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September 20, 2019 10:14 am

I Did the Math, and Don’t See a Coalition

avatar by David Suissa /


Israeli lawmakers stand during the inauguration of the 21st Knesset. Photo: Haim Zah / GPO.

JNS.orgIn the midst of all the promises of “coalitions” after the razor-close Israeli elections, who’s doing the actual math?

On one side, you have a right-wing bloc that maxes out at 56 seats, and on the other, a center-left bloc that maxes out at 53 seats, both of them agonizingly short of the magic number of 61.

Forget all the fancy analyses — right now, all that matters are those numbers.

A desperate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must surely be losing sleep over his missing five seats, which would allow him to stay on the throne and fight off a criminal indictment.

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He can bluster all he wants about a “Zionist coalition,” but where will he find those missing seats? From his ideological enemies at Labor-Gesher (six seats) or Democratic Union (five seats), who have been waiting years to see him replaced? From Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman (9 seats), who has staked his whole reputation on opposing Netanyahu’s ultra-religious political partners?

And what about Benny Gantz’s center-left bloc of 53 seats? Gantz can bluster all he wants about a “secular unity coalition,” but where will he find his missing eight seats? From the Arab Joint List (12 seats), which Lieberman swore he’d never join? From an extremist party that would be unacceptable to anyone in Blue and White?

Even the much-discussed union of Likud and Blue and White, looks like a pipe dream. Why? Because it would necessitate two highly unlikely scenarios. The first is that Netanyahu would be replaced as leader of Likud, something he’d fight to the death. The second is Gantz teaming up with Netanyahu, something he’s sworn he’ll never do.

And in the middle of this messy stalemate is Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who has promised he’ll do everything he can to ensure a coalition is established so as to prevent yet another “do-over” election.

But numbers are numbers. No amount of effort from Rivlin or anyone else can fit square pegs into round holes. Over the next few days and weeks, we can expect lots of posturing and horse trading, lots of analyses about cynical politicians selling their souls to gain power, but that won’t change the stubborn numbers.

Of course, this is Israel, the land of miracles, so it’s always possible something dramatic will happen to break the deadlock, like a revolt in Likud against Netanyahu, who has now failed twice this year to bring victory to his party.

At least one thing is for sure: Both sides will have plenty to pray for during the coming High Hoidays.

David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and Jewish Journal. He can be reached at

This article first appeared in the Jewish Journal.

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