November 22, 2019

Election Handbook: Let’s Build a Coalition

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 usual feature on Rosner’s Domain until next Election Day, September 17. 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

A month to go.


Main Political News

Few new polls, few new numbers.

Political infighting news: Netanyahu attacks Shaked and her party “Yamina” (Hebrew: to the right. Formerly the United Right); Ehud Barak criticizes Gantz and his party, Blue and White; Lieberman attacks Netanyahu with viciousness that makes a joint coalition seem unrealistic; In short: a lot of political talk, when most people just try to survive the last two weeks of August.

Netanyahu visits the Ukraine. Probably looking for Russian voters (Lieberman’s voiters, hence the vicious attacks).

Main political (and legal) storm of last week: a concert in the town of Afula in which men and women sat separately (the concert was for Haredi crowd).


Developments to Watch

Polls: Can any camp break the current tie? Can Likud steal some of Lieberman’s thunder?

Left: The voters will ultimately have to decide if Gantz have a chance to get a first shot at forming a coalition. If the answer is yes, many of them will shift their vote in the last minute from Labor and the Democratic Camp to Blue and White.

Right: Two small parties, Zehut and Otzma, are still running. The polls predict that four seats will be lost to the rightwing camp when they do not cross the electoral threshold.

Blue and White: Time and again the leaders of Blue and White are forced to deny media reports on fractures and rifts within the united list of three parties. Most reports refer to a growing gap (and suspicion) between the former generals, mostly Gantz and Yaalon, and the journalist turned politician, Yair Lapid.


The Blocs and Their Meaning

Very few polls were added to the mix in the last ten days. With the graphs below I will try to explain why we are all in trouble.

  1. Netanyahu’s trouble: He does not have a coalition. If the opposite side remains unified, there is no way for him to break the logjam unless he somehow manages to do what he wasn’t able to do in the last couple of months – that is, to get 4-5 more seats for the Netanyahu camp. As you can see in the graph, no matter how many polls we take into account, the needle barely moves.



  1. Gantz’ trouble: This is more complicated. So, we will attempt to explain it by looking at possible Gantz coalitions. Look at the table, and the following comments:



  1. If Gantz goes left, with the Arabs, Democratic Camp and Labor, he does not get to 60 seats. Moreover, in such case he is likely to lose some right-center members of his own party. So this option is unrealistic.
  2. If Gantz leaves the Democratic Camp and the Arabs out (in the hope that they might support him from the outside), he might be able to add Lieberman to the mix. This doesn’t get him anywhere.
  3. Having a coalition with the Haredi parties is tricky in many ways. First, because this means Lieberman is out, and probably also the Democratic Camp. But even the number you see in the graph is most likely unrealistic, as Haredi participation makes a Lapid departure very likely.
  4. What if Gantz turns right? He might be able to draw Yamina in, and with it Lieberman, and possibly still keep Labor. This still doesn’t get him to 60 seats.


  1. Lieberman’s Trouble: He plans to be the kingmaker of the next election and force a unity government. But if there’s unity, he is no longer needed, as you can see in the following graph:



  1. Rivlin’s Trouble: President Rivlin is tasked with picking the candidate who forms a coalition. His trouble is our trouble. What does he do in a situation such as the one we have now (according to the polls)? No doubt, he will join Lieberman in trying to convince the parties that a unity government is the only way out. Likud is ready for that – with Netanyahu at the helm. Blue and White is ready for that – as long as Netanyahu is not the Prime Minister. So, this becomes a question of who has stronger spine. Will all Likud members be loyal to the leader until the very end? Will Gantz insist even when he faces the possibility of a third election, or a coalition without him – two options that will likely end his short political career?