An election widely expected to be a comfortable formality for the Netanyahu government ends with a dramatic shift to the centre and an Israeli public sending a clear message of discontent. Read the summary here or click to read the full report (PDF).
Despite initial predictions that the government of Israel’s sitting prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would not only continue to dominate but also be strengthened, results have led the country into a highly fragile period of coalition negotiations, offering no clear single route to the formation of a coherent, stable government. They do, however, signify a dramatic shift in public position regarding electoral priorities. Social, economic and religion-and-state considerations now overshadow the historical dominance of the Arab-Israeli conflict as the central defining issue of Israeli politics.
The largest faction in the Knesset will continue to be that of the Likud-Beitenu party, headed by Netanyahu. While “Bibi” has clearly won an additional term as Prime Minister, the headline of this election is the second-place finish of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”) Party. Lapid, a former journalist and senior news anchor who only entered the political field 12 months ago, offered a centrist platform with a strong campaign focus on domestic issues and a fresh, politically inexperienced party. The extent to which Lapid’s success has confounded expectations is partially accounted for by polls that indicate that a full 34% of those who supported Yesh Atid decided on their ballot during the final 72 hours of the campaign.
Other major changes include the almost complete disappearance of Israel’s former largest party, Kadima, and the strengthening of the right-wing “Jewish Home” and left-wing “Meretz” parties, leaving a tight balance between left and right in the political spectrum.
Netanyahu’s weak showing, losing 25% of his electorate, has precipitated any number of potential coalition partners whose departure could threaten his ability to govern, leaving him vulnerable to both leadership challenges from within his own ranks and to coalition parties’ demands in all areas. Although making political predictions in Israel is notoriously dangerous, the likelihood of elections again within 12-18 months is reasonable, especially given that any fledgling government will be immediately tasked with the biennial responsibility of passing a budget.
APCO’s analysis provides an overview of the dominant issues in the run up to the elections, a detailed party-by-party breakdown of the results, an analysis of the immediate implications of these elections and a run-down of the most likely coalition scenarios. A summary of the Israeli electoral system is also included in our report.