Most Likely Outcome: a More Nationalist, Religious Coalition

With elections 2 weeks away, polls indicate next government will be tougher against Obama's pressure.

Contact Editor
Gil Ronen,

Israel news photo: Flash 90

With elections two weeks away, an average of national election polls indicates that U.S. President Barack Obama will have to deal with a more religious and nationalist Israeli government after the polling booths close.

According to the average at the "Knesset Jeremy" website, which is an Israeli version of the well-known Real Clear Politics site covering U.S. elections, there is absolutely no possibility of a leftist coalition if current trends hold.

Assuming the current average reflects the true election results, even a combination of all Jewish leftist parties – Labor, Tzipi Livni, Yesh Atid, Meretz – and the two hareidi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, still falls short of the required 61 MK majority, with only 56.6 MKs.

To cross the 60-seat threshold, the leftist coalition would have to enlist the help of the Arab parties. This appears to be beyond the realm of possibility, and would cause a huge rebellion inside Yesh Atid and Shas. Even parts of Israel's ultra-liberal media would come out vehemently against such a move.

Meanwhile, a nationalist-religious coalition of Likud – Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, Shas and UTJ would have 64.7 seats. This is not a comfortable majority but by Israeli standards it is a reasonably stable one. Netanyahu formed his government after the last elections after a similar majority of 65 MKs recommended him for Prime Minister. Labor then joined his coalition, making it wider.

A similar scenario could occur in the 19th Knesset, and in the formation of Israel's 33rd government. With a base of 64 or 65, Netanyahu will be in a position to woo Yesh Atid and/or Tzipi Livni into his coalition. Labor has declared it will not join a government headed by Netanyahu, and Livni also appears to be very unhappy about the prospect. Seeing as she refused generous offers by Netanyahu to join his present government and sat out the term in the Opposition, she could do the same thing again, or possibly resign from the Knesset if results do not allow her to unseat Netanyahu.

The Left appears to be as dead-set as ever on toppling Netanyahu and will probably try to capitalize on diplomatic, military or economic crises to topple the government. Its most likely ally in this quest is U.S. President Barack Obama, whom the Left expects to give Israel under Netanyahu as hard a time as possible on all fronts.

The Left has harbored similar hopes over the last few years but the Netanyahu government proved very stable, in Israeli terms. Instead of receiving a leftist coalition after the election, the leftists will most likely face an even more nationalist and religious coalition than the last. It is hard to imagine a coalition that includes Bayit Yehudi agreeing to any kind of freeze on Jewish construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, like the ones implemented by the present government. 

As some have noted, the next Knesset will have a record number of hareidi-Zionist MKs, known as "hardalim." The hardalim are the toughest stream of nationalists in Israel and represent the hard core of religious residents of Judea and Samaria. The Arutz Sheva website is widely regarded as representing a hardali world view.

All of the above is speculative, of course. The poll of polls represents, at best, the likely results of elections if they were held today. Taking into account margins of error, parties that fail to cross the threshold or cross it unexpectedly, changes that could take place over the next two weeks and weather conditions on election day, one must concede that the results will not be known until January 23.