Elections: Would New Democratic Camp Bloc Topple the Right?

The last election’s collapse of the small parties has pushed them now to form what is called technical blocs, forming an ad hoc “list” good only for election day.

By Tsvi Sadan |
Meretz party chairman Nitzan Horowitz, Former Israeli Prime Minister and leader of Israel Democratic party, Ehud Barak and Israeli parliament Stav Shaffir hold a press conference announcing their newly formed Democratic Camp political alliance, in Tel Aviv on July 25, 2019. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ??? ???? ????? ???? ??????? ???? ?????? ???? ???? ???? ??? ????? Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

After the elections each party will become an independent faction in the Knesset. For example, the day after the elections, the United Right bloc will enter the Knesset as independent Jewish Home, Tekuma, Otzma Yehudit and whoever else. Their number of seats will be determined by the number of votes they received at the voting booths, in which voters still vote for parties and not for blocs.The forming of the bloc, so the hope goes, is to encourage the electorate to vote for parties too small to cross the electoral threshold on their own.

This relatively new phenomenon is the result of the high electoral threshold, that requires parties to gain at least 3.25% of the overall number of voters. This percentage means that a party will gain a minimum of four seats to enter the Knesset. Since 1992, the electoral threshold has risen from 1% to the present 3.25% in an attempt to limit the number of factions in the parliament. However, as was the case with The New Right in the last elections, the shortfall of one thousand votes that would have allowed this party to enter the Knesset, also meant that this party’s four potential seats were lost. That left Netanyahu with a vulnerable narrow majority dependent on the whims of Avigdor Liberman who, for his own reasons, refused to enter a right-wing coalition. Rather than stabilizing the political system, the last elections clearly showed that in reality, the high electoral threshold destabilizes the political system.

To overcome this obstacle, small party leaders are now forced to form technical blocs to enhance their chances to enter the next parliament. The problem is that many in Israel now view the formation of technical blocs as an opportunistic endeavors and are of the opinion that the formation of blocs marks the blurring of ideological lines, which further erode the trust Israelis have in their respective leaders.

But, as the formations of the new left/right blocs now show, the refusal of the small parties to merge with the two big left/right centrist parties of Blue and White / Likud, means that these blocs are intensely ideological, more so than Likud or Blue and White which attempt to be as all-inclusive as possible.This, of course, doesn’t rule out opportunism, which is evident in Knesset members who defect from one political party for another if they think their political career has a chance of obtaining a boost.

Opportunism aside, the new emerging left-wing bloc “Democratic Camp” does clarify the political stand of figures like Ehud Barak and former IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Yair Golan, who in the public mind were considered Labor guys. Now, their willingness to nest with extremely progressive Meretz party leaves no doubt about who they really are.

And the same is with the United Right bloc. The coming together of new Jewish Home leader,liberal right-winger Ayelet Shaked with extreme right figures like Itamar Ben Gvir, clearly marks this bloc as more ideologically dedicated than the Likud.

And all of this means that if parties positioning themselves on the Likud’s right fail to maintain a bloc, the intensely ideologically motivated people of the new Democratic Camp could be those who will shape Israel’s future.And this, in turn, teaches that rather than being redundant, the appearance of the ideological blocs makes the upcoming elections something that could be detrimental to Israel’s future.


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