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The results of Israel’s election hinder the formation of a government

September 19, 2019 at 3:23 pm

Leader of the Blue and White political alliance, former chief of staff of the Israeli army, Benny Gantz (3rd R) and ) and Gabi Ashkenazi (4th R) attend the final stage of his election campaign in Tel Aviv, Israel, 15 September 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency]

With the emergence of most of the results of the Israeli elections, a series of potential scenarios for the formation of a new government have emerged.

It is important to know the final results of the elections, after counting over 90 per cent of the votes before talking about how the new government will look, as the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) alliance, led by the three generals Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, along with Yair Lapid, won 32 seats, while the Likud Party, leading the right-wing camp under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, won 31 seats.

The Joint List, headed by Ayman Odeh, won 13 seats, and the Yisrael Beiteinu party headed by former Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman won nine seats, the same number of seats won by the religious Shas party headed by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

The rest of the seats were distributed among the United Torah Judaism, with eight seats, New Right (Yamina) with seven, Labor-Gesher with six, and the Democratic Union, led by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak with five seats.

In total, the Israeli centre-right camp now has 56 seats, while the right-wing and religious parties have 55 seats, which means that Lieberman will determine the outcome if he joins one of the two camps.

READ: Netanyahu urges rival Gantz to form unity government with him

The Israelis did not sleep last night, waiting for the preliminary and semi-final results of the elections they had just voted in. Every time the results were updated, observers would evaluate and predict the structure of the expected government.

These election results give the Israelis the opportunity to deliberate several scenarios for the potential formation and structure of the next Israeli government. Either Likud returns heading a purely right-wing government with Benjamin Netanyahu as its head, or centrist parties, led by the Blue and White alliance, form a unilateral government away from the right. A third option would see two parties forming a national unity government. If it all fails, Israel will hold a third election.

Given these scenarios, Israelis are wondering whether Netanyahu will return to form his fifth government or will he be forced to be absent under pressure from his own party leaders who are seeking change, given the convictions of some that the man “stole” their chances of leading the Likud party.

The composition of the next Israeli government depends on the ability to solve the fundamental issue that caused the failure to form the previous government, i.e. recruiting the Haredim into the ranks of the Israeli army. If Netanyahu succeeds in overcoming this crisis by reaching an agreement with his archenemy, Avigdor Lieberman, who wats to see religious and Haredi Jews, enlisted, a government will be formed immediately. However, this scenario is not easy.

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However, should the two major parties decide to establish a unity government, the ministries would be divided: defence, foreign, and finance, or a rotating premiership would be established.

This will remain conditional, from the generals’ point of view, on the Likud electing another leader, other than Netanyahu, due to the corruption charges against him. In this case, Likud may convene an emergency meeting to elect an alternative to Netanyahu. Gideon Sa’ar, former interior minister and Netanyahu’s opponent within the party, Yisrael Katz, foreign minister, Gilad Erdan, internal security, and Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset, are all possible candidates.

Who will benefit from Netanyahu being re-elected – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

A third scenario is if the two major parties fail to form the next government, unilaterally or in a coalition, then a third Knesset parliamentary election will be held.

This option means that Israelis are approaching a chaotic scenario; President Reuven Rivlin, civil society institutions, or the judiciary may intervene to prevent such an event taking place. This is because it the government budget is further exhausted and the political system destabilised.

The most likely option based on the results of the Israeli elections is to form a national unity government through the Likud and Blue and White’s rotation of premiership, two years each, provided that the Likud appoints a new head.

Netanyahu is concerned that there are efforts within Likud to isolate him especially if his presence as head of the party stands in the way of the formation of a national unity government.

Netanyahu is not convinced of the loyalty of ministers and Likud MKs, nor does he trust the Haredi parties (JTC and Shas) because they will throw themselves into Gantz’s arms if he asks them to join his government in the event that he is tasked with forming it. In this case, Likud will find itself in the ranks of the opposition.

Blue and White’s ability to form a government is limited because the Israeli right, both national and religious, dominate state institutions. There is, however, a chance it could achieve this goal if it obtains a parliamentary safety net from the Arab parties. This would be condemnable amid the Arabs within Israel as Gantz is a former Israeli army general.

#IsraElex19: Israeli Elections 2019

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A comprehensive reading and statistical analysis of the Israeli elections results, as of when this article was written, gives us the opportunity to present four scenarios for the formation of the next Israeli government. They are as follows: the formation of a national unity government consisting of Likud, Blue and White, Yisrael Beiteinu, and New Right, without the Haredis.

The second scenario is the formation of a government consisting of Blue and White, Yisrael Beiteinu and New Right, separate from the Likud. The third is the formation of a narrow government consisting of Blue and White, Yisrael Beiteinu and New Right, while the fourth and final scenario involves the failure of the Israeli parties to form a government based on Likud’s refusal to participate in any government that is not headed by Netanyahu. In this case, new elections will be called for and this is a recipe for utter chaos.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.