Another tight result in Israeli elections: what’s next?

The fourth round of elections in two years has not produced a feasible governing coalition yet. As occurred in the previous elections since 2019 and due to the Israeli electoral system, also this time it is very difficult to have outright winners. Benjamin Netanyahu continues to be unable to lead the country, and in particular to form a solid majority with at least 61 Knesset members throughout the entire mandate.

Following the last election, which took place in March 2020, the coalition government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz dissolved after just seven months in power, as several differences between the two came up and became irreconcilable, particularly in relation to the budget. Moreover, although Netanyahu has played a powerful card in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign by making Israel the world’s leading country in that respect, many Israelis have been dissatisfied with Netanyahu’s management of it, seen as only motivated by political and personal interests. In fact, it is important to call to mind that Netanyahu is on trial for multiple corruption charges and is expected to appear in court starting next April. Also on the diplomatic level, even though he has recently worked on normalising ties with some Arab countries in the region[1], this strategic campaign has not ensured a consequent electoral success.

Exactly a year later, on March 23rd 2021, according to the latest results, the prime minister’s right-wing Likud party won 30 seats and the centrist party Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid, the current  major opposition to Netanyahu, resulted second with 17 seats. Followed by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, Shas and United Torah, respectively with 9 and 7 seats; Benny Gantz’s centrist party Blue and White with 8 seats; the Labour party with the new leadership by Merav Michaeli, the nationalist  party Yamina led by Naftali Bennet, and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu with 7 seats each; the New Hope party formed by the former Likud ally Gideon Sa’ar, the far-right alliance Religious Zionism, the Joint List (Hadash, Balad and Ta’al), and the Zionist left-wing Meretz with 6 seats each; and, lastly, the Islamic party Ra’am with 4 seats[2].

What is clear from these numbers is that Israel has continued a rightward shift, both in the Knesset and in grassroots politics, while the left camp is still rather absent from the political panorama. If it is true that the anti-Netanyahu camp has gained an increasing visibility, as also shown by the weekly demonstrations named as “Balfour protests” that have started taking place since May 2020[3], it is also true that these elections have shown how this is primarily a battle within the right-wing, and specifically among white male Ashkenazim (Jews originally coming from Central and Eastern Europe). This bloc comprises religious fundamentalist and far-right parties, as the list called Religious Zionism in which Jewish supremacist and anti-Arab ideals are fuelled by the Kahanists and the homophobic Noam party.

Another interesting result of these elections is related to the situation of Israel’s Palestinian citizens. This time is different from the previous ones as the leader of the Islamic party Ra’am, Mansour Abbas, decided to split from the Joint List earlier this year and declared that he was open to work also with Netanyahu concerning the needs of about the 20 per cent of the Israeli population, namely the Palestinian citizens of Israel[4]. On the other hand, the Joint List has collapsed and dropped from 15 to 6 seats. Historically, a Palestinian party has never sat in government in the country.

The final tally is due by today, March 26th, and then Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin will meet party leaders regarding their preference for the prime minister. In about ten days, it is expected to choose the best chance to form a coalition able to govern the country, though at present a new government seems unlikely.

Overall, yet again the voice of the Palestinians living under a permanent occupation has been out of the scene and, with the success of the anti-Arab far-right, Palestinians’ everyday life will worsen even more, as formal annexation of the West Bank is underway.






As opiniões expressas neste texto representam unicamente o ponto de vista do autor e não vinculam o Centro de Estudos Internacionais, a sua direcção ou qualquer outro investigador.
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Giulia Daniele

Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CEI-IUL. Visiting Research Fellow (CMRB, UEL). Her first book is entitled Women, Reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Road Not Yet Taken (Routledge, 2014).

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