Post-Israeli Election Update 25 March 2021

Just ahead of Pesach (Passover) this weekend, Israelis went to the polls for the fourth time in two years, with the official count ratified this afternoon. Democracy is alive and kicking in Israel!

After an election in Israel, the president, following consultations with the elected party leaders, chooses the Knesset member most likely to have the ability to form a viable (coalition) government. Here is the current state of play.

In the last couple of years, the Israeli political axis has changed, it is no longer really viewed between the prism of left and right (the left usually being more pro-two state solution and the right being more cynical about the peace process, and with links to the settler communities.) However, the Israeli political scene is currently dominated by one question, ‘Are you for or against Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu (Bibi)?’ This is why the groupings of political parties and their election results are being classified as being part of a potential anti-Netanyahu grouping or bloc or a pro-Netanyahu coalition partner.

  • Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud are still the single largest party, with 30 seats.
  • Our liberal friends, Yesh Atid, led by Leader of the Opposition Yair Lapid, received 17 seats, and heads the anti-Netanyahu bloc. Read about Yair Lapid’s meeting with Sir Ed Davey MP here.
  • The Joint Arab List of parties has fallen to 6 seats, mainly due to one constituent of the faction, the Ra’am Islamist party running separately, who have received 4 votes.
  • The Ultra-Orthodox Shas and UTJ parties, longstanding allies of Netanyahu, gained 16 seats overall. In addition, the far-right Religious Zionists, endorsed by Prime Minister Netanyahu have won six seats.
  • Defence Minister and leader of Blue and White, Benny Gantz’s party, that pollsters claimed could have fallen below the electoral threshold due to their decision to join Netanyahu’s government last year, have defied the odds, and won 8 seats.
  • Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party achieved 7 seats. Bennett has continued to refuse to say whether he will sit in a Netanyahu government.
  • Compiling the rest of the anti-Netanyahu bloc; former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party won six seats and Yisrael Beitenu who’s support mainly falls from the former Soviet Union community gained 7 seats.
  • The left-wing parties of Havoda (Labor) and Meretz won 7 and 6 seats respectively.

So, what does this mean?

As it stands, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bloc does not have enough seats to form a governing coalition of 61. With Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, they only achieve 59 seats in the Knesset.

Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party’s responsible campaign ensured that none of their centre/centre-left bloc partners in bloc went below threshold, allowing for more seats in the anti-Netanyahu bloc. However, the anti-Netanyahu bloc has 57 seats overall. It would be incredibly difficult for this bloc to form a governing coalition with various parties stating they will not sit with certain individuals or parties within the bloc i.e. the anti-Bibi right wing parties and the Arab list.

The Islamist Ra’am party, led by Mansour Abbas that decided to break away from the Arab Joint List, has achieved four seats. Abbas ran independently to try and secure gains for the Arab community, which faces widespread discrimination, mounting poverty amid the coronavirus pandemic and a wave of violent crime. It has allied with secular and left-wing Arab parties in past elections but has broken with them on issues related to its religious conservatism, such as support for LGBTQ rights.

As we speak, political leaders have begun informal horse-trading to convince Mansour Abbas to support their governing bloc, whether that is inside the official government coalition or on a confidence and supply deal like the Conservatives had with the DUP in 2017. However right-wing politicians, both in the pro-Netanyahu bloc and the anti-Netanyahu camp, have ruled out basing a coalition on the party’s support, due to what they say is an anti-Zionist stance.

MKs from the anti-Netanyahu bloc are also planning to pass legislation barring a candidate under criminal indictment from forming a government. This would prevent Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, fraud, and breach of trust charges, from being allowed to form a government.

The official election results will be presented to President Rivlin next Wednesday. From then, the president has seven days to hold consultations with all the party leaders and decide on whom to entrust with forming a government, no later than Wednesday 7 April.

Whichever leader is assigned to try and form a government will have 28 days to enter negotiations and present a viable coalition. Despite claims from its detractors that Israel is an apartheid state, an Islamist party is currently the electoral kingmaker, and in all likelihood could decide Israel’s next Prime Minister, or we head to fifth elections.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

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