(March 2, 2020 / JNS) With Israelis heading to the polls for an unprecedented third time in under 12 months, all eyes are on “the day after.” Polls have projected a continuation of the political deadlock, but is Israel really destined for a fourth election in September 2020?
Here are the most likely scenarios for March 3:
A right-wing-bloc victory:
Likud, Shas, Yamina and United Torah Judaism. Following the Sept. 17 election, this group comprised 55 mandates, but the election before that (April 9), it reached 60 mandates together with the Kulanu Party. If the factions comprising the right-wing bloc emerge with 61 mandates on March 3, Netanyahu will form a government and at a later stage, in the coming months, will attempt to expand his coalition.
In this scenario, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz will lead the opposition and, amid efforts by the Likud to entice defectors, will have to try hard to preserve the integrity of his party.
The blocs remain deadlocked:
The lack of a clear winner will lead to another election. This remains the likeliest outcome of this election. Based on the voting numbers from the previous two elections, and the polls conducted over the past year, neither bloc, left or right, has the 61 mandates necessary to form a government. Consequently, and also due to assessments that this time, too, the sides will refuse to sit with one another in a unity government, we can expect a fourth consecutive election.
A minority government headed by Blue and White:
Last time around, Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu Party, together with a handful of Blue and White MKs, refused to form a minority government dependent on the Joint Arab List. This doesn’t mean, however, despite the repeated assurances, that such a government won’t be created now. Although both Gantz and Lieberman have vowed not to form a government supported by the Arab parties, others in the left-wing bloc, including some in Blue and White, aren’t discarding the possibility. Just recently, Labor-Gesher-Meretz chairman Amir Peretz said that a coalition of Blue and White, his faction and outside support from the Joint Arab List and Lieberman was definitely on the table.
A Likud government with defectors from the left-wing bloc:
While this scenario is less plausible, it can’t be completely discounted. If Netanyahu wins 60 seats or less for the right-wing bloc, he will seek to enlist as many Knesset members as possible from Blue and White and Yisrael Beiteinu before surrendering his mandate from the president to form a government.
During the April election, Netanyahu made a last-ditch effort to enlist Labor, which was headed at the time by Avi Gabbay, into his coalition. Gabbay, however, decided at the last minute not to join and the Knesset was dispersed. Netanyahu will try it again this time around, in the case of another deadlock. However, the law makes it hard to resign from a party and such a move entails sanctions on defecting MKs, such as revoking their ability to later run for the Knesset on an existing party ticket. This could easily deter MKs from leaving Blue and White or Yisrael Beiteinu.
The right-wing bloc falls apart:
This, too, is an exceedingly implausible scenario, but must still be considered. In the case of another tie, Gantz will try dismantling the right-wing bloc, which he failed to do the last time, by bringing one of the ultra-Orthodox parties, or Yamina, into his coalition.
The belief is that such a scenario is only possible if the right-wing bloc suffers an unexpected trouncing and loses mandates it currently has. In the last election, Netanyahu stopped the New Right from jumping ship by appointing its leader, Naftali Bennett, defense minister. Now the thinking is that the right-wing bloc is more unified than before, such that dismantling it will be a far tougher task.
Mutiny within the Likud:
Another similarly unlikely scenario involves Likud MKs defecting to a Blue and White government. Gantz says this is his preferred option considering the current state of affairs—a Blue and White-Likud government without Netanyahu. It appears, however, that much like the right-wing bloc, the Likud is even more consolidated than before. Netanyahu’s landslide victory over Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar in the primaries is the main reason why.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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