January 17, 2020

Election Handbook: After the Mergers

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, from the Jewish Home party, enter the room before delivering their statements in Tel Aviv, Israel December 29, 2018. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

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

 We finally have final lists.

A Note to Readers: This post was updated on Friday, 17 January, to include polls from Thursday and Friday (the first post-mergers’ polls). 


Main News

Party formations: On the left, Labor and Meretz run as one list. On the right, The New Right, The Jewish Home and The National Union run as one list. Radical Otzma was forced to run separately.

Left complications: No Arab representative has a realistic chance of becoming MK on the Labor-Meretz list. The party is criticized for that. Young political star Stav Shaffir was not offered a seat and decided to stay this one out.

Right complications: A last minute maneuver forced Rafi Peretz of the Jewish Home to break his commitment to Otzma and join the merged right-religious list. The head of the party, Naftali Bennet, was adamant in his resistance to have Otzma on the same list.

Immunity battle: Speaker of the Knesset got a petition demanding that he convene the Knesset for a session in which a panel could be appointed for dealing with the PM’s immunity request. Read more about the immunity battle here.


Developments to Watch

Will Otzma insist on running: If the party runs (as it currently intends to do) it is likely to damage the right by taking votes away without crossing the electoral threshold (these votes will be lost rightwing votes). Likud is likely to pressure the party to refrain from running, but it’s not clear what incentive it can offer in return for such withdrawal.

Polls after mergers: We don’t yet have many polls telling us how the voters react to the mergers on right and left. Two possible options: The voters like the mergers and flock to the new lists. Or: the voters reassured that the parties will not disappear, no longer feel a need to “save” them, and flock to the main parties – Likud and Blue and White. The more likely scenario: the second one.

Arab voters trend: Traditionally, Meretz would get some votes of Arabs as a representative of a peace-pursuing left. But with the snub of Arab representatives (the one they will get in only if the list gets 11 seats) could send these voters to the Joined Arab List.


The Blocs and Their Meaning

The basic blocs are presented here: the Bibi Bloc includes the parties that would form the 61 seat right-religious coalition, the No Bibi Bloc includes all other parties – those who might not be able to form a coalition, but would oppose (or so they say now) a coalition headed by the current PM.



Note of caution: Since we have very few polls referring to the final lists, we were forced to base our averages for January on polls conducted when the parties were still separate and add the numbers of parties that eventually merged (for example: we added Labor plus Meretz and the number of them together is the one we used for the average). It is quite clear that the dynamics of the post mergers campaign are going to change these numbers.



Party to Watch

How many votes does Otzma steal from the right, assuming it does not cross the threshold? Polls from November and December, when the party was still running alone (before the short time merger with The Jewish Home) show that the party is quite far from the electoral threshold of 3.25%. In the last election it got a little more than eighty thousand votes, and if it does not quit the race, a loss of 1-2% of the rightwing vote is to be expected. That is 1-2 seats that could join the Bibi Bloc.

Update: In the last 4 polls (post mergers), Otzma failed to cross the threshold in 3 and got 4 seats in 1.



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