| Podcast: The Rose Report |

Israel Elections: What’s Next?

LISTEN Initial election results explained: What we know, what we don't know, and what might happen next


  • The early election results show just how hard Bibi Netanyahu worked to get out the vote, utilizing sophisticated technology to send targeted messages to potential Likud voters, including an estimated 300,000 Israelis who had voted for Likud in the past. It will take a few more hours for final results to come in, but this is what we know for sure: the Likud had their best showing since 2003.  And there have been eight elections in the past 17 years.
  • What we don’t know at this hour, is whether the rest of the right-wing bloc, meaning UTJ, Shas, and Yamina will give the Likud a 61-seat majority to easily form a coalition or if Bibi will need to resort to post-election magic to cobble together a majority.
  • Final results may not be available for another day or two, after all the ballots from soldiers, diplomats overseas and even people quarantined because they may have the coronavirus are counted.  So, as the tension builds throughout the day and into what might be another long night, here’s another possibility: The right wing bloc won’t get 61 seats and will have to try and lure enough defectors from other parties to get to 61.
  • Dr. Maoz Rosenthal, a senior Lecturer at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, walked me through the following scenarios:
    • Israel has a Law of Investiture which means a majority of 61 is required for the initial vote to swear in a new Government. The last exit polls showed the Likud-right wing-chareidi-bloc might only get 59 seats. If that exit poll proves accurate, where will the other two votes come from? And even if you can muster 61 votes to get the government started, it doesn’t mean it will stay together for long unless some deals are cut.
    • A quirky made-in-Israel law enables a Knesset member to defect to another party even immediately after an election, if they follow some even quirkier rules.First, a minimum of 33% of the party members must bolt together. If less than 33% of party members bolt, that sole defector is expelled from the party they left and prohibited from running in the party they bolted to in the next election.
    • Considering how Israeli elections come fast and furious, very few MKs would risk committing political suicide. However, there are a couple of notable wrinkles to this rule: A faction within a party is allowed to bolt, and someone who ran independently as part of a larger party can also pull a switch.
    • In the last election, no one played that game because everyone stubbornly stuck to their guns, even at the risk of a 3rd election.  But if there is one thing every Israeli can agree on, it is that there will not be a fourth election.
    • Dr. Maoz contends this time is different because a trio of Knesset members have a keen interest not to let this opportunity slip away.
    • One is Orly Levy, the sole member of the Gesher party. Since Gesher only ran in a technical bloc with labor and Meretz, Orly is her own party and she can break away and join The Likud without being penalized in the next election.  Orly’s father was David Levy, the longtime Likudnik who once served as Bibi’s foreign minister. David levy drifted leftward late in his political career and Orly followed suit. There is a chance Bibi will try and use sentiment to lure her back into the fold. The alternative for her is political oblivion for having cast her lots with the dying embers of Israel’s once dominant Labor party.
    • The other option is Yoaz Hendel and Tzvi Hauser, a faction of their own within Benny Gantz’s Blue and White. Gantz is now a wounded deer and most pundits predict that the loose coalition of parties that make up Blue and White will break up during the upcoming Knesset session. Dr. Maoz says that even though Hendel and Hauser both worked for Bibi in the past and, like many people who worked for Bibi, left on bad terms, this might be their only chance for political survival.
    • Dr. Maoz contends they are the most likely candidates, because both of them are basically right-wingers who favor president Trump’s deal of the century, but only insofar as it allows Israel to claim sovereignty over the Jordan River Valley and the settlements of Judea and Samaria. They don’t like the idea of a Palestinian state contained in the Trump plan.
    • The deal Hendel and Hauser could cut goes like this: They support Bibi, in return for a cabinet post and an agreement to run with the Likud next time. In return, they will stiffen Bibi’s backbone so that he can work to convince the Trump administration to implement the sovereignty position of his Deal of the Century now, and, at least quietly, put the Palestinian state on ice.

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