Gridlock Remains After Israel’s Historic Fourth National Election
By Manuel Wallick
Following its fourth election in two years, Israel continues to find itself in a political quagmire. The intense gridlock in the country has resulted in multiple elections and multiple governments, all of which have quickly collapsed. Even a global pandemic could not promote unity, with elections taking place over the past year. With the results having been finalized and no coalition having reached the necessary majority, jockeying to form a government has begun. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the first tasked with the formation of a new government by the country’s president as his party and coalition won the most seats in the Knesset, their parliament, following the election.
Weeks after the March 23rd election, Netanyahu has yet to form a government, and gridlock remains. Major sticking points remain between the various parties as they seek to form a government; Netanyahu himself is one of the most pressing. The longtime national leader has been plagued by several corruption investigations which have resulted in a trial of the Prime Minister. This has helped generate opposition to Netanyahu, who has made many political enemies who are vehemently opposed to forming a government with him. This includes members of the opposition who have previously joined governments with the Prime Minister but have ruled out another coalition. A notable member of this group is the Defense Minister, Benny Gantz who ran against Netanyahu in the previous election. These fierce opponents have restricted coalition options for the Prime Minister.
Due to these impasses, a historic fifth national election has become more likely. If another election is called, it would be expected to occur later this year. This option is not particularly popular, and demonstrations against the prospect and the Prime Minister have occurred. Fatigue over the elections is significant and widespread, but the tenuous situation has led Netanyahu to prepare his party and his partners for another election.
There is still a chance that a government could be formed with the necessary 61-seat majority in the current makeup of the Knesset. While Netanyahu’s coalition won 52 seats—the most of any single coalition—the opposition parties managed to win 57 in total. This leaves two smaller parties in the middle which could decide the government: Ra’am, an Arab party that won four seats, and Yamina, a nationalist party that won seven. In order for Netanyahu to form a government, both of these parties would have to agree to a coalition with him while also maintaining all of his current partners. The significance of Ra’am as the possible kingmaker is a significant development for a party that had been seen as unlikely to win seats in the Knesset. While the parties may be open to forming a government, it is unclear if this governing coalition would be stable, especially with conservative members of Netanyahu’s bloc objecting to such a coalition. Another possibility is a minority government led by Netanyahu, but this option lacks stability and would likely fail.
Meanwhile, while none of the opposition leaders have been tasked with forming a government, they have engaged in talks with each other and parties such as Ra’am to form a governing framework. However, there is no single coalition among the opposition, and they are not a united block. This fractious standing would prove incredibly difficult to form a government from. Therefore, all eyes are on Prime Minister Netanyahu and the possibility of a fifth election.
Manuel Wallick is a sophomore from Lexington, South Carolina, majoring in political science.
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