Here is a brief analysis of the Israeli elections.
There is almost no change from the last election that failed to produce a government. Likud has 31 seats and Blue and While has 32 seats. They still, most likely, need each other to form a government.
Of course, if those numbers stick, Blue and White will have the most votes and will be given an opportunity to form a government. So, yes, that is a big change.
Netanyahu did not get the mandate he had hoped to receive from the voters. This time he will be even with Blue and White or slightly behind. Voters were turned off after Bibi pledged before the last election to be against an prime minister immunity law, only to reverse himself after the elections (since he is under inditement and would prefer to be Prime Minister as opposed to Prime Dish Washer). The law would keep him out of jail as long as he was PM. And he was also seeking to weaken the Supreme Court’s ability to overrule new laws as “unconstitutional”, something that would put minorities at risk.
Another big change is that Avigdor Lieberman’s “Israel Our House” party nearly doubled in size from five to nine seats. Lieberman’s refusal to join Likud last spring is the only reason we had to have new elections. Voters rewarded him for his stand against the Ultra Orthodox, seeking to keep a new law from being passed that would send their children (LIKE MINE!!!) to the army. Lieberman now has far more influence over who will lead the nation, than his nine seats would normally warrant. If he will not serve with Bibi. Bibi cannot form a government, as he will have about 54 seats (and needs 61). “The clearest winner on Tuesday, according to exit polls, was Mr. Liberman, the longtime Netanyahu ally turned nemesis who leads an ultra-nationalist secular party,” opines the New York Times. An Israeli journalist writes “Liberman isn’t just the winner of the elections, he’s the one who will determine the makeup of the next government.” Lieberman stated this morning that he will only support a unity government. Good for him!
Let’s assume that things stay as they are with 90% of the vote counted. That would mean, Blue and White wins with 32 seats and Likud in second with 31 seats. Now understand, wining in Israel doesn’t mean winning until you actually form a government. Winning merely means you get the first crack at trying…and sometimes, as happened in 2009, the President can see that, despite winning, you cannot form a coalition, and he will reach out immediately to the second place winner.
If Blue and White edges out Likud, I suspect that President Ruvlin will give Beni Gantz the first try.
In order for Gantz to form a center-left government he will have to reach out to the Arab parties that form the “Joint List”. Understand that no Arab party has ever joined in a ruling coalition. This would be unprecedented.
However, Gantz may turn to Likud in hopes of forming a unity government. This would be best for the country. And they could do it quickly with just three parties: Blue and White 32, Likud 31 and Israel Our House 9 for 72 seats. But there are lots of egos involved and hurt feelings.
If Gantz fails on both fronts and Ruvlin will be forced to turn to an embattled Bibi. However, as noted, without Israel Our House he cannot form a right wing government. And, since Blue and White won, they will not serve in a likud-led unity government. There are reports saying that Netanyahu is softening on potential partners—meaning he is open to serving with Blue and White. However, my guess is that would be with the caveat that he is still prime minister.
Likud may finally oust Bibi for the sake of unity in the nation or he may retire (both unlikely!). It is hard to imagine a unity government with Bibi in the number two position. Many see him as a king. On the right they chant King Bibi because they love him. On the left and in the media they chant King Bibi to mock him. If is hard for many of us to imagine Israel without Netanyahu. If is hard to imagine that Gantz or anyone else will have the wherewithal to stand up to Iran. Bibi has been a generational figure on the world’s stage. He can get Trump as well as Putin on the phone at any moment. But, he is under inditement. And, he has served a very long time.