OPINION Gabriel Haritos: Israeli Parliamentary Elections: Fermentations and collaborations going ahead

The leader of the small “Zehut” (“Identity”) party, Moshe Feiglin, and Benjamin Netanyahu have announced that the former party is joining Likud.

            By Gabriel Haritos*

The leader of the small “Zehut” (“Identity”) party, Moshe Feiglin, and Benjamin Netanyahu have announced that the former party is joining Likud. The public promise made by Netanyahu: Feiglin is to get a cabinet post and legislation to legalize medicinal cannabis and to allow the legal import of cannabis – while loosening soft drug legislation (which is probably unnecessary since police measures to curb the use of “recreational drugs” have, tacitly, in recent years, been rendered useless, as is common knowledge).

Yet another withdrawal from the electoral race has, at the same time, become an extension of Likud’s electoral base – provided the broader electorate of the center-right votes for this, of course. It is the second such absorption in a row after the identical move by the small center-right party of then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and leader of the “Kulanu” party).

These party fermentations in the center-right and the effort to expand Likud’s electorate come to limit Netanyahu’s need to seek post-election cooperation with his former government partner, Avigdor Lieberman, as Likud approaches the possibility of 61 of the Knesset’s 120 seats.

Parliamentary practice, general electoral law and Likud’s electoral power make Likud’s self-reliance impossible. However, as Lieberman’s “Israel Beitenu” party appears in the polls as a regulator – and its leader’s strained personal relationship with Netanyahu – seem to be the two facts pushing Likud to prepare other “easier” alternative right-wing alliances. After all, Lieberman’s stated goal is to form a national unity government partnering with center-left “Blue and White” and Likud. On the other hand, with the possible exception of Benny Gantz, the other “Blue and White” party partners, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon, do not seem willing to partner with Likud, which will continue to be led Netanyahu who is shadowed by allegations of involvement in cases of corruption.

However, fermentations and collaborations seem to be going ahead.

Parties have the option of concluding cooperations on collective seat arrangements in the Knesset to be elected in the September 17 election, by September 6. So next week will present a clearer picture of the electoral map, and who will ultimately be the party leader most likely to receive the mandate from the country’s president to form a coalition government, after the official announcement of the results.

As for polls: Everything shows that the difference between Likud and Blue and White will be as small as in the 9 April 2019 elections. – at least so it seems for the time being.

*Gabriel Haritos Ph.D., Researcher, The Ben Gurion Research Institute, Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Senior Fellow, Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs