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"Two Jews - three opinions" is an often quoted proverb and, like most stereotypes, it has some basis in fact. The forensic analysis of evidence, word by word, has been the basis of Torah study for centuries. However, in Israeli politics, the number of political parties and the range of positions they hold can be bewildering. The "Judean People's Front"; the "People's Front of Judea" etc, as famously parodied in Monty Python's "Life of Brian" are not without more than a grain of truth, either with reference to the time of the Roman Occupation or to the modern day.
President Reuven Rivlin will be given the official election results tomorrow (Wednesday) and, as head of state, it will be his very difficult task to find someone capable of heading a coalition government. Clearly, Prime Minister Netanyahu is the man in possession and the evidence suggests that he is in no mood to bring an end to his long career.
It looks as though Mansour Abbas, leader of Ra'am, is likely to become the first Muslim government minister since Raleb Majadele in 2009 and, indeed, part of Ra'am's message to Arab voters this year was that the party is willing to enter into coalition and bring Arab concerns to the Cabinet table rather than remaining in opposition. Ra'am has reportedly been in talks with parties of both left and right, with prominent rabbi Yitzhak Shilat speaking out in favour of the Jewish religious parties Shas and UTJ accepting Arab support and working to build bridges. On most social issues, the Haredi parties and the Islamists of Ra'am share similar conservative ideologies and, as Shilat says, there may be room for pragmatic cooperation.
Last week, the Religious Zionist party ruled out any cooperation with Ra'am, with the greatest stumbling block being the seeming impossibility of any alliance between Ra'am and the highly controversial Itamar Ben Gvir whose Otzma Yehudit party ran a joint campaign with the Religious Zionist Party. With Benjamin Netanyahu having unusually made considerable efforts to win Arab support in this election and having previously described Ben Gvir as "not fit" to be a member of Cabinet, much may depend on whether Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich can be persuaded to overcome his instinctive opposition to sitting alongside Abbas.
On the political left, Yair Lapid is the leader of the largest party, Yesh Atid. His efforts to head a coalition have been boosted by the support of Yisrael Beitenu's leader Avigdor Lieberman but the arithmetic involved in getting to a workable coalition is daunting, to say the least. One problem he has, is that the anti-Netanyahu bloc extends from centrist former Likud MKs such as New Hope's Gideon Sa'ar (who has indicated that he could support a coalition in which Lapid and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett rotate the Premiership) all the way through to the political far left such as Ofer Kassif of Hadash. It is almost impossible to see any way that such people and parties of such disparate views could ever form a strong administration. Conflicting reports suggest that Bennett has held discussions with Lapid, despite his pre-election pledge not to support a Lapid-led coalition as indeed did Sa'ar himself.
It's not over yet...