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Israeli election : Will the fourth round be the right one?

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“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Could we apply Einstein’s quote to the electoral situation in Israel ? In less than two weeks, Israelis will go back to the polls for the fourth time in two years. Could we expect a different outcome from the previous ones that did not allow to achieve a stable majority for governing the country ? Once again, two camps oppose each other : the “pro-Bibi“ and the “anti-Bibi“.   Apart from the Meretz, the only party to  assert its position on all the important issues for the country—social justice,  civil rights, continued occupation—the debate in the media is tepid and revolves around the ability of each Netanyahu opponent to form an alternative coalition.

However, compared to the previous ones, that fourth round features three major specificities which might make the difference :

1. While the “pro-Bibi“ right block mobilizes its forces to get out the vote by gathering around four lists— the Likud, the religious Zionists (including Kahanists), and the two Orthodox parties—, the “center-left“ block is broken in several lists, which could mean a loss of votes if one of those does not cross the electoral threshold of 4 deputies.

2. The second difference lies in the presence, on the right, of two lists with the same agenda, except that one of them, Hatikva (New Hope), created by Guideon Saar, a Likud dissident, was drawn up on the only commitment to never be part of a Netanyahu goverment, while the Yamina list, led by Naphtali Bennett, remains unclear about its coalition intentions.

3. The third difference is the withdrawal of the islamist party Raam from the United Arab List which, with the three other “Arab“ parties, had gathered 15 deputees in the previous elections.  Courted by Netanyahu, Mansour Abbas, leader of that list, does not exclude the possibility of supporting the Prime Minister‘s reelection,  which would mean a rather surprising coalition, from islamists to kahanists !

Based on current surveys, the “pro-Bibi“ block does not seem able, even with  Yamina’s votes, to get the 61 deputies necessary in order to constitute a majority. As for the opposite block, even if it were to succeed in gathering more than 61 deputees, he could hardly gather a coalition going from the United Arab List to Guideon Saar’s party Hatikva. Many scenarios may occur, and they will depend on the ability of the little lists to cross the electoral threshold.

One last word on Benny Gantz, who in the previous round, for the first time since 2009, had been able to threaten Netanyahu. Today, he is harshly criticized by his electors for having decided last April (on account of the sanitary crisis) to be part of a government with Netanyahu, even though he had promised not to do it. But these last few months, he has been running a very dynamic campaign, arguing that he succeeded in protecting the Israeli democracy from Netanyahu’s and the right’s plans. While a petition from former senior military officials is   asking him to withdraw in order not to risk a loss of votes for the center left, Benny Gantz, according to the last polls, seems to get the support of some of his electorate back, and might be able to cross the crucial threshold of four deputees.

Sociological studies show that Israelis generally vote according to the tribe they belong to. This time, with the diversity of possibilities on the right and in the center, it is not easy to make predictions. Moreover, most surveys show that many electors are still hesitating and will make up their minds at the very last minute (more than 10 %). We will see  then whether Einstein’s sentence proves right or not.

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