The latest polls have Netanyahu losing the election to the combined parties of Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni by 3 to 4 seats. However, winning the election is only step 1 in becoming Prime Minister. Step 2 is forming a realistic coalition of at least 61 of the 120 Knesset seats.
In the latest polls, the Zionist Camp, Bibi’s rival will end up with the most seats in the Knesset. However 26 seats is just barely more than 20% of the seats. They will need to find 35 more Knesset members to join with them.
In the picture above, I circled in red those likely or possible partners for Herzog. The two definite partners are Yesh Atid (center) and Meretz (far left). That brings the total to only 43 seats. Then, they would hope to woo in Koolanu, a center/right party focused solely on economic issues. This would bring them closer, but no cigar. They will still be 10 seats short.
The center/right groups that remain will not join with them. Netanyahu has no interest in sharing power or being the number 2 in the government. He will quit politics before he relinquishes his premiership (He could make millions in speaking fees in the U.S.). The Ultra Religious would go with the left if it were the only option, but then Herzog would most likely lose Lapid’s secular Yesh Atid. Plus, the orthodox would rather be with Bibi if they have a choice.
And they do, by the Orthodox not joining, Herzog and Livni would have to take the unprecedented step of inviting Arab Knesset members, many of whom hate Israel, hate Jews and support the PLO. Out of desperation to form a government, Herzog and Livni have not ruled this out. But the minute they bring in these anti-Israel parties, I am quite sure they will lose Kooluna (8) and most likely, Yesh Atid (12) as well.
In other words, the only way they can form a coalition is to include enemies of the state of Israel and that just ain’t gonna fly!
So, the President[i] will call up Bibi and give him an opportunity to form a collation. See those circled in red in the picture? Bibi will, sadly, bring the Orthodox into his coalition, reversing the progress of the last two years. Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party will have to deal with this, even though they were the ones (with Yesh Atid) who insisted that religious serve in the army and get jobs. Yisrael Beytenu will join. Koolanu will as well, provided that Bibi gives the Finance Ministry to their leader, Moshe Kahlon, along with great powers to make reforms (this is good!).
Bibi stays PM with 64 seats.
Wait! The only potential stickler here is if Yachad, a new religious party that splintered from Shas, doesn’t get past the 4 seat threshold. In the polls, they are right on it. If they fall below they lose all their seats, Bibi’s loses those 4 partners. However, that 3.25% (4 seats) will be spread around to the other parties, based on their own results, giving at least 2 seats, most likely, to Bibi’s coalition—still keeping him at 62, with 1 seat to spare!
Having said all that, about 12% of Israelis are still undecided. My personal opinion is that Moshe Kahlon will be the recipient many of those votes. Even his Kooluna party winning 8 seats he is in the most powerful position. He is someone who could serve with the right or the left, and neither group can form a coalition without him, hence he is both red and yellow. If goes from 8 seats to 12 seats by Tuesday, then his role as kingmaker will only be strengthened.
In fact he holds all the cards. After the elections, he will probably be the first one that the President calls. Once Kohlan decides whether he will go with Bibi or Herzog, it’s over. Of course he will take his time, seeking as many concession for his party as possible—which, in my opinion is good, as his party cares most about fixing our economy, and all bets are that he choose Bibi.
And yet somehow, I still believe that God is in control of this mess I call home.
[i] The president is not like the U.S. president, but oversees procedures in the Knesset.