• Billboard on the back of a Jerusalem bus for the Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu | Photo: Flash90 by Yonatan Sindel

Backgrounds to the Upcoming Israeli Elections

Yochanan Visser - 26 October 2022

We are one week away from the Israeli parliamentary elections and again it looks like the political crisis in the Jewish State will continue afterwards. The latest opinion polls show that neither opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, nor the outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid will be able to form a stable majority government.

The right-wing bloc
Netanyahu’s Likud party will however remain the largest party, with expected 31 seats in the new Knesset, but the right-wing bloc will probably remain at 60 seats. However, to form a majority government, at least 61 seats are needed. Likud fell back in the latest polls from 35 to 32 or 31 seats, while the other right-wing parties, with the exception of the extreme right-wing party of Tzioni Dati (Religious Zionism), have remained the same.

“Netanyahu has reverted to a more conservative campaigning approach and is touring a bus through Israel, to deliver speeches in various cities”

Tzioni Dati, headed by Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir seem to benefit from Likud’s declining number of followers. This decline in turn seems to be related to the internal conflicts in Israel’s largest party and with mistakes in Likud’s campaign. Netanyahu has reverted to a more conservative campaigning approach and is touring a bus through Israel, to deliver speeches in various cities.

Lapid’s bloc
Lapid’s centre-left bloc will win only 55 seats. The Yesh Atid party of the outgoing prime minister will fall down from 25 to 23 seats according the opinion polls mentioned above. Lapid is now trying to appease the Arab parties by promising them he will change legislation defining Israel’s Jewish character. However, it seems unlikely that a recurrence of the previous formation will take place.

The formation of the previous government of outgoing former prime minister Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid was made possible by allowing the Arab party of Mansour Abbas to take its place in the government. It gave that party too much power and it regularly used political blackmail to reverse the government’s policy. Furthermore, the composition of the Bennett-Lapid government, made up of parties with opposing political agendas, was instrumental for its untimely demise.

On paper the deal was to not put controversial matters, like the Palestinian problem and the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria, on the government’s agenda. That was a nice idea, but in practice it turned out differently. When the Israeli army was forced to launch a major operation against the vastly increased terrorist activities of the Palestinian Arabs in April of 2022, tensions immediately began to rise in the coalition of Bennett and Lapid. The extreme-left party of Meretz almost aligned with Ra’am and stood up for the Palestinian Arabs. This while Bennett’s own party Yamina and Yisrael Beiteinu, led by Avigdor Liberman, supported harsh action against the Palestinian terror.

“The average voter seems not to be impressed by Lapid’s performance in the maritime accord with Lebanon nor his announcement that food prices will go down”

Influence of  the maritime accord with Lebanon
While the present wave of Palestinian terror continues, one would expect that this would influence the voters, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Also Lapid’s attempts to influence the Lebanese government about the maritime economic zones in the Mediterranean Sea, via a controversial agreement seem to have failed. This accord, reached under American pressure and that enables Lebanon to drill for gas too in its coastal waters, was especially controversial because Lapid is an outgoing prime minister. In that capacity Lapid could take decisions about strategic matters, critics of the accord say. Anyway, the average voter seemed not to be impressed by Lapid’s performance in this matter nor his announcement that food prices will go down from the first of January next.

Influence of high prices
These prices were among the highest of the OECD-countries and had risen sharply in the last year again. Last week it was announced that a considerable number of producers of food products in Israel want to raise the prices by as much as twenty percent. Also the announcement that the Dutch supermarket chain of Spar and the French chain of Carrefour will enter the Israeli food market, doesn’t seem to be going to impress the voting behaviour on November 1.

The average Israeli voter is sceptical about these kinds of announcements during the election campaign, because this has happened repeatedly and after the elections almost nothing changed. Furthermore,  the dire situation in the Israeli housing market seems to influence the voters’ behaviour. Especially many young Israelis have come to realize in recent years that they are hardly able to buy a house. This because of the sharp rise in prices of more than twenty percent for houses and apartments and an increase in property tax.

“The average Israeli seems to be tired of the series of five elections in the last 3,5 years”

Electoral fatigue
The issues dealing with Israel’s security seem to carry less weight in the upcoming elections than they always did. The average Israeli seems to be tired of the series of five elections in the last 3,5 years. Therefore it seems crucially important how high the participation rate will be. During the last elections especially the right-wing voters in the big cities didn’t come to the polling station. It is predicted now that especially the Arab voters will stay at home. This after the Arab voting list fell apart and because of dissatisfaction with Ra’am’s policies.

About the Author