The Elections are Over! But who will govern?

From Rabbi Micky Boyden:

On Tuesday Israelis will go to the polls and at precisely 10 p.m. people will be glued to their television screens as the various TV channels publish their exit poll results. If previous experience is anything to go by, there will be a large degree of unanimity between them and they will reflect fairly accurately the final, official results that will only be known on Thursday.

However, whereas in many democracies election results represent the end of the race, in Israel they only harbinger the beginning.  Since neither the Likkud nor the “Zionist Union” headed by Yitzhak Herzog are likely to win much more than 20% of the Knesset seats, Israel’s next government will inevitably be determined not by the electorate but as a result of horse trading between the various parties.

Although the polls predict a victory for the “Zionist Union”, Herzog will be hard put to form a center/left government.  Were he to include Meretz, the religious parties would be reluctant to join him. Those same parties might well be unprepared to sit with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which is committed to introducing legislation to force the charedim to undertake military or national service.

A new jack in the pack is the United Arab List, which is predicted to become the third largest party in the forthcoming Knesset with an anticipated 13 Knesset members according to a reliable poll published at the end of last week. (

In contrast with Herzog, Netanyahu would have a much easier time in putting together a government. However, his government would be a right-wing/religious party coalition. Given what is happening on the international stage and the prospect of a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, he might well prefer to reach an agreement with Herzog’s “Zionist Union” that would include rotating the premiership between the two of them. Today’s announcement that Tzipi Livni would be prepared to forego her right to rotate the premiership with Herzog should that become necessary in order to form a national unity government points in that direction.

Therefore, irrespective of what happens at the polls tomorrow, we are likely to be faced with either a right-wing/religious party government coalition, or a unity government in which Herzog and Netanyahu would be the major players.

Should the latter be the case, the United Arab List could well be set for the first time in Israel’s history to become the largest opposition party in the Knesset and the Arab-Jewish Hadash party’s leader, Ayman Odeh, could end up being the Leader of the Opposition. Now that would be a turn-up for the books!

Rabbi Michael (Micky) Boyden

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