After legislative elections that have not brought out a clear winner capable of forming a coalition, Israel is again in an institutional stalemate. Reuven Rivlin must now choose who will be in charge of forming the government.
On 20 September, the Israeli Electoral Commission announced the almost final results of the parliamentary elections held during the week. According to these first figures, the blue-white centrist group, led by Benny Gantz and Yaïr Lapid, leads with 33 seats against 31 for the outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. Each side has therefore failed to increase its lead over the other for the formation of a coalition government, the results being similar to those of the last legislative elections of April.
Behind the two behemoths, the unified list of Israeli Arab parties gets 13 seats, followed by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party (nine electeds). Follow the nationalist Israel Beitenou formation, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who gets eight deputies, on par with the ultra-Orthodox Judaism unified Torah. Behind them stand, the list of radical right Yamina (seven deputies), the Labor Party (six deputies) and finally the list of left Democratic Camp (five elected). It should be noted that the electoral commission has yet to count the results of 14 polling stations in which irregularities have been noted.
- The country again deadlocked
But as in April in the last elections, neither side can form a coalition government by reaching the fateful mark of 61 deputies. Benny Gantz and his allies on the left, to which could add the Arab parties, would get 57 seats while Benjamin Netanyahu, backed by the right and religious, would meet only 55 deputies. Figures very similar to those observed in the last election.
In April, the outgoing Prime Minister had preferred to dissolve the Knesset rather than see President Reuven Rivlin allow his opponent to form a coalition. A scenario that, if reproduced, would lead Israel into an unprecedented political crisis. That is why the two leaders pleaded on 19 September for a government of “national unity”. An outstretched hand accepted by Benny Gantz on one condition: that Benjamin Netanyahu is excluded from the government.
In the negotiations, the leader of Israel Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, finds himself in the role of arbitrator. It alone could ensure that one of the two parties obtains this famous majority. But he who was born in the USSR, in the Socialist Republic of Moldova, does not seem to want to give a blank check to one of the candidates. “We have only one option: a broad, liberal, national government, made up of Israel Beiteinu, Likud, and Blue-white,” he said before his supporters in Jerusalem. The former Minister of Transport seems to want to play the card of non-alignment and is therefore positioned as a kingmaker. In this event, he may well return to the government.
- Impossible agreement between the two leaders
But the solution proposed by Avigdor Lieberman does not seem to delight the leader of Bleu-blanc, who fears being phagocyted by the one who holds the record of longevity, 13 years, at the head of the State of Israel, before the historical David Ben Gurion. “The Bleu-blanc party that I run won the elections […] I will form this government and I will take the lead […] We will listen to everyone but will not accept that we are dictated things”, said Benny Gantz on September 19 as a message to his opponent.
Moreover, the two men are opposed on many subjects, which makes it very improbable the constitution of a broad coalition. First of all in terms of international politics. If they agree that Iran is the major threat to the Jewish state in the region, Benny Gantz said he was open to concessions, including territorial, to the Palestinians, as long as they do not undermine the security of Israel. For its part, the outgoing Prime Minister had committed, a few days before the election, to annex part of the Jordan Valley and had even legalized the wild colony of Mevoot Yericho.
Besides, the leader of Bleu-blanc has focused a large part of his campaign on the fight against corruption. However, Benjamin Netanyahu is entangled in several corruption cases that could well lead him behind bars if he fails to stay at the helm of the country. Finally, the list of Arab parties, which stands as the third political force in the country, has clearly announced to block the road of the outgoing Prime Minister who had been described by Ayman Odeh as “an unlimited psychopath who wants to see blood” and “Despicable offender” on September 11 on Twitter. But Blue-white is not yet sure to get support from the list of Arab parties. For the moment, they have not indicated whether they would support Benny Gantz, who was army chief during the Gaza war in 2014.
It is therefore up to Reuven Rivlin to appoint one of the two candidates to try to form a coalition. The consultations will begin on September 22, after the Shabbat, and each party will have to propose a potential Prime Minister able to build this alliance to finally get the country out of the political stalemate in which it is located since the beginning of the year.