An Israeli government without Netanyahu is still possible

A month ago, I published on my blog a short article entitled “Is this Netanyahu’s final month in office?

It contained several predictions about the Israeli elections — which is always a colossal mistake, as how can one possibly make accurate predictions about such a thing?

So here is what I said:

“The right wing alliance headed up by Netanyahu has lost much of its strength. “

I didn’t make a prediction about how much, but cited polls showing them dropping from 45 seats to 36. In fact, it was even worse for them.

“Kadima will disappear. “

Very close. Kadima just squeaked past the minimum of 2% to get two Knesset seats — instead of the 19 seats polls showed it winning a year ago, or the 28 seats they won in 2009.

“Kadima’s voters have defected to two new parties – Yesh Atid and Hatnuah.”

Got that one right. Of the 28 seats won by Kadima in 2009, they’ve divided up with 19 going to Yesh Atid, 6 to Hatnuah, and 2 to Kadima. It seems as if nearly every Kadima voter from 2009 decided to try one of the three centrist parties this time.

“The major left wing parties — Labour and Meretz — have stalled. “

I pointed out that the combined Labour-Meretz vote had stalled, as polls a year ago showed them winning 22 seats and that had hardly changed — it was 23 when I wrote the article. The actual result was 21 seats for the two parties.

The last of my observations was that “Shas is not necessarily a coalition partner only for the right.” I stand by that today.

Which leads to the coalition I suggested a month ago:

“Labour and Meretz form the government with 23 seats, in coalition with the two new centrist parties which get 20 seats. They are supported by 11 seats in the Arab parties and invite Shas into the government with its 11 seats.”

That would have been 65 seats. The actual vote totals today are better.  We have 21 for Labour and Meretz, 27 for the three centrist parties, and 12 (more than I predicted) for the DFPE, Balad and the UAL (the so-called “Arab parties”).   That’s 60 seats, half of the Knesset.  Toss in Shas with its 11 seats (exactly as predicted). That would be a relatively stable coalition of 71, and would leave the Netanyahu-led opposition with just 49 seats.

It would not be the first time Shas sat in government with Labour — this was the case when Yitzhak Rabin won his spectacular victory in 1992 and again in 1999 when Ehud Barak defeated Netanyahu for the first time.  In fact, when Labour has governed the country, it has always done so in coalition with religious parties.

The key, of course, is Shas. If the central issue facing the nation is religious conversion, or civil marriage, or drafting religious students into the army, then Shas shouldn’t be part of the government. But if the main issues — the life or death issues — are the fight for a renewal of the peace process with the Palestinians and for greater social justice inside Israel, then Shas is a potential partner.

The last words of my article a month ago remain true today:

“Yes, the most likely scenario is that Netanyahu pulls together a coalition, but it’s not inevitable.”

2 comments

  1. Jeremy Green

    Labour and Meretz forming any kind of pact with ‘the Arab Parties’ (and I’m glad you used inverted commas too) is so unlikely that it can effectively be ruled out. They would rather make a deal with any and all of the religious parties. In any case, they don’t have the numbers.

  2. Uzi Ran

    Netanyahu took a blow no doubt – but I still believe he will form the next government!
    Lapid is a center right Capitalist politician and will be willing to do almost anything if Bibi will offer him being PM the fourth year of the coalition. Bibi will have to throw him a bone and let Lapid get his way especially with the Religious serving in NS and citizens serving the community service, which they are not interested in, but will be the best thing that can happen to them!
    Bibi squeaked by by the “skin of his teeth” and will be calmed down by Yair which is good for Israel also.
    Yours
    Uzi Ran