Sept. 19, 2019
The US media coverage of the Israeli election has misrepresented the results of Tuesday’s vote. This isn’t necessarily deliberate. Israeli elections are inscrutable for most foreigners, particularly for Americans who are used to the clarity of the presidential system and two-party system.
Here are a few of basic facts about how the vote has gone, and where Israel is likely to go in the days and weeks ahead.
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.