Ever since the Israeli election, there’s been a plethora of “End of Netanyahu” essays, including from people who should know better.
That is the media trend, but the political situation is complicated. And though the left-wing Blue and White party has more seats, that doesn’t mean that they can form a government.
(Parliamentary politics is equally ugly and stupid.)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not lose and his challenger, former IDF chief of general staff and Blue and White faction chief Benny Gantz did not win. Despite the fact that Blue and White won 33 seats in the 120-seat Knesset to Likud’s 31 seats, Gantz cannot form a government under any circumstances. He cannot build a majority coalition.
Wednesday Netanyahu assembled the heads of all the right wing and religious parties that form the basis for Likud-led governing coalitions. The factions unified into one right-wing bloc and agreed on principles for future coalition talks. They agreed to conduct coalition talks as a bloc, under Netanyahu’s leadership. By forming this 55-member bloc, Netanyahu created a situation where he is the only possible prime minister. Either the Blue and White Party — or one of its three factions — joins him, or Amir Peretz and Orly Levy bring the Labor party in, or Israel goes to new elections. Those are the only options.
In other words, it’s either going to be Netanyahu or elections. It’s up to Gantz, and Peretz.
Moreover, the balance of power is still very much on the Right. The Right has 55 seats. The Left has 44. Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman, the man who induced Israel’s political paralysis 10 months ago when he resigned his position as defense minister, and maintained the stalemate in April when he refused to join a Netanyahu-led coalition and forced the country into a second Knesset election, is nothing but a Bibi hater. If he joins Gantz with his 8-seat faction, Gantz will still be short 9 seats. A coalition with Liberman and the Arab parties is inconceivable because Liberman’s Russian voter base would abandon him if he were to go that route. Then too, the Arab parties are so extreme that they cannot be considered for any governing coalition.
Short version, the second elections ushered in a variation of the stalemate that led to them. That opens up the possibility of an insane third election.
That or some sort of ugly and unpleasant arrangement in which, Lieberman, an ugly and unpleasant figure, is the least bad option.
These elections were bad for Israel. They were bad for Netanyahu. But the “End of Netanyahu” pieces are very premature.