Who will be the prime minister of Israel?

The Israeli election conundrum is confusing, but here is a brief and succinct explanation. No solution is offered.

Frank Mecklenburg

OpEds Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum
INN: FM

I want to bring you up to date on recent developments about Israel's election and the attempts to form a government. First, the final count of votes has lowered Netanyahu's right wing coalition from 59 to 58 seats which means he needs 3 more seats in order to form a government. Some think that it will be hard for him to find the needed seats.

We will see, because we think the President of Israel will assign Netanyahu to be the first tasked with forming  a coalition. The question is, where Netanyahu can find the people or party to reach the needed 61 seats.

The following is the breakdown of where we stand right now.

Here in Israel we vote for a party and not  individuals. The percentage of votes a party receives determines how many people in their party will be seated in the 120 member Knesset (Israel's parliament). That means the number of votes needed for a seat fluctuates according to how many people go out to vote.

There is also an election threshhold of 3.25% meaning that a party which receives less votes than that percentage gets no seats at all. That is what happened to the right wing Otzma Yehudit party which the polls predicted all along would get less than the threshhold, but which continued running, wasting over 18,000 votes.

Which parties did get into the Knesset?

  • Netanyahu heads the Likud Party with 36 seats. (A significant gain of 4 seats from the last elections)
  • Religious Shas has 9 seats and will join a Likud government.
  • Religious UTJ  has 7 seats and will join a Likud government.
  • National Religious Yamina has 6 seats and will join a Likud government.

Total of 58 seats

  • Benny Gantz heads the Blue & White Party with 33 seats (no change from the last elections).
  • Labor-Meretz  has 7 seats (a new low) and will join a Blue & White government.

Total of 40 seats (without Liberman and the Arabs).

Two options for Blue and White:

-Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu party with 7 seats (down one from the last election) which is anti-Arab (its voter party is unquestionably right-wing) but also hates Haredim and rightist Religious Zionists. He is refusing to sit with the Arabs and is refusing to sit with Netanyahu and/or the religious parties, but he may join up with Blue and White to try to get rid of Netanyahu.

Liberman hates Netanyahu with a passion (stemming from his being investigated for alleged financial crimes which he blames on the prime minister) and has stated he will join Gantz to create a coalition that is joined or supported from the outside by the Joint Arab List. This initiative is in order to pass a personally-aimed law to forbid Netanyahu from creating a government, since Netanyahu has been indicted and is to face trial for various allegations.

Current Israeli law allows a prime minister to serve if indicted until a final post-appeal sentence is handed down against him Gantz's plan might not work if the courts say the law he is proposing is not legal. Just because a person is indicted does not mean he is guilty until proven so through a trial and an appeal, if necessary. The present law is meant to prevent opposition leaders from filing false indictments and preventing the running of the country. In France, no indictments can be filed against a ruling prime minister for that reason. 

Blue and White wants to change that law even if it means doing it with a temporary majority government backed or joined by:

  • The Joint Arab List, an anti-Zionist amalgamation of Arab parties, which has 15 seats and has made a list of demands if it is to join or support a Blue & White government.

The idea of allowing a coalition depending on anti-Zionist Arab parties who call for Israel to desist from being a Jewish state and some of whose MKs support violence to achieve that goal, was anathema to David Ben Gurion and was only used once - and that by Yitzchak Rabin, a move which ended up enabling the passage of the disastrous Oslo Accords. 


So sorry that it is so complicated.

Three of Blue and White's MKs have announced that they will vote against including the Arab parties and one Labor-Meretz MK has said the same. This may be the way Netanyahu reaches the magic 61 number.

So sorry that it is so complicated.

Another complication is that Prime Minister Netanyahu, having been indicted in three areas: bribery, fraud and breach of trust, will be in court about the same time that he will begin to try and form a government. A request by his lawyers to postpone the first court session for 45 days was rejected.

Some feel that we are again headed for a fourth election, but many people are tired of elections and would like to see a government formed. Meanwhile, in the hours since this was written, Netanyahu has invited Gantz to form an emergency government with him to battle the coronavirus and polls show the Likud up one Knesset seat.




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