GP Insights

GP Insights # 148, 21 September 2019

Israel: No clear winners in the elections
Sourina Bej

What happened? 

The second election in six months ended in a political deadlock. According to the official vote count released on 18 September, no party has garnered a clear majority to lead the coalition government in the Knesset.

On 19 September Netanyahu acknowledged the results and called to form a Unity government with the second most voted party leader Gantz. Gantz has declined since his party - the Blue and White received the highest vote count, and named himself as the prime minister in a unity government.

The party position for the 120 strong Knesset as on 19 September includes the following:

Blue and White: 33

Likud: 31

Joint List: 13

Shas: 9

Others: 34

What is the background? 

As the pre-election polls had predicted, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party along with other right-wing nationalist and religious parties had fallen short of securing the 61 seats required for a majority. But so, did his principal opponent Benny Gantz. 

It remains to be seen which of the two leaders do President Reuven Rivlin asks to lead the coalition. 

What does it mean? 

Israel is now heading for coalition negotiations with all options on the table, including a third election. 

The scenarios include the following: first, the likelihood of Netanyahu retaining his power would be difficult. A national crisis could help Netanyahu with his former defence minister-turned-opponent, Avigdor Lieberman, join his coalition. But the lower votes for Likud compared to the election results in April have put a question on Netanyahu’s popular mandate as a leader. He might still face a legal quagmire on corruption charges like his predecessor Ehud Olmert. 

Second, with the White and Blue party declining to form the Unity government, it now remains to see whether the other right-wing parties like Yisrael Beiteinu breaks the deadlock. The chances of a third election may arise, but the possibility wears thin given the economic cost of yet another political tussle. 

The election reveals a lateral expansion of the Israeli right, including the extreme, the centrist and the religious right-wing parties. Even though the populist mandate of Netanyahu may have lost, the ideological right continues to expand with the White and Blue party as well. Gantz has remained a strong proponent of a nationalist policy with little tilt for the Palestinian cause or the left Zionist parties. There is less or no disagreement on maintaining the occupation and military annexation of the Palestinian territories. The divide between the parties is more on civic issues like marriage and exemptions from military service for the Orthodox Jews. 

Will Benny Gantz get his first chance?.

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