There are no simple solutions to Israel’s tight deadlock, other than Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman waking up from his 4-month drunk and saying, “I did what?” followed by, “I don’t know what got into me.” But that’s not likely to happen, and as a result the two largest political parties are stuck in a roughly 32-32 stalemate, with the rightwing camp at 56 mandates out of the required 61, and the leftwingers at 43 mandates. The Joint Arab List is on the sideline with 12, and Liberman with 9.
These are the numbers, now let’s see what can be done with them.
Ganzt-Bibi Rotation Government
On paper it makes perfect sense: with little daylight between them ideologically, Blue&White and Likud could achieve stability and good balance in a unity government. The big problem is that Gantz has pledged not to sit in the same government with Netanyahu. Even if he reneges on the anyone-but-Bibi promise to his voters, there’s still the question of who serves first as prime minister in this rotation government. Gantz, with a slight numeric edge over Likud, would insist on serving first. This is out of the question for Bibi, who has to be the PM should he be facing court indictments in the fall. Expect to see Netanyahu drumming up warnings about the coming war, possibly on two fronts; Iran; the threatening budget deficit – to convince Blue&White it is their patriotic duty to join him.
Chances: = 0%
Blue&White, Labor, Meretz, Haredi Parties
We should remember that Haredi (and religious Zionist) parties weren’t always considered automatic partners of the right, and so a coalition government with Blue&White, Meretz, Labor, United Torah Judaism and Shas would net 60 seats. With one or more Likud or Yamina MK jumping ship, such a coalition government could live out its four years. The problem is Gantz’s co-chairman Yair Lapid who is considered by the Haredim to be the devil incarnate, since his stint as Netanyahu’s finance minister. But stranger things have happened (Shas was part of the Rabin government that gave us the Oslo accords), and with a promise to take the Haredi draft off the table, as well as the appropriate pro-Haredi financial gratuity, this option is not entirely out of the question.
Chances: < 20%
Likud, Yamina, Haredi Parties, Israel Beiteinu
Benjamin Netanyahu can still theoretically go back to what was the obvious outcome last April, and cobble together a strong, dependable 65-seat coalition government, with Israel Beiteinu in it. Alas, it’s unimaginable that Liberman, who spent the entire summer messing with Bibi, vowing to unseat him, and then embarked on ruthless anti-Haredi and anti-messianism (code word for Yamina) only to give it all up and come home, all is forgiven. Not going to happen, not even if he is invited to share the top spot with Bibi. Not happening.
Chances: = 0
Likud, Yamina, Haredi Parties, Labor
This combination will certainly provide Netanyahu with a 61-seat coalition government. To lure in Labor chairman Amir Peretz and his recent acquisition Orly Levy-Abekasis, Netanyahu will offer them very attractive portfolios: defense, finance, justice, as well as social welfare commitments to a higher minimum wage, reforming the health industry, and then some. If I were Peretz, I would grab such an offer, because it gives him and his party an opportunity to guide the country into their socialist-light agenda and rebuild on their success. Peretz, the ultimate Israeli carpetbagger, would probably go for it, despite his numerous promises to avoid the Likud chairman like the plague. But in order for this deal to work, the entire 6-seat strong Labor delegation must support it, and that’s not likely.
Chances: < 40%
Likud with Ousted Netanyahu in Coalition Government with Blue&White and Israel Beiteinu
This is the truly cosmic question in this election yarn: will the Likud finally decide that supporting PM Netanyahu is too big a burden on the party’s fortunes, when there are at least three viable, even popular alternative leaders: Gideon Sa’ar, Yisrael katz, and Yuli Edelstein. After all, the Israeli public has shown it is dissatisfied with Bibi, despite his considerable achievements over the past decade. As usual in Likud, the base will decide, and at the moment the base is fierce in its support for “Bibi Melech Israel.” However, the support of the base lives and dies with patronage jobs, and the PM’s declining clout may cause some damage in that department. Likud may choose at that point to declare a new vote for chairman, and we could be surprised by the results. It should be noted that Netanyahu is not known for grooming talented successors; the opposite is true – he sees potential successors as enemies (e.g. Gideon Sa’ar). It means that serious Likud leaders don’t really owe him much, seeing as they had gotten where they are despite and not thanks to Bibi. Still, it’s a bit of a farfetched scenario.
Chances: < 30%
I would be delighted to receive from the readers additional, well-reasoned scenarios.