a regular feature on Rosner’s Domain until the next election day, Sept. 17. We hope to make it short, factual, devoid of election hype and of he-said, she-said no-news and  unimportant “inside baseball” gossip.

Bottom line

Israeli politics weren’t expecting to see this development so quickly, but history is being made: a second election being called for less than six months after an election never has happened in Israel, which prompts another forecast. For now, the prediction is for another victory for the right-wing bloc.

Note: If you want to know how we got here and what’s at stake policy-wise, click here.

Main News

Israel’s next election is slated for Sept. 17.

Yisrael Beiteinu and the Charedi parties couldn’t agree on a Charedi draft law. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition, and in voting for a new election, the Knesset, in essence, dismantled itself.

Fewer parties are expected to run in September: Kulanu merged with Likud, The New Right might be gone.

Parties soon must determine if they want to hold a new primary election. Likud is going to skip it; Labor must decide who’s going to be its leader for the coming election.


Developments to Watch 

Themes: Likud’s campaign has an obvious theme: If you want us to be in power, vote for us. Other parties make trouble.

Themes: Avigdor Lieberman’s campaign has an obvious theme: If you want right, and not ultra-Orthodox, vote for me.

Themes: Blue and White will say: Netanyahu failed and dragged Israel down the rabbit hole of another election — maybe give us a chance.

Legal: Remember thinking that Netanyahu’s indictment on corruption charges would be the crucial moment of the last election? Netanyahu is facing a pre-trial hearing, although Israel’s attorney general extended the deadline until October .

Personal: Is anyone coming back? Ayelet Shaked (formerly of The New Right)? Tzipi Livni?

Political: The Arab parties get a chance to remerge and possibly retake 13 seats rather than the 10 they held after splitting.

Social: What did voters learn from the last failed round of elections? Will it make them more or less prone to vote for small parties? Will it make them inclined to vote?


The Blocs and Their Meaning

Old polls mean little when realities change. So what remains are the results and their meaning. The basic fact is this: The right got more votes than seats. In other words: Because of votes wasted on parties that didn’t cross the electoral threshold, the right got less than its realistic share of Knesset seats. If fewer votes are wasted in the next election — and if the voters stick with their camps — the right is supposed to get stronger come September. This will give Netanyahu more leeway as he builds his coalition. Then again, the entire campaign season lies ahead.

The graph below shows the number of seats in the last election vs. the number of votes. As you can see, the Netanyahu bloc lost close to 300,000 votes on parties that didn’t make it into the Knesset. This could translate into an additional four to eight seats.



Now take a look at two polls taken earlier this week, and what they mean for a future right-religious coalition:



A Party to Watch

A Party to Watch

Yisrael Beiteinu is the most interesting party to watch, because the stakes for this party are high. On the one hand, right-wingers might blame Lieberman for Netanyahu’s failure to form a solid right-wing coalition. On the other hand, voters are not sympathetic to the ultra-Orthodox and might decide to reward Lieberman for holding his ground.

What you see in the following graph is simple: Polls were quite accurate about Yisrael Beiteinu. Their prediction was zero seats — namely, below the electoral threshold, or four to five seats, just above the threshold. The party ended up having five (the numbers below represent all polls published in media outlets from January 2018 until election day, April 9).

What happens next? There isn’t much room for Lieberman to go down and survive, so my guess would be it’s either up or nothing. A few fresh polls give him eight or more seats.