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Will elections end Israel's political deadlock?

October 31, 2022 at 4:37 pm

An Israeli voter casts her ballot at a polling station in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on March 23, 2021 [GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images]

Israeli voters will cast their ballot on Tuesday in the country’s 5th legislative election in less than four years, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Opinion polls suggest that no single party will be able to secure a majority in the 120-seat Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to form a government.

Final polls in Israel predicted that former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, could come within a single seat of an outright majority in the Knesset.

Surveys aired by Channel 12 and Channel 13 and the public broadcaster all gave the Netanyahu-led bloc 60 seats against 56 seats to the current coalition of Prime Minister, Yair Lapid.

This suggests that political deadlock is set to persist in Israel, leaving the door wide open to several scenarios following Tuesday’s vote.

Arab voters

Analysts opine that a high turnout of Arab voters in the polls will be decisive, as it will help reduce the number of seats won by right-wing parties.

Three Arab parties are vying in Tuesday’s vote, including the United Arab List of Mansour Abbas, who has vowed to support a government headed by Lapid.

The other two parties are Hadash-Ta’al, which opposes Netanyahu’s return to power, and the National Democratic Alliance, which has not yet announced support to any bloc.

Netanyahu is not ready to step down Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Netanyahu is not ready to step down – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Opinion polls suggest that the United Arab List and Hadash-Ta’al will win four seats each in the Knesset, while the National Democratic Alliance may fail to reach the 3.25 per cent required threshold to enter the Knesset.

“A poor turnout of Arab voters in the election will boost the chances of one of the camps led by Netanyahu or Lapid to form a government,” Yonatan Freeman, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told Anadolu Agency.

“If the Arab turnout is high in the polls, the two camps will seek to cooperate with Arab parties” on the government formation, he added.

Lapid’s current coalition government was formed with the support of the United Arab List.

Netanyahu’s future

Freeman believes that if Netanyahu or Lapid failed to win a majority in the Knesset, Israel might head to form a national unity government.

“The parties that said they will not join a Netanyahu-led government would do this eventually,” he said.Freeman does not rule out that the 1 November  polls could put an end to Netanyahu’s political life if he failed to form a government.

“It’s possible that the Likud Party might ask Netanyahu not to form the government,” he said.

“Theoretically, if the Likud failed to get enough seats, there might be public calls for Netanyahu to step aside for the sake of the party.”

“However, this possibility is unlikely as Netanyahu has a major clout and loyalties inside the party,” he added.

Observers opine that Netanyahu, if he failed to secure a majority in the Knesset, might suggest the formation of a rotation government with Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, although Gantz, the leader of the National Unity Party, has ruled out this possibility.

Analysts believe that if the deadlock continues to persist, Israel will be heading to a 6th election amid a deep political polarisation in the country.

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