As Israelis Go to the Polls, There’s Little Reason to Expect a Conclusive Result

March 2, 2020 | Haviv Rettig Gur
About the author: Haviv Rettig Gur is the senior analyst for the Times of Israel.

Today Israel holds its third election in twelve months’ time, after the two 2019 elections failed to deliver decisive results. Yet the various surveys of voter opinion taken in the past several weeks uniformly suggest that neither the Likud party (led by Benjamin Netanyahu) nor the centrist Blue and White party (led by the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz) will win a decisive victory or have a clear path to forming a majority coalition in the Knesset. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

[W]hile it’s true that some Knesset seats shifted around as some voters reconsidered their options [between the April and September 2019 elections], what is more surprising . . . was the loyalty exhibited by the vast majority of voters—and the unexpected staying power of Blue and White.

Barring a shift in turnout or an unexpected run on the polls at just the right polling stations, Netanyahu still is unlikely to be able to form a majority coalition with only right-wing and ḥaredi parties, and Avigdor Liberman [of the right-wing, secularist Yisrael Beytenu party] is less likely to join his coalition today than before. The two men have a long and mostly unpleasant shared history, and Liberman knows that his party’s recent political growth comes from voters who prefer Blue and White to a Likud government.

That reality has shaped Monday’s race. It is no longer about all-out victory. Assuming neither faction suddenly implodes, . . . the fight has shifted to defining the post-vote narrative. If victory no longer comes in a single ballot-box sweep, it must be sought in slow, grinding attrition of one’s opponents.

It should surprise no one, then, that both parties and both campaigns have already begun preparing for round four.

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