A brief, but stormy election campaign has come to an end, and not only is Benjamin Netanyahu still prime minister, he appears poised to establish a far more stable government made up only of right-wing parties.
In the coming days, President Reuven Rivlin will select the candidate best positioned to form the next government. Given Likud’s crushing victory over the left-wing Zionist Union faction, that candidate will be Netanyahu.
Rivlin has expressed his hope for a national unity government, and is expected to ask Netanyahu to consider such an option.
But while a coalition consisting only of Likud, the Zionist Union and one or two other parties would be an interesting prospect, it is far more likely that Netanyahu will capitalize on the results of the elections by building a coalition made up of right-wing and religious parties.
Likud brings 30 seats to the table. It has natural partners in Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home (8 seats) and Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu (6 seats). The new Kulanu faction (10 seats) of Moshe Kahlon, himself a former Likud heavyweight, is also expected to be an easy sell for Netanyahu.
That would already bring Netanyahu’s coalition to 54 out of 120 Knesset seats.
At that point, Netanyahu could again approach Yair Lapid and his centrist Yesh Atid party, but it is unlikely he will want that headache. It was Lapid who essentially brought down the last government over budget disputes.
Netanyahu’s other option is to woo the two ultra-Orthodox parties – Shas (7 seats) and United Torah Judaism (6 seats).
Getting Shas and United Torah Judaism into the government is easy, provided Netanyahu is prepared to offer the Interior Ministry, significant public funding for Orthodox yeshivas and to make compromises on legislation requiring ultra-Orthodox males to do military service like all other Israeli Jews.
If he’s willing to pay that price, Netanyahu can establish a coalition of 67 seats.
This coalition would still have some differences of opinion regarding economic and social issues, but would largely see eye-to-eye on security and diplomatic issues like Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
In other words, it would appear Netanyahu has the opportunity to form the coalition he wanted and one that might finally serve a full four-year term.