• Box with ballots at one of the previous Knesset parliamentary elections. | Photo: Shutterstock

Political Turmoil Likely to Continue After Election

Yochanan Visser - 6 October 2022

Israel will go to the polls again on 1 November 2022, which will be the fifth time in three and a half years that parliamentary elections will be held in the Jewish state.

This new election became necessary after current Prime Minister Yair Lapid and former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett decided in June that there was no future anymore for their coalition of left and right parties supplemented by the Arab Islamic party Ra’am.

The government of Bennett and Lapid ruled for exactly one year before the decision was made to go to the polls again.

The new election for the 25th Knesset was necessitated by a series of crises related to the make-up of Bennett’s and Lapid’s cabinet.

The government that Lapid and Bennett had managed to cobble together a year earlier was a motley crew of parties with opposing political agendas.

After it became clear that there was no majority in the Knesset for the extension of an emergency law that dealt with Israeli civil administration in Judea and Samaria since the 1967 Six-Day War, Lapid and Bennett decided to call new elections.

…it appears that the new election will again fail to resolve Israel’s deep political crisis that began with the fall of the government of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in 2021.

However, it appears that the new election will again fail to resolve Israel’s deep political crisis that began with the fall of the government of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu in 2021.

Likud will remain the largest party with 32 seats according to the latest polls- up from 29 – but that won’t mean that Netanyahu will be able to form a majority government again.

The same happened in 2021 when Netanyahu failed to form a government despite the right’s clear victory in the March elections.

The so-called pro-Netanyahu bloc is currently at 59 seats in the polls against 54 for Yair Lapid’s center-left bloc while the rest of the seats are expected to go to the Arab parties.

The deadlock in the political situation in Israel is mainly due to personal feuds and not political differences.

Netanyahu had become an increasingly controversial figure in his 12 years as Israel’s Prime Minister especially since a lawsuit was brought against him for alleged corruption in the last two years of his term as PM.

In the previous election, three right-wing parties refused to join a government led by the Likud leader because of resentment against Netanyahu.

In all three cases, it was not about political differences but an aversion to Netanyahu who was accused of being a criminal and living a hedonistic life as leader of Israel.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman, for example, is known as a hawk with ideas shared by much of Likud but his dislike of Netanyahu was stronger than his political agenda.

The caretaker Finance Minister was actually the one who caused the current stalemate in Israeli politics when he stepped down as Defense Minister in November 2018 under the guise that Israel was acting too weakly against Hamas and the other terror groups in Gaza.

In fact, it was more about the corruption lawsuit against Netanyahu and a personal antipathy towards the Likud leader.

The same can actually be said about Naftali Bennett and Gideon Saar who, with their right-wing parties New Hope and HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish House), teamed up with the center-left Yes Atid party of Yair Lapid.

Both politicians have also developed an aversion to Netanyahu during the time they served under him.

On the eve of the new elections on 1 November, all kinds of things are going on that make it likely that it will again prove difficult to form a government in Israel.

Caretaker Prime Minister Lapid tried to persuade the left-wing parties Labor and Meretz to form a joint list, but the attempt failed.

As a result, it is now possible that both parties will not exceed the 3.25 per cent electoral threshold, making the formation of a center-left government, even with support from Arab parties, virtually impossible.

Analysts now agree that the so-called ‘soft right’ voters will decide the upcoming elections.

These are the voters who don’t feel at home in Likud or in the far-right Religious Zionism party.

The decision of Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s current Interior Minister, to disband the newly formed Zionist Spirit (Ruach Tzioni) party and return to HaBayit HaYehudi made things even more complicated because this party too will not cross the electoral threshold, according to the polls.

However, between now and 1 November, Shaked’s position may improve as she hasn’t started her campaign yet.

Yoaz Hendel, Shaked’s partner in the already defunct Zionist Spirit party, has now decided to leave politics warning that internal divisions, tribalism, and even blind hatred pose a great danger to Israel.

Shaked has not ruled out in principle that she will join a Netanyahu-led coalition after the election. With that, she is likely to take on the role of kingmaker.

In the now outgoing coalition of Lapid and Bennett, that role was filled by the Arab Islamist Party Ra’am, which stands to lose the coming election according to the latest polls.

To complicate matters for Lapid, the Arab parties in the Knesset failed to once again form a joint list and this will mean that he won’t be able to form a new government and remain Israel’s Prime Minister.

However, the major stumbling block in the Israeli political landscape remains the obstruction of Benyamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to return to the Prime Minister’s residence in Balfour Street, Jerusalem.

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