JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Israel’s fifth elections in the last 3.5 years will continue to focus on the same issue which had motivated the previous four rounds of elections: Will Binyamin Netanyahu succeed in establishing a government with 61 MKs? In order to assess the likelihood of such a scenario, it is important to view the protagonists in the political arena and to analyze their chances of success and failure. Everything can change in a four-month campaign but based on the current situation, the following picture emerges:
Yesh Atid– Yair Lapid will utilize his brief period as prime minister to consolidate his status. The forthcoming meetings with Biden and other important leaders can serve to enhance his prestige, while a possible breakthrough with Saudi Arabia may also aid his electoral prospects. Lapid’s following is pretty constant but he faces a significant challenge from:
Blue And White- Defence Minister Benny Gantz has maintained his popularity due to the Israeli public’s respect for military figures. Gantz could have been prime minister a year ago but chose not to do deals with Netanyahu. He has maintained a positive relationship with the chareidi parties and they could crown him prime minister in the event that Netanyahu cannot form a right-wing government. Gantz would be willing to join the chareidim, Likud and Labor or New Hope in a broad government – as long as he does not have to share leadership with Netanyahu.
New Hope- Gidon Sa’ars party gained important ministries in the Bennett government but failed to consolidate its status as a right-wing alternative to Netanyahu. Saar effectively brought down the government instead of joining Netanyahu but may have also ended his political career as polls do not favor the party’s anti-Bibi line. Saar may yet join Benny Gantz in an alliance which could see them both gain at the expense of Yesh Atid.
Likud – The Likud party has gained significant traction from the last year of opposition to the unpopular Bennett government. The party have rallied round Netanyahu and are trying to rouse the voters who were too disgusted of voting to come to the fourth election . After a year of price hikes, unpopular economic moves and with coronavirus once again resurgent, voters will be itching to express their discontent.
Yisrael Beitenu- The finance minister is traditionally unpopular and Avigdor Liberman is no exception. His moves on child care and plasticware were viewed as targeting chareidim but his constituency is right-wing and did not enjoy sharing power with Arabs or Liberman’s splashing out billions of shekels on Arab and Bedouin infrastructure. Liberman is unlikely to regain the popularity he had previously, especially with all the price rises he is viewed (fairly or unfairly) as responsible for.
Labor- Meirav Michaeli, the leader of the Labor party has been popular among women but has failed abysmally as Transportation Minister, with huge traffic snarls in many sectors and especially at Ben Gurion Airport, where lack of staff has crippled the departure procedure for millions of Israelis. Michaeli may gain at the expense of another weakened party..
Meretz – The ultra-left-wing party has suffered from lack of credibility after its own members voted against a government bill on Judea and Samaria, effectively defeating the government from within. The party is now too far to the left to attract voters while not appealing to Arab voters.
Arab Parties – The Ra’am party has not gained from its historic participation in the government. Arab voters expect immediate gains and Ra’am, despite achieving long-term funding for projects within the Arab sector, has not improved their immediate situation and has been forced to be silent as right-wing elements dictated the government’s moves which were unpopular among Arabs, including the Jerusalem Day flag parade. The Joint Arab List is expected to fare better but in general Arabs are disillusioned with their political representatives and neither party is thriving.
Shas- The Sefardi chareidi party is expected to maintain its current position in the Knesset, as people disenchanted with the current government as well as with the rivalry in Agudah will turn to Shas as an option. Agudah’s new leadership will also try to entice voters who were weary of voting in the last election but have now seen firsthand the damage incurred by not strengthening the chareidi parties. However both parties are nervously looking over their shoulders at..
Religious Zionism and specifically MK Itamar Ben-Gvir who is hugely popular with youth both chareidi and national religious. Ben-Gvir’s buoyant and activist style appeals to those who seek action over diplomacy and the party is expected to gain significantly in the elections at the expense of chareidi parties and even Likud.
Finally, Yamina led by Ayelet Shaked is unlikely to pass the electoral threshold but if it does and joins the right-wing – Shaked says she can serve under Netanyahu – the party could prove to be a Likud satellite and a priceless dividend to help establish a government.
It is impossible yet to predict whether Netanyahu will reach 61 MKs but what is clear is that the same dynamic involved in previous elections will be at play once again, with anti-Bibi elements trying to reach 60 while Netanyahu will seek possibly for the last time to capture a majority which could place him in power.