Election: Breaking Up to Reassemble

Monday, January 14, 2019 |  Tsvi Sadan

Ninety days to go before early elections, and the Israeli political scene is in disarray. 

Our political players are either breaking away from existing parties or forming new ones. Though established already in 2015, the Zehut (Identity) party of right-wing activist Moshe Feiglin will run for election for the first time. Present-Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked have left the Jewish Home and formed the New Right party. Center-right Orly Levy Abekasis, currently an independent member of Knesset, has formed the new Gesher (Bridge) party. Ex-IDF chief Benni Gantz (identified as left by Netanyahu) recently established his Hosen (Resilience) party. Ahmed Tibi upset the Arab community by pulling his Ta'al party (acronym for the Arab movement for renewal) out of the United (Arab) List faction.

Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon, who is also a former IDF chief and minister of defense, formed the new Telem (Furrow) party. General (ret.) Yom-Tov Samia, until recently a member of the Labor party, formed Beyahad (the Hebrew word for "together," which he's using as an acronym for, don't hold your breath, security, Jewish-Israeli, social-educational, democratic). General (ret.) Gal Hirsch, recently a candidate for chief of police, has formed the new party Magen Israel (Shield of Israel). 

Of the seven new parties to date, four are headed by ex-generals. Of the generals' parties, polls show that Hosen (Resilience) will receive no less than 11 seats, despite the fact that party leader Gantz has yet to reveal anything regarding his political platform.

In addition to the new parties, new alliances between existing parties are beginning to from. Most notably is the possibility of uniting all the Orthodox parties, which include the Ashkenazi Agudat Yisrael and Yahadut Hatorah and the Mizrachi Shas parties. If these will unite, chances are that, after Likud, they could become the second largest Knesset faction. There are also rumors that the scattered far-right parties of National Home, Yahad and Otzma Yehudit could unite and together win a solid representation of seven seats.

With all this reshuffling, the current political picture is rather fuzzy, but there remains little doubt that the right, divided as it now appears, will win a firm majority. Though the political picture immerging from this reshuffling is fuzzy for now but, little doubt that the right, divided as it is now, still form a firm majority. If the far-right and Orthodox parties do unite, and chances are they will, the Likud, predicted to have at least 30 seats, will form the next government.

As for the left, polls give the Labor party only seven seats, down from the 24 it has now. However, if the left manages to form its own bloc consisting of the centrist Yesh Atid and the new party of Benni Gantz, it is possible that they, together with the far-left Meretz party and the Orthodox (who have shown that they will also join a left-wing coalition), could form the next government.

However, given that all the new players are still holding their cards close to their chests, the outcome of the election is far from determined, particularly when considering Prime Minister Netanyahu's looming legal cases. If the Attorney General decides to press charges against Netanyahu before the election, it could be that he's forced to resign in the midst of his campaign. Such a scenario would be devastating to the electoral hopes of the Likud, which is why Netanyahu is doing everything in his power to postpone the Attorney General's decision until after the election.

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