Third Time’s a Charm? Israel faces the possibility of another election

Chaim Friedlander

It seemed impossible, but this week it finally happened. For the first time in a decade, a politician other than Bibi Netanyahu was given the chance to form a government coalition. Benny Gantz, who was a highly decorated chief-of-staff but is a political neophyte, now has the chance to become prime minister. After Netanyahu failed to form a government in the allotted 28 days, President Ruvi Rivlin transferred the mandate to Gantz, the chairman of Kachol Lavan (Blue and White).

At this point in time, it’s hard to see a realistic way for him to manage to form a government—the most realistic option seems to be a third consecutive election—but in politics, the seemingly impossible often quickly becomes a reality. The biggest proof of that is Gantz himself. He has now come the closest to replacing Netanyahu despite his complete lack of political experience.

Realistic or not, Gantz has 28 days to form a government coalition. If he fails as well, the mandate will be given to the Knesset. After that, every Knesset member will have 21 days to try to collect 61 signatures supporting him as prime minister. If no one can manage that—and it would be beyond shocking if someone could—Israeli citizens will head back to the polls in the hope that this time, the results will allow for a functioning government. But after two very similar election results it’s hard to believe that a third one will substantially change anything. As Einstein was (wrongly) alleged to have said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
However, before we accuse the Israeli political establishment of insanity, we have to first look at the possibilities that would allow Gantz to form a government. Netanyahu currently leads a right-wing bloc of 55 MKs (members of Knesset), while Gantz represents a smaller bloc of 44 MKs. Currently unaffiliated are the 13 MKs of the Arab Joint List and the 8 MKs of Yisrael Beiteinu. On the face of it, it would seem that Gantz could form a government with both of those parties joining Kachol Lavan, Avodah, and Hamachaneh Hademokrati, but that would wrongly assume that Avigdor Liberman would be willing to join all of those left-wing parties. And while Liberman seemingly is willing to do whatever it takes to bring down Netanyahu, he is still firmly right-wing and against the Arab sector. In fact, his opposition to the Arabs is ten times greater than his opposition to the chareidim. He has also announced in every forum possible that he would never join a government that relies on the support of Arab MKs.

There is another possibility, however, that would allow him to both bring down Netanyahu and not vote together with the Arab MKs. If he were to simply tell his party members not to vote in the Knesset when a vote on a coalition is brought forward, it would allow Gantz to form a minority government of 57 MKs against Netanyahu’s 55 MKs.


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