A Divided Knesset:

What the latest elections mean for the stability of the next Israeli government?
A Divided Knesset:
June 22, 2021

The final results of the Israeli elections showed the inability of either camp in Israel to settle the race in its favor and establish an equilibrium between them. This situation was anticipated in the final opinion polls on the eve of the elections. The Central Elections Committee’s results showed that the bloc of right-wing and religious pro-Netanyahu parties won 59 seats, two shy of a majority in the 120-seat parliament. Of this bloc, Likud won 30 seats, Shas 9, United Torah Judaism 7, and Religious Zionist 6. Although Yamina, which won 7 seats, declares neutrality, it is considered closer to the Netanyahu camp.

Meanwhile, the anti-Netanyahu camp gained 57 seats: Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”) won 17 seats, Blue and White 8, Yisrael Beiteinu 7, Labor 7, Meretz 6, New Hope 6, Joint Arab List 6, and United Arab List 4.

Increased party polarization

In this framework, InterRegional for Strategic Analysis organized a workshop, “Reading the Results of the Latest Israeli Elections,” with numerous researchers and experts. The workshop identified the following as the most significant indicators of Israel’s latest round of elections.

1- Sharp polarization over the figure of Netanyahu: Workshop participants noted that the latest elections results showed increased polarization and division within Israeli society over the figure of Netanyahu. This division was the focus of the elections and electoral coalitions and will undoubtedly be a focus of the political alignments to form the government in the coming days.

2- Ongoing political crisis: According to the participants, the political crisis in Israel does not appear to be headed for resolution any time soon. The most recent Knesset elections have not contributed anything new in terms of helping resolve the current crisis, which means that the situation is volatile and will perhaps lead to new elections. Given the sharp polarization in Israeli society and the inability of either of the two competing camps in Israel to form a stable government, the door is open wide to all possibilities.

3- Right-wing dominance in the Israeli political scene: The workshop participants stressed that the latest elections underline the ongoing dominance of the right in Israel’s political landscape. Right-wing parties gained 80 seats in the last elections, while all other non-right parties won only 40 seats. Despite the right’s control over Israeli politics, the election results showed the ongoing sharp division within the Israeli right, between supporters of Netanyahu and those calling for his downfall.

4- Declining popularity of Bennet and Sa’ar: The participants believed that the recent elections showed a major decline in the popularity of the Yamina party, led by Naftali Bennett, as well as New Hope, headed by Gideon Sa’ar. These parties won 7 and 6 seats, respectively, indicating that Likud remains the preferred party of the right wing in Israel.

5- Split in the anti-Netanyahu front: The participants noted that the anti-Netanyahu front seems to lack cohesion: it includes far-right and far-left parties, thus making agreement on forming a government extremely difficult. The situation will require the formation of a coalition of seven parties with the support of the Arab parties, which is something that many right-wing opposition parties will also reject.

6- United List’s surprise achievement: Despite the Arab parties’ winning only 10 seats in the Knesset compared to 15 in the previous elections, the participants pointed out that the United Arab List achieved a major surprise by winning 4 seats in the latest elections. This could make it a kingmaker in the negotiations to form the next government should either of the two camps be able to attract its support in the coming days.

Personalization of Israeli politics

The workshop participants concluded that the latest Israeli elections showed a major decline in factors related to policies and programs against a rise in the personalization of the internal struggle around Netanyahu. In this regard, the participants believe that Netanyahu will try to convince Naftali Bennett to join his coalition in exchange for giving him a wide range of powers and ministerial portfolios, in an attempt to prevent Bennett from joining the opposing camp led by Yair Lapid. Netanyahu also needs Bennett’s support in order not to lose the Religious Zionist party that represents the settlers and supports Netanyahu but rejects his outreach to the United Arab List, led by MK Mansour Abbas. In any event, the results of the latest Knesset elections show that Israel will continue through the same cycle of weak and vulnerable governments that will soon lead to new elections.


Key Words:
https://www.interregional.com/en/a-divided-knesset/