Israel''s election results: Guide to the perplexed

Daniel Pinner ,

President and Knesset Speaker preside over empty plenum
President and Knesset Speaker preside over empty plenum
Haim Zach

39 parties contested yesterday’s election, of which, at the time of writing (late morning Wednesday), when some 90% of the votes have been counted, 13 have won seats in the Knesset:

Likud 30 seats

Yesh Atid 18 seats

Shas 9 seats

Blue-and-white 8 seats

Yamina 7 seats

Labour 7 seats

United Torah Judaism 7 seats

Religious Zionism 6 seats

Joint Arab List 6 seats

Yisra’el Beyteinu 6 seats

New Hope 6 seats

Meretz 5 seats

Ra’am (United Arab List) 5 seats

Speaking on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet a few minutes after 11:00 on Wednesday morning, the Director-General of the Central Elections Committee, Orli Adess, anticipated that the final count will be published on Friday morning. Changes are possible until then, though major changes are unlikely.

The next step will be that each new Member of Knesset will come to President Reuven “Ruby” Rivlin to recommend a party leader as his or her choice for Prime Minister.

They can recommend anyone they want, though in practice each MK will recommend either incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu (leader of Likud), or Yair Lapid (leader of Yesh Atid), maybe Benny Gantz (leader of Blue-and-White), or not recommend anyone.

Within 7 days after the final votes have been counted, President Rivlin will then charge whoever gets the most recommendations with the task of putting together a coalition, which must contain more than half the Knesset, meaning 61 MK’s or more.

He will have 30 days to put a coalition together, and can get a 15-day extension if he needs it. If he fails, he can either get another extension (if the President agrees), or throw the task to the other one, or go back to the country and call for another round of elections.

So who can put together a coalition? Binyamin Netanyahu, Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, or anyone else?

To understand this challenge, think of your dining-room table as the Knesset. It has 120 seats, and you are hosting the Seder Night.

Netanyahu, leader of Likud, and Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, are the two grandfathers: both long to be invited, but only on condition that they lead the Seder, choose the menu, make Kiddush, and so forth.

Yisrael Beyteinu are cousins from one side of the family, Labour and Meretz are cousins from the other side of the family. These are the cousins who refuse to sit at the same table with each other under any circumstances. Each say about the other: “We’re broiges (Yiddish: not on speaking terms) with them, if they come then we’re not coming!”

Shas and United Torah Judaism are the slightly irascible cousins who want to come: they’ll complain about the company (too loud, too secular, too many of them), the seats (too hard, too soft), the food (too spicy, not spicy enough), the air-conditioner (too hot, too cold), and about just about everything else as well. They don’t really care who runs the Seder, they’ll come anyway and try to take over.

However Yisra’el Beyteinu is broiges with Shas. Not so much that they refuse to sit at the same table, but they certainly won’t sit next to them, so there has to be someone else sitting between them.

Another complication is that Avigdor Lieberman and Yisra’el Beyteinu will only come if they’re allowed to bring their ham sandwiches, but UTJ will only come if the entire celebration is strictly kosher and kosher-for-Pesach.

Shas, on the other hand, will come as long as they can have kosher food. They don’t particularly care if anyone else eats kosher or treif, kosher-for-Pesach or chametz, but it’s important for them that they (and their friends) have the option for kosher food.

That’s another reason that Yisrael Beyteinu and Shas can’t sit next to each other, but they can sit at the same table.

Religious Zionism are the religious cousins who will insist that the Seder Night goes ahead according to all its rules and customs. They don’t necessarily want to force anyone else to participate, but they do want to ensure that everyone has the option of participating and understanding what it’s all about.

Hew Hope are the yuppie educated professional cousins from one side of the family, Blue-and-White are the yuppie educated professional cousins from the other side of the family.

Both of them are firmly convinced that if only they lead, then the Seder Service will be the best ever. But neither are willing to let the other one get a word in edgeways.

They’ll both explain how to guarantee that everyone will have enough to eat and how to keep everyone happy, but because they only talk to themselves, no one else will listen to a word they’re saying, except to nod politely every now and then.

They’ll both keep resolutely out of any squabbles over which grandfather should lead the Seder Service, they’re far too polite and well-mannered to have any influence, they’ll agree with whoever is speaking at any given moment and smile politely at everyone, without participating demonstratively in the Seder Service,

But they’ll still expect everyone to defer to them, and throw the occasional hissy-fit when they feel ignored.

Yamina are the in-laws who came together in the same car, but as soon as they got out of the car, even before they entered the house, they began squabbling over whose fault everything is and who ought to put it right. They’ll make a show of getting along with everyone, but actually they need one of the grandfathers to force them to make up.

And neither of the grandfathers really has the necessary time or patience to do it.

Then there’s the Joint Arab List: They claim the house is theirs, they want you to clear out. They long to be invited – not because they want to come, they don’t want anything to do with any Seder Night, except maybe to blow it up – but they long to be invited just so they can demonstratively refuse.

Ra’am and the Joint Arab List used to be besties, until they recently had a major falling-out. No one was entirely sure what they fought about, but it could be that Ra'am does not want to blow up the Seder table, because the food looks good and it wants its share.

They haven’t been talking to each other ever since. And both grandfathers seem to think that they can coax Ra'am to come back to the table and behave nicely, if he just gives them enough candy.

Then there’s Labour: the old, doddering uncles who can hardly stand upright anymore, and who embarrass everyone with their outdated and slightly racist ideas. They constantly bore everyone with their stories of “when I was young”, stories of what they did during the war – but the last time any of them actually did anything worth talking about was before most people today were born. Their young new leader is waiting outside - she doesn't believe in families, much less family gatherings.

And finally Meretz, whom almost no one really wanted to invite. Every time they were at family gatherings in the past they took control, and then wrecked the house, making such a mess that it took the rest of us years to clean up after them.

The problem is that the caterers have already stipulated that they will only cater the Seder Night for a minimum of 61 guests. So if only 60 or fewer agree to sit at the same table together, you’ll have to write a new guest-list and invite them back in another 6 months or so – maybe in time for Rosh Hashanah.

And if that happens, then we’ll call the next round of elections, just as we did last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. And we can but hope that next time will yield a different guest-list. Or maybe – just maybe – that some of the more petulant relatives will have grown up by then.



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