The elections are this Tuesday, March 17th.
Israeli law forbids publishing election polls after March 13th. So the polls we have are all we’re going to get until the real thing.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been collecting poll data and, using an excel sheet, making various calculations in order to find patterns in the data.
Here is a list of the different parties and the number of seats they got in the last 20 polls (in parentheses- current seats in the Knesset):
Likud- Netanyahu (18)- 20 to 24
Yisrael Beiteinu- Lieberman (13)- 4 to 6
Jewish Home- Bennet (11)- 11 to 13
Yesh Atid- Lapid (19)- 11 to 14
Kulanu- Kachlon (0)- 7 to 11
Ultra Orthodox Bloc:
Yachad- Yishay (0)- 4 to 5
United Torah Judaism- Litzman (7)- 6 to 7
Shas- Deri (10)- 6 to 9
Labor + Hatnua- Hertzog+Livni (15+6)- 23 to 26
Meretz- Gal’on (6)- 4 to 6
Joint Arab list (4+3+3+1)- 12 to 13
What can be seen from the polls is that there are no major fluctuations in the results. Furthermore, most of the fluctuations happen within a specific bloc of parties. The exception may be parties which are viewed as belonging to more than one bloc (such as Yachad, which could be counted either in the Right bloc or the Ultra Orthodox bloc, or Kulanu which is in the Center bloc, but some believe it may join the Right bloc, because the party leader, Moshe Kachlon is an ex-Likud MK).
But if you look at the bloc averages over time, one can see a gradual decline in both the Right and Left blocs (the decline on the Right is more pronounced). The right has slowly declined from an average of 46 seats at the beginning of January to an average slightly over 38 seats. The Left has also declined over the same period from an average of 30.5 seats to slightly under 29, and over the past few days gone back up to 29.6.
Who gains from this?
The Center bloc declined over the same period from 18 to 16 seats but has now risen to an average of 21.2 seats. The Ultra Orthodox bloc has risen from slightly under 14 seats to an average of 18.3. And the Arab bloc has risen from slightly under 11 to 12.6 seats on average in the polls.
What does this mean for the elections? Maybe nothing. No one predicted that Lapid’s Yesh Atid party would get 19 seats in the current Knesset. But if the latest polls are accurate, we can attempt to construct an imaginary coalition.
Given the various rivalries and proclaimed ‘red lines’ of the various parties, there are very few options for either of the main candidates, Netanyahu and Hertzog, for forming a coalition. Here are the main possibilities:
- Because the averages of the polls may not necessarily add up to exactly 120 Knesset seats, I am using the information from the last poll published by Reshet Bet radio on March 12th: Likud-21, Yisrael Beiteinu-6, Jewish Home -11, Yesh Atid- 11, Kulanu- 9, Yachad- 4, United Torah Judaism- 6, Shas-9, Labor+Hatnua- 25, Meretz- 5, Joint Arab list- 13.
- Netanyahu forms a coalition with the Rightwing bloc, along with the Ultra-Orthodox and Kulanu from the center. This coalition may or may not contain Yachad. Yachad’s fourth member, Baruch Marzel is considered a Rightwing extremist, and is unlikely to join any government. The feeling is mutual- Netanyahu wouldn’t want him, for fear of his government being tainted as extremist. Total: 62 or 66 seats. This scenario seems the most likely, especially after Naftali Bennet announced this evening that he will be joining his seats to Netanyahu’s when going to the President to recommend a candidate for Prime Minister.
- Netanyahu forms a coalition with the Right and Center blocs. This possibility only exists in some of the polls, because in some of the polls they total only 58-60 seats (61 seats are required for a majority). It is also unlikely that Netanyahu will want to have Yair Lapid in his government again, after Lapid, as a senior member of the last government, attempted to make a deal with the Labor party behind Netanyahu’s back and form an alternative coalition.
- A narrow “National Unity” government: Netanyahu and Hertzog join hands and form a government together. The Center parties would join such a government, as well as Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman). It is unlikely that any of the Ultra-Orthodox parties would agree to join a government with Yair Lapid in it, who is seen as an enemy of the Ultra Orthodox community. Naftali Bennet’s rightwing Jewish Home wouldn’t join such a government. It is also unlikely that Likud would agree to anything less than rotation between Netanyahu and Hertzog as Prime Minister. But the entire constellation is highly unlikely anyway. Both candidates have already announced they will not do this, but what a candidate says before the elections does not necessarily mean anything after. Total: 72 seats.
- Hertzog forms a coalition including the Left and Center blocs, as well as the two larger Ultra Orthodox parties. Shas has already said they would not sit with Yesh Atid, so this is an unlikely scenario. Hertzog could attempt to supplement his coalition with the Joint Arab list, but this would probably drive all his other coalition partners out, except for Meretz. Total: 65 seats.
After the election results are in, the President must ask the leader of the party with the best chances of forming a coalition to do so. The party leader then has 28 days, with an option of up to 14 additional days to negotiate with the other party leaders and form a coalition. If he is unable to do so, the task goes to the next candidate. If he is also unable to form a coalition, we may end up with a second election in order to break the stalemate.
Either way, it will be extremely difficult for either candidate to form a coalition, and the smaller parties will exact a very high price for their support, because both candidates have very little options to choose from.
Election day is a vacation day in Israel and the weather is expected to be lovely. I hear the Judean desert is covered in green this spring, after a good, wet, winter. That’s where I intend to be. After I vote, of course. Photos will be forthcoming…
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