No, Labor is not on the road to victory11 Mar 2015
It is impossible to go on an Israeli news site today and not see the headlines touting a purported Labor, sorry, I mean Zionist Union, victory in the upcoming elections. You can hear the shouts of excitement coming from the bubbles of Tel Aviv, but these will soon be replaced with cries of disappointment.
That is not to say that Labor will not get more votes than Likud. It very well might and most polls now put it 3-4 seats ahead. But given Israel’s parliamentary system, this is almost entirely irrelevant. It isn’t enough for one party to merely get more seats because in the end they will need to build a coalition of 60 + 1 members in order to govern and the parties of the Left just don’t have the numbers.
Current Knesset seats in [brackets]
24-25  Zionist Union (Labor-Livni)
21  Likud
13  Bayit Yehudi
12-13  Yesh Atid
12-13  The Joint (Arab) List
08  Kulanu (Kahlon+Kadima)
07  Shas
06-07  Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ
06  Yisrael Beitenu
05-06  Meretz
04  Yachad (Yishai+Chetboun+Marzel)
65-66  Right-Religious-Kahlon (Parties that have not ruled out nominating Netanyahu in Phase 2)
55-54  Center-Left-Arab (Parties that have ruled out nominating Netanyahu in Phase 2)
It is possible that Kulanu could join a Leftist government (his socialist economic agenda is pretty leftist as it is, and he has made it clear he wants the Finance Ministry). But since the Joint Arab List has said it will not join a coalition, even with Kahlon, the Left is still 11-12 seats shy of a majority.
Let’s say the Left tries to bring in the Ultra-Orthodox parties (excluding Yachad with Baruch Marzel). This would force Meretz out of the coalition and only net a total of 57-60 seats. This would also pose a problem for Yesh Atid as it would also not want to be in such a coalition and Deri is unlikely to agree to join one with Lapid either. So while a few seats might swing a majority here, it’s still a longshot.
Moreover, it is unlikely the Ultra-Orthodox and Kulanu voters would even want to be part of a Leftist government (though at that point they would no longer have a say in the matter) since 68% of Kulanu voters identify as Right or Center-Right, as well as 69% of Shas voters, and 79% of UTJ voters.
Some have floated the idea of the Joint Arab List supporting a minority government from outside the coalition as the Arab parties did for Rabin during Oslo. But this fails to take into account the incredibly different times we live in over 20 years later. Back then much of Israel was willing to take the risk of supporting Rabin with Oslo, but today, the opposite is true:
a clear majority (63.5%) strongly or moderately agrees with the claim that “No matter which party forms the next government, the peace process with the Palestinians will not advance because there is no solution to the disagreements between the sides.”
The only thing surprising here is that this number isn’t higher. There is no viable solution to our problems with the Palestinians because they refuse any and all reasonable offers made to them, insist on the “Right of Return” which would destroy Israel’s Jewish character, and continue to finance terrorists who kill Jews. In short, their goal has been, and remains, the destruction of the Jewish State.
###Likud Has a Much Easier Path to a Coalition
But let’s say that the election is even closer, Labor gets more seats than Likud and is tapped to have the first shot at forming a coalition. Not only would this be incredibly difficult on its own, but Likud will also send out messages to its natural allies in the Right, Center-Right, and religious parties, indicating what a Likud-led government would look like. Netanyahu would likely be able to form a coalition even without the Ultra-Orthodox, or include them all, or play Yachad against Shas to get a solid majority without giving up too much. The point is Netanyahu has many roads to a coalition and all of them are more likely and easier to muster than anything Herzog-Livni can muster.
Upsets are always possible and roughly 7% of voters are still undecided (14% if you include those who are deciding between 2 parties on the same political spectrum), so I’ve always been wary of predictions. But it is hard to look at the data and the trends and not draw the clear conclusions.
Is it possible Labor will cobble together a weak coalition and eek out a victory? Sure. It just isn’t very likely
Now let’s just hope Netanyahu can easily and quickly put together a new coalition and get back to work. So remember to vote on Tuesday.