If we go on like this, it will soon be necessary to add one or two General Election dates to the annual calendar of Jewish holidays.
The Israeli Constitution consists of a series of Basic Laws1. The first of these, “The Knesset”, provides for a general election no more than four years after the previous one2, to take place during the month of Cheshvan (ie October or November). Interestingly, the Talmud refers to the month as “Marcheshvan”3, the prefix “mar” meaning “bitter” among other possibilities. In fact, you would need to go back to 1988 to find the last election to take place during Cheshvan, but there has been no shortage of bitterness as Israel holds its fourth general election in less than two years.
The final three opinion polls were published last Friday4 with, as always, a bewildering array of 37 parties5 jostling for attention. One thing is clear: there are a lot of people including, if polling is to believed, 51% of Israelis who do not want Netanyahu to continue as Prime Minister6 whilst there is no candidate who looks as though they are capable of matching Bibi’s popularity. Unless the polls are wildly wrong, Likud is certain to be the largest party and a coalition which did not include Likud would require cooperation between parties which are diametrically opposed on almost any issue other than their mutual desire for a change of Prime Minister.
Naftali Bennett’s Yamina (rightwards) party is in a strong position to finish third, with Bennett himself being a possible challenger should Bibi be forced out. His party is passionately opposed to any “two state solution”7 and it is difficult to see how he could avoid coming into rapid conflict with the Biden administration in the United States which is reportedly keen to make progress on that issue.8 Of course, that has been American policy for decades without having any noticeable effect on the ground.
As Jacob Kornbluh identifies in The Forward9 in his presentation of four possible scenarios, even if there were cooperation between opposition parties to force Netanyahu to resign, it is far from easy to predict what the ultimate outcome would be. Indeed, Kornbluh argues that, were the situation not resolved by November, there is at least an outside chance that Benny Gantz could claim the Premiership under the existing Rotation Agreement.10 It is a mark of how rapidly things change in Israeli politics that, when Gantz signed the coalition agreement he led the second largest party (Kachol Lavan – Blue & White) with 33 seats: less than a year later, they are struggling to stay above the threshold and are predicted to win around 4 seats. Indeed, you would need to go back to a Channel 12 poll last December to even find them on course to get into double figures.11