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Israeli Election Update: Coalition Scenarios

Looking at which parties may run the next government and its ruling coalition

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Knesset(Brittanica )

With the election in Israel two weeks away, the shape of the next government is becoming more apparent. The Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu super-party–-provided their slide in the polls is over and the center-left fails to form a united front–will be the largest entity in the 19th Knesset and will have the right to try and form the next government. Within the right camp, the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) will be the largest party, followed by Shas. Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor (we’ll have profile of her tomorrow) will lead the left, while Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua (The Movement) and Yesh Atid will have sizable caucuses too.

These are the parties which have the best chance of making up the next government, one which will have to confront security dilemmas on the Egyptian, Syrian, and Gazan fronts, the deterioration of its international alliances, and the Palestinian question on the West Bank, as well as deal with domestic considerations including the question of how best to replace the Tal Law. It is worth considering, then, just what kind of government Israelis will have days after they cast their ballots on January 22nd. Here are the most likely scenarios:

Scenario #1: Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu Forms a Right-Wing Government

It is hard to read Benjamin Netanyahu’s intentions at the best of times, but the least we know that he is inherently cautious and interested above all else in maintaining his position at the top of Israeli politics. It is in his immediate interest, therefore, to try and construct a government that is very similar in character, temperament, and slant to the one he has now. In order to do so, he would require the support of Jewish Home and perhaps Yesh Atid, the most likely of the center-left parties to cross the divide for the right ministry:

• Likud Beiteinu (34); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); United Torah Judaism (6): 65 MKs
• Likud Beiteinu (34); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); Yesh Atid (10): 69 MKs
• Likud Beiteinu (34); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); Yesh Atid (10); UTJ (6): 75 MKs

Scenario #2: Likud Beiteinu Forms a Government without Jewish Home

It is also known of Netanyahu that he is irked by the rapid ascent of Naftali Bennett and his Jewish Home party (we’ll have a look at Bennett on Monday), from five seats at present to as many as 15 in some polls. The party has been drawing in right-wing Likudniks turned off by the alliance with Yisrael Beiteinu by virtue of their hard-line stance on Palestinian statehood and their emphasis on Religious Zionism. If possible, Netanyahu might elect to place Jewish Home in opposition in the hope that they might suffer the same fate as the Kadima party under Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz.

In order to achieve that, however, Netanyahu would have to overcome opposition from within Likud, where the rank and file would prefer to make a government with Jewish Home over The Movement, for example. Moreover, he would be required to balance the fundamentally-opposed interests of the Haredim with those of the center-left, who in the case of Labor and Yesh Atid are campaigning largely on socioeconomic issues like sharing the burden:

• Likud Beiteinu (34); Shas (11); Yesh Atid (10); United Torah Judaism (6): 61 MKs
• Likud Beiteinu (34); Shas (11); Movement (10); Yesh Atid (10): 65 MKs
• Likud Beiteinu (34); Shas (11); Movement (10); Yesh Atid (10); UTJ (6): 71 MKs
• Likud Beiteinu (34); Labor (17); Shas (11); Movement (10); Yesh Atid (10): 82 MKs

Scenario #3: Likud Beiteinu Forms a Government Without the Ultra-Orthodox

Provided the agreement between Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu holds, Netanyahu would also have to consider the interests of his immediate partner. As Yair Rosenberg highlighted last month, Yisrael Beiteinu has a longstanding interest in seeing the Housing and Interior ministries taken out of Haredi control, in order to reform infrastructure policy, replace the Tal Law, and alter the balance between religion and state. Moreover, Avigdor Lieberman has been involved in a series of petty public scraps with his current coalition partners, Shas. Thus, in order to appease Yisrael Beiteinu, Netanyahu could form a government with Jewish Home and a selection from the Labor-The Movement-Yesh Atid salad:

• Likud Beiteinu (34); Jewish Home (14); Movement (10); Yesh Atid (10): 68 MKs
• Likud Beiteinu (34); Labor (17); Jewish Home (14); Movement/Yesh Atid (10): 75 MKs
• Likud Beiteinu (34); Labor (17); Jewish Home (14); Movement (10); Yesh Atid (10): 85 MKs

Scenario #4: Likud Beiteinu Forms a Government with the Left

This is the least likely of all in the scenarios in which Netanyahu becomes Prime Minister. For this to happen, Yachimovich would have to renege on her pledge not to join any Likud-led government, while Netanyahu would have to abandon his instincts and ditch both Jewish Home and the ultra-Orthodox:

• Likud Beiteinu (34); Labor (17); Movement (10); Yesh Atid (10): 71 MKs

Scenario #5: The Left, Headed by Labor, Blocks Netanyahu and Forms a Government

Tzipi Livni in particular is keen for the center-left to form a power bloc in the Knesset, with the aim of preventing Netanyahu from forming a government. Were this to happen, Yachimovich would logically lead the front as the head of the largest party, and would then (if asked) set about shaping a government. It would be a large, unwieldy, and compromised coalition, inclusive of Jewish Home, one or two ultra-Orthodox parties, and possibly Meretz:

• Labor-Movement-Yesh Atid (37); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11): 62 MKs
• Labor-Movement-Yesh Atid (37); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); Meretz (4): 66 MKs
• Labor-Movement-Yesh Atid (37); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); UTJ (6): 68 MKs
• Labor-Movement-Yesh Atid (37); Jewish Home (14); Shas (11); UTJ (6); Meretz (4): 72 MKs

Related: Religious Revolution in Israel [Tablet]
Polling Data Averages [Knesset Insider]
‘Post’ Poll: Likud-Beiteinu Hits New Low of 32 Seats [JPost]
Binyamin Netanyahu fights surge from rightwing opponent before poll
[Guardian]

Liam Hoare is a freelance writer whose work on politics and literature has featured in publications including The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and The Forward. He is a graduate of University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He tweets @lahoare.

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Worth noting that the more likely outcomes are also the most perilous for Israel, from the standpoint of maintaining its critical relationships with the West, beginning with its irreplaceable ally, the United States. Is Netanyahu so shortsighted or invested in retaining his hold on power at any expense that he willing to continue to chart a foreign policy course so at variance with America’s express wishes? If so, he, rather than Nasser, will be the one to lead Israel in to the sea, with a negligible prospect of the waves parting.

herbcaen says:

I think Israel is already on its own,with Obama seeing the concept of Israel as a colonialist entity, and with Iranian patriot Chuck Hgel running the Defense Dept. Obama is too busy transforming the US into a larger version of Chavez’s Venezuela to be investing too much time promoting the Palestinians

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Israeli Election Update: Coalition Scenarios

Looking at which parties may run the next government and its ruling coalition

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