An election that makes as much sense as the prior and next

What can happen and just might happen, after the elections.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer, | updated: 23:32

OpEds Rabbi Prof. Dov Fisch
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fisch
צילום: PR
It is said that Jews are so opinionated that two Jews render three opinions.

We see from this week’s Israel's elections, timed perfectly for Rosh Hashanah season, that it is not true. For nearly 7 million Jews, only thirty (or so) political parties are ample to choose from.

With Israel voting for a Prime Minister and a new Government — for the second time in three months, because enough of the various parties could not agree on forming a Government three months ago — the population of Israel now stands at approximately 9 million:


Approximately 6,750,000 Jews (~ 75%)
Approximately 1,900,000 Arabs ( ~ 21%)
Approximately  450,000 others (~ 5%)


With millions of Jews voting, you might expect millions of parties (plus one) to run. But the stereotype is not correct.  In this election, voters have only thirty or so parties remaining from which to choose, barely the number of flavors that the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chain advertises.

For non-Israelis, here are some examples of choices from recent elections:

Ballots for 2015 elections https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cd/Kalpi_israel_18.JPG/220px-Kalpi_israel_18.JPG

Who needs Putin and "Russian Collusion" to confuse the voters?

As for the election itself, the polls predicted that Binyamin Netanyahu's Center-Right Likud will get 31-33 seats, and so will the Center-Left "Blue & White" that is led by a quartet of three generals (Benny Gantz, Gabi Ashkenazi, and Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon) and an anti-religtious former journalist political pro (Yair Lapid). 

To their more determined Left, the radical-left Meretz Party may get 4-6 seats, as may the dying Labor-Gesher Party. (Labor once was the powerhouse of Israeli politics, home to the likes of Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres.) However, because parties must get at least 3.25% of all valid votes cast — otherwise, they are disqualified, and all their votes are lost — it is possible that Meretz, Labor-Gesher, or even both (!) may end up on the outside.

To the right of Likud, Yamina (a blend of secular and lightly observant political conservatives, haredi Zionists - known as 'chardal' - and Modern Orthodox Religious Zionists) was projected to get 8-10 seats. United Torah Judaism (Ashkenazic "Classic Old World" Orthodox) was expected to get 7-8, as was Shas (Sephardic "Clasic Old World" Orthodox). 

The Otzma Party (associated with aspects of the late Rav Meir Kahane's teachings) was predicted either barely to miss the 3.25% cut-off and get nothing, with all their votes wasted and lost — or to eek in just barely . . . and thereby get 4 seats.

Separately, a merger of 4 Arab parties was expected to come out with 9-11 seats.  And the "Joker Is Wild" — the Avigdor Liberman "Yisrael Beyteinu" Party (right-wing politically, but anti-religious theologically, comprised primarily of anti-Orthodox older people who came from the former Soviet Union) — was expected to get between 6-11 seats.

When the last votes come in, expect that the secular conservatives and theologically Orthodox may prove a bit stronger than the polls predicted. That little bit can make all the difference this time. In addition, the last votes that trickle in come primarily from soldiers on active duty in the Israel Defense Forces (along with overseas diplomats, hospitalized patients, and the like). That vote often moves the final tallies a bit to the right as well, so “it is not over until it is over.”

Actually, it is not over even after it is over. After the dust settles, the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, will select the head of Likud (Netanyahu) or the head of Blue & White (Gantz) to try to form a coalition. There will ensue weeks of horse-trading, where smaller parties demand seats as cabinet ministers and concessions on their key platform issues in return for agreeing to coalesce behind one or the other of the two largest parties. In the 120-seat Knesset, a Government will require the agreed-upon commitments of parties comprising at least 61 elected seats.

Since a bloc of parties combining the politically conservative with the theologically Orthodox aligning under the Likud was expected to comprise 58-61 seats, they either will be able to form a coalition with just enough to govern without Liberman (if they tally 61), or they will be short a few seats. If they are short, Netanyahu will try to plead with individuals elected to the Knesset in Liberman's party or in Blue & White to abandon their party in return for some personal pay-off, like getting to be a cabinet minister or getting a chauffeur-driven limousine, extra staff, or a window office in the Knesset. (That is how Rabin formed the coalition that agreed to the Oslo Disaster that gave Arafat a quasi-country and base in Judea and Samaria for terror operations, the “Palestine Authority.” Lacking 61 seats, he convinced a few to betray their voters, abandoning their parties and stated beliefs in return for limos, and other personal goodies.)

If Netanyahu cannot cobble together 61, then Gantz presumably will be authorized by President Rivlin to try his hand.  However, he will not be able to reach 61 without Likud joining under him because his Blue & White Party, plus the Left parties, will comprise only 45 or so seats.  Gantz will not want to invite the Arab coalition party into his coalition because that has never been done, and anyway, many of them are Jew-haters or otherwise are running on overtly anti-Zionist platforms. Besides, even with them, he would have only 55 or so seats, and Liberman would be hard-pressed to sit with them to give them the 61.

Likewise, Gantz cannot get to 61 if he brings in Liberman to join with his 45, or so, because (i) even with the Left and Liberman, he would get only to 55 seats oif he does not also get the Arab coalition, (ii) Liberman would not fit with the Left anyway because Liberman’s voters are right-wing emigrants from Communism, and (iii) the Left would not sit with Liberman (same reason) -- although they do share a common antipathy towards religious Jews.

So Gantz's only play would be to get Likud to agree to join in a "national unity" Government under his leadership. But Gantz, Ashkenazi, Ya'alon, and Lapid have one thing in common that led them to create their party: They all hate Netanyahu. So they never would sit with Bibi; rather, they would have to convince the other leaders of Likud to stab Netanyahu in the back and to dump him. Some of them probably would, if offered cabinet ministries and chauffeur-driven limos or corner offices with large windows, but most would be afraid to do it because their careers would end when such a tenuous coalition would collapse.

So how will a government of 61 seats be formed?  In April, this exact scenario resulted in no solution, leaving them with no choice but to hold another election.  (And what is that thing about Einstein and expecting different results?) 

So here is what probably will play out:

Either . . . 
1. Somehow, the Right-Religious end up with just enough seats to make 61, based on a history of Israeli election polls regularly underestimating the results and strength of the religious/right by 3 seats or so.

Or. .  .
2. Liberman and the "Old World Classic " Orthodox and Religious Zionists somehow will reach an understanding behind closed doors in order to avoid a third election at Hannukah time which will have the same results. Like, maybe he and they agree on new quotas (there already are quotas) for drafting haredi boys in Kollel Torah Academies in return for government funding of yeshiva education and continuation of the status quo in Government respect for public religious practices and the continued authority of the Chief Rabbinate on matters of personal Judaic status.

Or . . . 
3. Netanyahu, though short of a 61 governing majority by two or three seats, will bypass Liberman and somehow will induce two or three faithless from Liberman's party and the Blue & White to abandon their parties and join a new Likud government in return for personal pay-offs like cabinet ministries, limos, corner window offices, and lifetime pensions.

Or . .  
4. A third national election will be scheduled for December, just before Hannukah (just as this one was just before Rosh Hashanah and the April one was just before Pesach).

The above may all sound very confusing, but it is what it is. So the matter is clear, as this simple graph illustrates:

https://en.wikipedia.org/api/rest_v1/page/graph/png/September_2019_Israeli_legislative_election/0/40b57de2a40f65ba94ed9d1941a66e80e8e44f82.png





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