Sports-talk radio is replete with predictions ranging from the team which will win the Super Bowl to who will be the new Yankees shortstop. In that tradition, I will now offer my official predictions for what will happen in next week’s Knesset elections. (Please note that if my predictions are completely wrong I will have no problem explaining what happened and why I am still an expert! After all, doesn’t that happen all the time??) OK, here goes:
Likud will win the elections with 26 seats. Current polls show them at 23 but I feel they will do better than that. Yes, many people are tired of Netanyahu as Prime Minister (7 years already, not counting his 3 year run from ’96-’99) but the alternative is weak and unimpressive. His speech before the US Congress sealed his fate as Israel’s next Prime Minister as people realized that – like it or not – this guy is strong, tough, articulate and focused. The thought of that speech being given by Labor leader Boojie Herzog is enough to make you laugh and then sick, and Israelis across the spectrum will decide that Herzog is simply not a viable alternative. Bibi has his issues and people blame every problem on him (which is common in politics) but he is simply the strongest contender and will emerge victorious.
Labor will receive 22 seats which is not as many as they want but is a great improvement over their existing representation of 15 seats. They will receive their increase of seats on the back of Yesh Atid and Meretz who will lose many of their existing Knesset members. As stated above, Labor is not a viable alternative to lead the nation but they provide a comfortable home for the “anti-Bibi” vote. As you know, on Election Day – across the world – many people vote AGAINST someone rather that FOR someone and Labor will receive a lot of these votes. This anti vote helped Obama defeat McCain in 2008 since millions of people voted for Obama as a protest against Bush (who wasn’t even running!!). The voters saw McCain as a continuation of the Bush presidency and voted against him for that reason. This same logic worked against Obama in the recent mid-term elections as people showed their great displeasure in him by voting Republican in both the Congress and Senate. The “anti” vote is a very strong factor in world politics and Labor will receive an enormous amount of those votes. This will increase their current Knesset representation by 50% but will not be enough to topple Netanyahu.
Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, will take a big hit in these elections but will remain a factor in Israeli politics. Currently, Lapid has a whopping 19 seats (from his first election campaign – very impressive!) but he will not be able to hold on to that many. In my opinion, he will drop to 9 seats. His two years as Finance Minister was filled with much controversy and people blame him for many of the economic problems. To be honest, this is of course ridiculous, since he was Finance Minister for less than two years. By the time he learned the job and put together a budget, new elections were declared and he was busy running a campaign to save his political life. Many of his financial ideas were good and innovative but he simply had no time to bring them to fruition. Most people don’t realize this and are simply fed up with him. He still has a following – and 9 seats are strong in Israeli politics – but he will not come close to what he had before.