April 2, 2020

Election Handbook: Forming Final Lists

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 31, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

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, March 2, 2020. We hope to make it short, factual, devoid of election hype.


Bottom Line

Final lists must form by Wednesday.


Main News

Immunity battle: Speaker of the Knesset will decide if a committee will be formed to discuss Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. Netanyahu does not want this, as he does not have a majority for immunity. Expect him to delay the process as much as he can, in the hope that the process will not be completed before Election Day.

Party mergers: Wednesday is the deadline t form the final lists that will be running in this cycle. See a detailed explanation below (At the Party to watch section).

Finance Minister retires: Moshe Kahlon decided (as was expected) to retire from politics.

Main issue on the agenda: offensive statements by the Education Minister against LGBT families draw condemnation and could hurt The Jewish Home with some voters.


Developments to Watch

Forming of lists: This will determine how many lists ought to worry about the electoral threshold.

Leaders without parties: Minister Bezalel Smotrich is in trouble – as his party is currently not on any list with a chance to get into the next Knesset. MK Stav Shaffir is in a similar situation. She’d have to swallow her pride and accept demotion, or end (at least for now) her meteoric career.


The Blocs and Their Meaning

See how little changed since the first election of 2019 (April). If voters do not change their minds, the blocs remain with about the same number of seats.



Party to Watch

The following table is currently the most important to understand. It shows why both on the right and on the left parties consider mergers. On the left, two parties might not cross the electoral threshold of 3.25%. On the right, another two. If a party gets close to the threshold, but does not get in, the bloc loses. On the other hand, if two parties merge, some voters might decide that the new merged party is not what they want and move elsewhere. So, the game here is to maximize the number of votes for a bloc (and of course, keep all the egos of leaders intact). Look at the table, and see some comments for advanced readers afterwards.



Left debate: Labor leader Amir Peretz does not want a merger. He believes that he can peel off some votes from the right if Labor runs under him as a socially consciences party. But the pressure on his is immense, and he basically lost the support of most Labor operatives and activists. A merged list will surely cross the threshold, and it’s also quite possible that such list will lose some of the more hawkish voters of Labor. The truth is though that when Jewish left wing voters in Israel are merely 16% of the public (left and center-left combined), maybe there is not much room for two parties to compete for their votes.

Right debate: It’s more complicated on the right as what the table shows is somewhat misleading or simplified. The right does not have two factions, it has four. It has the New Right, hawkish yet liberal. It has The Jewish Home, the traditional Zionist-religious party. It has radical Otzma, a party of extreme right-wingers that many Israelis consider illegitimate and racist. It has The National Unity (HaIchud HaLeumi), a highly nationalistic highly conservative religious party.

In recent weeks, the Jewish Home and Otzma agreed to form a merged list. The New Right intends to run alone. The National Unity is currently out of the loop (a lot of this is over personal grievances and the inability of the leaders to agree on the hierarchy of factions and parties).

So on the right there are several options that will be explored this week.

  • Everybody unifies.
  • Everybody unifies except Otzma (because the New Right leader would not agree to merge with these radicals).
  • The New Right will run as one party, and the other three will run as a second party (this means: The National Unity joins the merged Jewish Home).
  • The National Unity will join The New Right to compete with The Jewish Home (this makes little ideological sense, but ideology is just one consideration out of many).
  • Things will remain as they are with The National Unity running on its own (and quite possibly not getting in) or staying this one out (because there is a good chance for another cycle soon after this one).

And all this must happen by Wednesday.


Shmuel Rosner’s book #IsraeliJudaism, Portrait of a Cultural Revolution (with Prof. Camil Fuchs) is available on Amazon.