+61 3 9272 5644

Post Election Summary – September 2019

Dr. Ron Weiser AM 

It seems that in those countries where conservatives win elections, opinion polls and exit polling are proving less accurate. Think about Trump in the US, or Morrison here in Australia. Or Israel. Perhaps conservative voters are less likely to publicise their intentions.

Never the less this time the Israeli polling proved more accurate than in April. And that tells a story in itself. The conservatives did worse than last time.

Voter turnout in Israel did not decrease as had been expected and in fact at 69.4%, was slightly higher than in April (68.5%).

In April, Netanyahu had the party leaders of 65 members of the Knesset tell President Rivlin that he and only he, would be supported for Prime Minister. Gantz had 45.

This time it’s very different.

Let’s look at how the parties did in results to date.

–      Parties of the left (Democratic Union and Labor)

Despite mergers & acquisitions – no real change.

The main purpose was to help them pass the threshold – and they did.

In total, between the two parties – their vote went up by 1 to 11.

–      Likud effectively fell very badly.

In April Likud achieved 35 mandates and Kulanu 4. This election they merged and slumped from a combined 39 to just 31 – that’s a drop of 8 mandates.

–      Ironically – the ultra ultra right deeply harmed its own cause.

Netanyahu was correct and Otzma failed to pass the threshold of 3.25% and probably those wasted votes cost his potential coalition around 2 seats.

–      Yamina also did not do as well as they had hoped.

Yamina is in fact a combination of 3 parties in a technical merger to ensure they too passed the threshold.

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett’s New Right Party, Rav Rafi Peretz’s Jewish Home and Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union.

In a poor showing, they only achieved 7 mandates all together. Considering to pass the threshold one would need about 4 mandates, they’re lucky the 3 parties merged.

Now, post-election, they have already broken apart and are blaming their bad performance in the main on Netanyahu, for attempting to cannibalise their vote. Something he did try and do – and with gusto.

Shaked and Bennett, who failed to pass the threshold in April, continue to fail to demonstrate large electoral appeal, whilst counterintuitively the Israeli press continue to describe Shaked in particular, as ‘popular’.

–      Increase in Arab Israeli vote.

This is one very positive outcome of the elections. 61% of the Israeli Arab electorate voted (only 49% in April). However one views their political positions, their participation is a strong form of validation of the State of Israel and their citizenship of it. They went from 10 mandates in April, to 13 now.

–      Increase in Lieberman’s vote, Yisrael Beiteinu.

Based on some resonance in the electorate on the concept of a national unity government and separation of religion and state, whilst being seen as right wing on security, his vote jumped from 5 mandates in April, to 8.

As a general comment, one should not read too much into the overall election results on the policy front generally, or on the basis of left/right issues, as the election in the main, was a referendum on Netanyahu himself.

So now it comes to President Rivlin to invite, at least for the moment, either Netanyahu or Gantz to attempt to form a government.

The general presentation of there being 2 distinct blocks, in my view, does not help to adequately understand the situation.

I believe it is more accurate and easier to understand it as 4 blocks this time – for now.

Block 1 – Netanyahu – currently 55 mandates.

Block 2 – Gantz – currently 44

Block 3 – Joint List (primarily Israeli Arab parties) – currently 13

Block 4 – Lieberman – currently 8.

Is it better to be nominated by President Rivlin to try and make a government initially, or not?

For the first time ever – some now think it better to go second. The idea relies upon the first attempt failing and therefore there being more pressure on parties compromising for whoever is nominated to make the second attempt.

But that’s a bold position to take – and risky.

If the blocks hold – Netanyahu has the lead. But without a clear path to government.

Block 1 can fall apart quite easily, the most likely cause for that to happen is Netanyahu himself. Abandoning his allies to go with Gantz – or taking enough of them with him, but with none being big enough to collapse a government comprised of Likud and Blue & White. This block can disintegrate with some smaller parties pulling out as well. Watch Ayelet Shaked, who is out for revenge.

Block 2 can also split, with Gantz leaving Lapid behind and then having no problem in joining with the Haredi parties.

It is also possible that that within this block, either Labor or more particularly the Gesher element of it, can shift to Netanyahu.

Block 3 is an amalgam of Arab parties with one in particular being more extreme and therefore could not be part of any coalition. The rest, although doubtful and it would be a first etc etc – but some elements could possibly support a government from outside of being in an actual coalition. Watch party leader Ayman Odeh. If there is to be anything happening on this front, it will come from him.

Block 4 is all Lieberman and will remain solid.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman has repeated demands for the establishment of civil marriage in Israel and the mandatory teaching of core curriculum studies in ultra-Orthodox primary schools, as conditions for entering any new government.

He added that his party would also demand the implementation of public transport on Shabbat, and the repeal of the so-called mini-markets law preventing local authorities from increasing commercial activity in their cities on Shabbat.

Lieberman will not go into any coalition that formally includes any of the Arab parties. But he can sit in government with the Haredim if his agenda is largely agreed to. In this, Shas are already making some positive noises.

Should a national unity coalition form, another development would leave the Israel Arab party’s Joint List as the largest party in opposition and thereby formally as Leader of the Opposition.

Historically the leader of the opposition gets security briefings and receives access to the most sensitive intelligence materials. Now that would present an interesting scenario in itself.

One immediate effect of the elections has already occurred. For the first time since 2010, Netanyahu will not be attending and speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, instead he is sending Foreign Minister Katz.

President Trump was largely absent from this campaign and did not assist Netanyahu as he did in April. Some speculated that he only likes to associate with winners.

When asked by a reporter on the White House lawn if he’d spoken to Netanyahu since the election, Trump said “I have not. Those results are coming in and it’s very close. Everybody knew it’s going to be very close. I said, we’ll see what happens. Look, our relationship is with Israel. We’ll see what happens.”

Whilst he gets a lot of bad press, turns out Trump might have been the best observer of Israeli politics of anyone.

Shabbat shalom.

Dr Ron Weiser AM

Dr. Ron Weiser AM is an Hon Life Member of the Zionist Federation of Australia Executive, and the Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.