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February 3, 2021 8:15 am

Why a Center-Left Coalition Would Help Netanyahu

avatar by Ori Wertman

Opinion

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attend the arrival of a DHL plane carrying a first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 9, 2020. Photo: Abir Sultan / Pool via Reuters.

The new Knesset elections will take place in about two months. Likud, which receives about 30 seats in the polls, continues to lead safely and pull away from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, which is polling at only 17 seats. The other two competitive parties are New Hope, led by Gideon Sa’ar, and Yamina, headed by Naftali Bennett, both polling below Yesh Atid.

But despite the polls showing that Netanyahu is knocking out his opponents, the current balance of power reflects a clear threat to Netanyahu.

Ultimately, there are two possible coalitions after the election. On the one hand, there is a reasonable possibility that Netanyahu will succeed in forming a coalition that includes the Likud, Yamina, and the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism. Polls indicate that such a coalition is currently winning 59 seats, a figure that is very close to the coveted number of 61 seats. On the other hand, there is a more reasonable possibility that after the election, a coalition will be formed without Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox, which will include Lapid, Sa’ar, Bennett, Lieberman, Labor, and Gantz. According to current polls, this coalition wins a majority of 60 MKs.

In order to win the election and win more seats from right-wing voters, Netanyahu must be in a situation where his supporters believe there’s an immediate danger that Likud won’t be the largest party in the next Knesset.

The us vs. them mentality that Netanyahu campaigned on in the last few elections is the key factor to his success.

The obvious conclusion is that if one wants to bring an end to the Netanyahu era, the current situation — in which Likud is safely leading in the polls — must prevail. It would be a bitter mistake for the trio of contenders for the crown — Sa’ar, Lapid and Bennett — to consider unification. That would only serve Netanyahu.

But Netanyahu’s ultimate lifeline may actually be from the left. There is a real danger that it will once again be Benny Gantz who will save Netanyahu from political oblivion. Gantz’s call for unification between all the parties of the center-left bloc is the worst and most foolish move that can be made to defeat Netanyahu.

This coalition would lead to a sense of a close battle between Likud and that united center-left list, and drive right-wing voters to Netanyahu and Likud.

A significant unification in the center-left will only serve Netanyahu. Leaving the political map intact, in which Likud leads safely and with a considerable gap over its competitors on the right and left, is the only real chance to bring an end to the Netanyahu era.

Ori Wertman is a PhD candidate and research assistant at the International Centre for Policing and Security at the University of South Wales, UK and an Adjunct Researcher at the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, Israel. He was a foreign affairs and political adviser to former Labor party chairman Isaac Herzog, former deputy chairman of the Labor Party Youth, and was a candidate on the Labor Knesset list.

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