by Simon Rosenblum
In my pre-election article for CFPN, I called it 50-50: an even chance for Netanyahu and allies to squeak through with a majority in the Knesset, or for another stalemate leading to yet another election. With 90% of the votes now counted as I write on March 25, we know enough to be sure of two things: which parties will have passed the election threshold and, within a very small margin of one or, at most, two Knesset seats, what the balance between the “blocs” will be.
Even if, as expected, Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party agrees to be part of a Netanyahu-led government, Bibi would still be short by a seat or two in reaching the elusive 61 needed for a majority. Although Netanyahu is the only one in a position to try to leverage a majority coalition, he’s in a bind. So what is he to do?
Before consigning Israel to the plague of yet another election, let me explore the ways that Bibi could attempt to wiggle out of his predicament. Here are the scenarios, in no particular order:
- As now widely discussed, Netanyahu might try to finesse an agreement with Ra’am, the conservative Islamic party that has managed to get elected with the minimum four seats. Ra’am might well be willing to co-operate. But would it be at a price that Bibi’s other partners could agree to? I very much doubt it, though anything is possible.
- He could aim to convince Blue and White (8 seats) to replace the previously-beyond-the-pale ultra-right-wing Religious Zionists (6 seats) in a Netanyahu-led coalition government. Sidelining these neo-fascist and homophobic elements would be a mitzvah, and the math sort of works. But is Benny Gantz up for another deal with Bibi, given how the last one worked out? Mark me down as highly doubtful.
- He could try to convince Gideon Sa’ar and his New Hope party to return home to Bibi. Sa’ar says that is not going to happen and I tend to believe him.
- Last, but not least, is the prospect of Netanyahu picking off a couple of MKs from parties outside his existing bloc and promising them the moon for their support in saving the nation from having to endure yet another (inconclusive) election. Are there a couple of such MKs open to such an offer/bribe? Put that down as a maybe, but again, anything is possible.
So here we are back at the 50-50. The next weeks and months will be full of hectic rounds of coalition negotiations, but in my bones I feel that election number five will soon be upon us. Meanwhile I am going back to reading all about Israeli archeologists discovering new Dead Sea Scroll fragments and, of course, to supporting Peace Now in Israel.
Peace Now continues to face an uphill but ever-more-urgent battle with the growing Israeli right and its settlement expansion/annexationist agenda.
* Simon Rosenblum is a frequent commentator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was a founding member of CFPN and a former national chair. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect CFPN policy.