A quick Israeli preview

Israel goes to the polls this afternoon for its third general election in 11 months. So this preview will be brief, since I’ve explained most of the situation before: see my preview of last April’s election, and of September’s election, and my analysis of its results.

Although the numbers shifted slightly between the two 2019 elections, the same problem doomed coalition-making in each case: the fact that the far right parties in aggregate had a majority, but one with incompatible elements in it.

Since then, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gone from facing charges of corruption and abuse of power to actually being indicted – his trial is set to start in two weeks time. That increases his incentive to cling to power at the same time as it reduces the incentive for the other political players to co-operate with him.

Voting is D’Hondt proportional across the whole country, with a threshold of 3.25%. In September, nine tickets reached that mark. That will be reduced to eight this time, since Labor-Gesher and Meretz have merged into a single centre and centre-left ticket: their performance has been so woeful that each had fears of falling below the threshold on its own.

Opinion polls show little change in the last few months. Blue & White (centre-right) and Netanyahu’s Likud (far right) remain well clear of the rest, both in the high 20s. The non-Zionist Joint List, which expects to benefit from increased turnout by Palestinian voters, is a clear third somewhere in the low teens.

The other five all cluster in the mid- to high single digits. Apart from Labor-Gesher-Meretz, they’re all on the hard right: Shas and United Torah Judaism (both religious), Yisrael Beiteinu (secular) and Yamina (a mixture). [Note to clarify: I’m talking percentages of vote here, not seats, although most Israeli opinion polls express themselves in the latter.]

So it’s hard to see how this is supposed to produce a significantly different result. The combination of Blue & White, the Joint List and Labor-Gesher-Meretz won 57 seats last time (out of 120), and will probably be about the same again. The assorted right-wing parties, leaving aside Yisrael Beiteinu (which won’t work with the religious fundamentalists), had 55 between them, and that’s unlikely to change much either.

Blue & White would much prefer not to rely on the Joint List in any case: its preferred option is take over leadership of most of Netanyahu’s coalition but without Netanyahu himself. Previous attempts to do so have been unsuccessful, but with election fatigue now at a critical level it just might work this time.

Or perhaps deadlock will continue until Netanyahu solves the problem by going to jail.

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