A few hours before the third round of elections within a year, the political situation seems as blocked as ever in Israel. According to the polls, none of the majority parties—neither the Likud nor Kahol Lavan (Blue White)—should be able to gather the required majority of 61 deputees.On one hand, the Likud seems to have caught up with Benny Gantz’s party and to have one seat ahead of Kahol Lavan (35 or 34 against 33). But with the votes of its “historical allies”, the right party Yamina led by Naphtali Bennett and the two Orthodox parties, Shas and Aadut Hatorah, he would only be able to get a coalition of 57 or 58 deputees. On the other hand, Kahol Lavan, with the contribution of the left list Avoda Gesher and Meretz, would only get 42 or 43 deputees. Between these two blocks, we find the deputees of the Joint List, composed of four parties (most of them called to support Gantz’s candidacy for Prime Minister last September), and the Israel Beteinu list, led by Avigdor Lieberman who remains the “kingmaker”, since he would provide a way out of that stalemate situation if he accepted to join either the Likud or Kahol Lavan.
There would be only one way to avoid a fourth round: if at least one of the political leaders does not stay true to his pre-election commitments. It would imply for Gantz to accept to be part of a government led by Netanyahu, in spite of the corruption cases he is accused of and will have to answer for in court from March 17th; or it would imply for Lieberman to accept to be part of a government led by Gantz, even if the latter would benefit of the external support of the deputies of the Joint List; or it would imply for one of the Likud’s “historical allies” to renege on his commitments and to accept to support a possible Gantz governement; or we might witness an implosion of the Likud, if Netanyahu fails to get a majority: in that case, a national union goverment would be formed, without him… We may consider all the possible scenarios. The scenario that will arise will depend on the balance of power between the blocks, and on the balance of power within each block following the elections. So far, all the leaders commit themselves to avoiding a fourth round, which the population, tired of this situation, does not want to hear about, first of all because the cost of these repeated elections weighs heavily on an economy already impacted by an increasing budgetary deficit. But they had already taken these commitments after the second round ! This third round should cost 402 millions shekels while the previous ones cost respectively 283 millions and 324 millions. For the record, the 2015 elections had cost 207 millions. Meanwhile, the Likud and Kahol Lavan fight for each vote, trying even to catch those of their allies in order to become the biggest party.
That electoral campaign, like the previous ones, did not allow a real debate to take place, and did not give Israelis the opportunity to confront projects in order to face the various challenges the country is faced with. Netanyahu kept doing what he excells at: an aggressive campaign against his main rival and a policy of announcements and of trips abroad in order to remain in the spotlight and to try to make the public forget his legal status. After the negotiation with Putin (at what price ?) for the return of the young Israeli girl arrested and put in jail in Russia for possession of cannabis, the publication of Trump’s plan the dangers of which we exposed in a previous newsletter, a trip to Sudan, prelude to the establishment of diplomatic relations with that country, and a trip to India, Netanyahu allowed this week 43 Ethiopian Jews who were not recognized as such by the Israeli Rabbinate to make their alya, while hundreds of them have been waiting for years in camps to be granted that permission.
Less spectacular, but much more serious considering the consequences for the future, the recent publication of two projects for homebuilding in the West Bank: one of 1077 housing units in Givat Hamatos, a settlement located south of Jerusalem that, if it were to be carried out, would destruct the territorial continuity between the neighnorhoods of East Jerusalem and Bethleem; and the other of 3500 housing units in the E1 zone East of Jerusalem, which is the only corridor connecting the North and the South of the West Bank and which till today has been blocked, even by Americans. If these two projects were to be carried out in the next months or years, they would once and for all put an end to the Palestinian dream of having an independent State with a territorial continuity , and would make impossible the Two State Solution.
We may think that these announcements aim above all to attract the rightist religious electorate which might be tempted to vote for Yamina or even for Otsma Yehudi (the Jewish Power), the party led by Itamar Ben Gvir, a disciple of the racist rabbi Kahana, whose list, according to the polls, won’t cross the threshold of 3,25% of the votes. However, they are part of the continuous policy of a large-scale expansion of Netanyahu’s government.
Each side has a few hours left in order to mobilize its troops and to ensure the abstention rate remains as low as possible. The candidate who will succeed in doing it will win the elections. Will the Likud find again the 300000 votes it lacked last September ? Will the Arabs vote in the same proportions as in the second round, or even more, which would allow them to have 14 or 15 deputees in the Knesset, instead of the 13 deputees they have now ? Will the electors of the “Tel Aviv State”, who usually vote mostly for the parties of the center and of the left, take stock of the dangers of this situation for the future of the country and will go to the polls in spite of the coronavirus crisis and of the discouragement they feel more and more these days ? The answer to these questions will probably determine the results od that third round.
On our part, whatever the results, we will keep fighting with all those who, in Israel as in the Diaspora, aspire for a change in order to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic State.