ISRAEL ELECTIONS: SIX TAKEAWAYS FROM THE UNCLEAR RESULTS

Three days after the Israeli elections, Interel Global Partnership partner firm, Gilad, provides a brief summary of the results (results are not yet final).


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan are tied but neither can secure a ruling majority, with 96 percent of the votes in Israel’s Tuesday election counted, according to a source in Israel’s Central Elections Committee.

According to the partial results, Likud and Kahol Lavan won each 32 out of 120 Knesset seats. Netanyahu’s bloc, comprised of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, currently stands at 56 seats. The center-left bloc, excluding Arab parties, has 43 seats.

Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is projected nine seats, is expected to be the election’s kingmaker. On Wednesday morning, he reiterated his support for a “broad liberal unity government,” which would include Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Kahol Lavan.

The third largest party in the Knesset is the Joint List, an alliance of four Arab parties, with 12 seats. Ultra-Orthodox Shas has nine seats, followed closely by United Torah Judaism with eight. Ayelet Shaked’s right-wing alliance Yamina has seven seats, according to the partial results, followed by Labor-Gesher with six seats and the Democratic Union with five.

SIX TAKEAWAYS FROM THE UNCLEAR ISRAEL ELECTION RESULTS – ANALYSIS

1. No one has a majority
The results left the picture very unclear on Wednesday morning, but one thing is certain: no bloc, neither the Right nor the Center-Left, has a majority of at least 61 seats. However, the numbers seem to be in the Right’s favor, as the Likud often does better in the real results than it does in exit polls, and while the Joint List said it might recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister, its leaders have been noncommittal and historically tend not to recommend anyone.
Still, we simply do not know who will be tasked with building the coalition: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a sixth time, or Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, or perhaps, a different candidate from the Likud, though that is far less likely.

2. All eyes on Liberman
As expected, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman could very well be the kingmaker.
Liberman’s endorsement can push Netanyahu to a majority, and can put Gantz over the edge of 61 seats – if the Joint List recommends Gantz, as well.
The Yisrael Beytenu chairman has not committed to a candidate to recommend, though Blue and White has echoed his call for a unity government without haredim.

 3. Unity
Liberman repeatedly said that he does not want to sit with the haredi parties, Shas and UTJ, and has called for a unity government between Yisrael Beytenu, Likud and Blue and White.
Of course, the big parties don’t need him for a majority and could very well form a government with just the two of them.
However, Blue and White has said it will not be in a government with Netanyahu, as long as he is under a recommended indictment.
And anyway, Netanyahu has reached out to his “natural partners” Yamina, Shas and UTJ, and promised to work with them, which means he is working toward the opposite of the “secular unity government” that was Blue and White’s slogan in the last weeks of their campaign. Of course, Netanyahu needs the religious parties to get enough recommendations to be tasked with forming a coalition, but he’ll probably need to abandon them to form a coalition.
There is another option for unity, which Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev of Likud mentioned in an interview right after the exit polls came out. Likud could take its right-wing majority and try to tempt someone from the Center or Left to cross the lines. It could be Labor-Gesher, or just Gesher. It could be one of the three parties making up Blue and White, or just a handful of their MKs.

4. Are Netanyahu’s days numbered?
It’s a question that’s been asked for years, and the answer was usually no, for those taking an honest look at the situation. But he didn’t win an obvious majority in this election, and he has a pre-indictment hearing with Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit coming up in two weeks, complicating things even further.
If Netanyahu is not tasked with forming the next coalition, or if a coalition is impossible with him in it but possible for the Likud led by someone else – someone like Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan or popular Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar – then the Likud might push him out. In the meantime, Katz, for one, clarified that “Netanyahu was and remains the Likud’s only candidate for prime minister.”
The Likud rarely replaces its leaders, having had only four leaders in its entire existence, but it’s not a party of lemmings, either. Its top MKs may not remain loyal to Netanyahu for long.

5. It wasn’t about the turnout after all
Since this election was called there was a concern about low turnout due to election fatigue. As of press time, the concern seemed to be unfounded. Turnout was eventually 69.4%%, which was about 2% more than turnout for the same time in April’s election.
The Joint List did get an expected boost from reuniting after running as two separate blocs in April, which means, as Netanyahu cried throughout the day, that Israeli-Arab turnout was higher than it had been.

6. The threshold hurts the Right, again
It’s ironic. When the electoral threshold was raised to 3.25% five years ago, it was expected to hurt the Arab parties, which fought it tooth and nail with support from the Left. However in the past three elections, it was the Right that had parties burn tens of thousands of votes without being able to clear the threshold.
In April, it was Zehut and even more so, the New Right. This time it’s Otzma Yehudit, which passed the threshold in half-a-dozen pre-election polls but didn’t make it in any of the exit polls, just as Netanyahu and Yamina’s leaders warned would happen. In both April and Tuesday, a right-wing government would have been a near-guarantee had those parties gotten into the Knesset.

Attention will now focus on President, Reuven Rivlin, who is to choose the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a stable coalition. Rivlin is to consult with all parties in the coming days before making his decision. Rivlin has said he will do everything possible to avoid another elections.

Expected schedule:

  • 25.9- Publication of official results
  • On September 25, 2010, the President will put the government train on one of the Knesset members, after consulting with the elected parties – the role of the member: the Knesset member most likely to form a government (not necessarily the largest party).
  • Up to November 13 – Establishment of the Government: Duration of the Government: 28 days + up to 14 days. If the Knesset fails to form the government, the President will entrust the task to another Knesset member who must succeed in the task within 28 days.
  • 3.10 – Knesset swearing-in

It is also important to note the expected timetable regarding the legal proceedings against Prime Minister Netanyahu, which may affect the formation of the government:

  • 2-3/10 hearing attended with Netanyahu’s legal advisers
  • End of November – early December – The indictment decision.