It was a close election in Israel yesterday, at least that’s the impression one gets from mainstream media reports.
The truth of the matter, however, is that Israel isn’t divided neatly between Left and Right.
All of the post-election graphs and charts show the right-wing bloc lead by Prime Minister Netanyahu winning between 58-61 mandates, the left-wing bloc taking between 54-57 mandates, and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party sitting in the middle with 4-7 mandates.
The takeaway for those who just glance at the news (which is most people) is that both Netanyahu and “Blue and White” chief Benny Gantz have a relatively similar chance of forming the next government.
But this is a gross misrepresentation of reality.
While Netanyahu can indeed count on the backing of 58-61 fellow Members of Knesset, Gantz most certainly does not have the support of 54-57, as suggested by the aforementioned graphs.
The problem is that most mainstream media outlets count the Joint Arab List as part of the left-wing bloc. But they aren’t. Israeli politics is divided in three (at least) – Right, Left and Arabs.
Yes, there are many Arabs who count themselves as either right-wingers or left-wingers. But the Joint Arab List, which is projected to win between 15-17 seats, does not.
The Israeli Left still identifies itself as “Zionist,” which is just one of the reasons that the Joint Arab List will never sit in a government headed by Gantz. It might agree to back his coalition from the outside, but it won’t be part of his government.
This points to two truths that the media seems reluctant to focus on:
- Of the three sides in Israeli politics, the election results show once again that the Right in Israel is far larger and more representative of the people than the Left;
- The best Gantz could hope for is a minority coalition of around 39 seats, and thus a dangerously unstable government and guaranteed early elections in the near future.
A firm plurality of Israelis want a right-wing government, that much is clear, as is the fact that Netanyahu remains the only politician with any possibility of finally giving Israel a government and moving us forward.