Election Handbook: Third Election, First Update

December 11, 2019

We call this format a Timesaving Guide to Israel’s Upcoming Election. This will be a regular feature on Rosner’s Domain until the next scheduled election on March 2. We hope to make it short, factual and devoid of political hype.

Bottom Line

In a few hours, if we don’t see a dramatic and sudden change, our slogan will be revised to: Say no to a fourth election.


Main News

Midnight (Israel time): Four hours from now (this post goes online at 8 p.m. in Israel) the Knesset will be dissolved and a new election  will be set.

March 2 is the date for Israel’s third election in less than a year. How did we get here? Read this.

Likud primary election is likely to take place on Dec. 26. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be challenged by Gideon Sa’ar, a former Minister of Education and of Internal Affairs.

Blame game As you’d expect, each party is trying to convince voters that the third election is the other side’s fault.

Polls are basically unchanged.


Developments to watch

Likud race: Will Netanyahu’s opposition within the Likud Party gain enough votes for his position as leader to be shaken?

Alliances: Will the United Right and Otzma Yehudit — the two most conservative right-wing factions — run together? Currently, neither crosses the electoral threshold. Will Labor and the Democratic Camp run as one party (or as one list)?

Comings and goings:  Another election is an opportunity for leaders to drop out (Moshe Kahlon, Ehud Barak) or reenter the race (Tzipi Livni?).


The blocs and what they mean

As you can see below, the blocs situation is similar to the synopsis before the last election. Netanyahu doesn’t have enough votes with which to form a coalition (unless someone from the other side agrees to sit with him). Blue and White can form a coalition only if it can persuade Avigdor Lieberman to sit in a coalition that relies on the support of the Arab Party. In short, the polls tell us that we’re still stuck. They tell us that a solution is based on one of the following scenarios:

  1. The polls are completely wrong.
  2. Public opinion, which barely has changed in the past year, suddenly will change.
  3. Parties that refused to sit with one another suddenly will agree to change their tune (but why now and not before the third election?).
  4. Netanyahu will decide or be forced to step down.

What can you see in the graph?

First: This graph is based on averages of all polls that were made public (poll by the media) plus the outcome of the two elections (in April and September).

Right: The graph doesn’t deal with parties. It describes the political blocs. Netanyahu’s bloc is the right without Lieberman (no one believes that Lieberman wants Netanyahu to be prime minister). You can see that this bloc declined slightly between April and now.

Lieberman: He is supposed to be a king maker but he chooses not to anoint any king. His numbers are solid.

Unity: Likud and Blue and White easily can form a coalition. They  just don’t want to.

Opposition 1: Without Lieberman, to show what happens if Blue and White decides to rely on the Arabs and drop Yisrael Beiteinu (for now, it is not yet enough for a stable majority coalition).

Opposition 2: If Lieberman is in, and the Arabs oppose the forming coalition, the numbers are even lower (and it is more difficult to get the Charedi parties to join in if Lieberman is part of the deal).

Trends: Currently, the only trend is that there isn’t one. Nothing changes in a way that, well, changes anything.



Party to watch

For Netanyahu’s bloc to have a shot at getting close to 60 seats, it needs all right-wing parties to get in and all right-wing voters to cast their votes for parties that can get in. This means — as was the case in April — that the right is going to gamble on letting the voters have multiple choices. Right-wing voters who are more liberal, culturally speaking, will have the option of the New Right, headed by Naftali Bennett. Right-wing voters of more conservative leanings would want the two most radical right parties, the United Right and Otzma Yehudit, to merge.

Why? Because, as you can see in this graph, these two parties don’t have enough votes to put them beyond the electoral threshold (3.25%). But together, they can meet the challenge, and if they do, the entire bloc gets much closer to 60 seats (currently, the polls give it 59 if it gets the extra four seats of the radical right).

Of course, there’s a price involved: This means that the voters of the bloc will be willing to sit alongside the followers of the ultra-nationalist Meir Kahane.




Shmuel Rosner’s book, #IsraeliJudaism, Portrait of a Cultural Revolution, is now available in English. The Jewish Review of Books called it “important, accessible new study”. Haaretz called it “impressively broad survey”. Order it here: amzn.to/2lDntvh

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