Israel Heading for Its 4th Election in 2 Years, Future Remains Uncertain
After the coalition government between PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Benjamin Gantz fell apart. Israel is once again heading for an election on Tuesday which will be its 4th election in 2 years. Hoping for a stable government, citizens head to polls, however, the future still seems uncertain. Israeli citizens head to the polls today on 23rd March to vote in the 4th election in 2 years.
New elections were announced after the coalition between PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Liberal Movement (Likud) party and Benjamin Gantz’s Blue and White Party fell apart. The budget crisis was an ostensible reason for the fallout, as both leaders didn’t trust each other. According to the 3-year agreement made in 2020 between the two leaders, they agreed to share power, whereby Netanyahu would serve for the first half of the tenure as Prime Minister and Gantz would serve the second half, although many believe Netanyahu never intended to honor the agreement.
Distrust ran rampant from the start and all came to a head when Likud reneged on its pledge to support a 2-year budget through 2021. It was a political move as 1 year budget would have given Netanyahu a loophole to bring down the government over the next year budget when it was time for Gantz to serve as Prime Minister.
“Netanyahu is taking us to the election just so he doesn’t have to show up in court,” Gantz said in a statement. The Prime Minister is facing charges of bribery and corruption and the case is currently ongoing.
Heading towards its fourth election, Israel is facing many issues such as a weak economy, high unemployment which is currently at 15 per cent and rising Covid-19 cases, all coupled with an unstable government have caused a sense of desperation among the population.
Heading into the election Netanyahu’s Likud is likely to come on top as the largest party in the Knesset although getting support seems to be tough this time. No party has ever won an absolute majority in Israel. In order to form a coalition government, Likud would need the support of parties to reach the 61 seat mark. The Knesset has 120 seats.
Tough Road for Likud
Israeli opinion polls have a good record of correctly predicting the elections and according to the exit polls, Netanyahu’s Likud is expected to get around 29 seats in the Knesset.
The problem this time is the direct competition from the right. The Gideon Saar’s New hope Party may potentially topple the balance in total votes as its platform is hardly distinguishable from that of Likud, thus it can act to split the votes and cost Likud the necessary votes to win.
The New Hope Party is expected to win 12 seats trailing behind the main opposition party Yesh Atid which is expected to win 20 seats in the Knesset.
New hope is expected to finish as the third-largest party in the Knesset which poses a threat to Netanyahu’s plans to form a right-wing coalition government as New hope is not positioning itself in the dogmatic framework of left and right on the political spectrum but purely as an Anti-Corruption and Anti-Netanyahu movement.
However, Saar and Netanyahu share various ideological similarities, such as settlement policies and the issue of Palestinian statehood; Saar’s views can be considered more pro Israel than Netanyahu, as he is offering citizens a more pro Israel right wing agenda without the corruption which has grappled Netanyahu as of late. Netanyahu’s hopes to form a pliant coalition that would help shield him from prosecution seem implausible.
In the worst-case scenario for Netanyahu, The New Hope could make it impossible for him to form a majority block of right-wing and religious parties without the support of New Hope especially since Naftali Bennett leader of Yamina has declared he would not be a part of Netanyahu led government.
The elections are scheduled for 23rd march 2021 and the results will be announced shortly afterwards. Although it is highly likely that parties will continue to squabble for a few months before reaching a definite conclusion. It remains to be seen who eventually forms the government, would Netanyahu continue to serve as the Prime Minister or will someone else take the reins and lead Israel through these tumultuous times.
Impact on India
In July 2017 Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel and meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Israeli politics in recent times are dominated by right-wing politicians; meanwhile, a nationalist government in India is considered a natural ally by politicians on the right in Israel.
Would the defeat of Netanyahu and the centrist government in Israel and Democratic administration led by Joe Biden in the United States be preferable for the Modi government?
A win for Netanyahu would see the continuing warming relations between India and Israel, although it remains uncertain whether Netanyahu would act on his campaign promise of annexing West Bank and it will be interesting to see how India will react to this.