Gantz edges ahead in Israeli election

What happened: The latest polls predict that opposition leader Benny Gantz will be the leader of the largest party after Israel’s 2 March election. But he is unlikely to be able to form a 61 seat majority Government.

  • The latest poll on Channel 13 news predicted Gantz’s Blue and White party will win 36 seats, Likud 33 seats, Joint List 14 seats, Labour-Gesher-Meretz 8 seats, Shas 7 seats, United Torah Judaism 7 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu 8 seats and Yamina 7 seats. This would give the centre-left and Joint List bloc: 58 seats, the right-wing-ultra-orthodox bloc: 54 seats.
  • According to this and other recent polls the extreme right wing Jewish Power party is not predicted to win any seats.
  • Party election broadcasts began last night. The Likud attacked Blue and White, suggesting their economic plan would raise taxes and accused them of seeking to create a socialist-communist government.  The Likud highlighted President Trump praising Netanyahu. The Blue and White campaign highlighted former Likud ministers who no longer support the party whilst quoting Netanyahu himself referencing former prime minister Ehud Olmert, saying that “a prime minister up to his neck in corruption investigations has no moral or public mandate to decide crucial issues for the State of Israel.”
  • Last night, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz spoke at an event in Tel Aviv in English telling the crowd: “It’s very important that we return to the bipartisan relationship between Israel and the United States. This is something that Netanyahu, unfortunately, neglected.”
  • In a series of interviews last weekend Gantz insisted he would not invite the Joint List to join his government, as they refuse to recognise the Jewish character of the State.
  • Labour leader MK Amir Peretz, said yesterday that his party would not rule out joining a centre-left government supported from the outside by the Joint List. “We don’t rule out anyone — not ultra-Orthodox and not Arabs,. Our party will be part of the next government even if it is supported by the Arab parties. We have no reason to rule out populations in Israel.”
  • The Health Ministry and Central Elections Committee confirmed yesterday that they are making special arrangements for anyone quarantined because of the Coronavirus to be able to vote in special voting booths.

Context: The polls have consistently predicted little change since the 17 September election, which produced a similar result to the April election.

  • Although Netanyahu has been very active in international diplomacy – launching the Trump Plan, visiting Uganda and meeting the leader of Sudan, support for the Likud has not increased.
  • Netanyahu was hoping to apply Israeli sovereignty to all Israeli settlements and the Jordan valley in an attempt to boost support for Likud and other right wing parties but the US made it clear that no such action should be taken until after the 2 March election.

Looking ahead: Israeli commentators have said the overriding theme in this election is voter apathy. Parties have been reluctant to launch high octane campaigns conscious of the fact that this is the third election in 11 months.

  • Voter turnout will be crucial and the Joint List are hoping for an even higher turnout in Arab communities to beat the 13 seats they won in September. The Likud lost votes in the September election compared to April and it’s likely that slide will continue with Gantz’s party picking up more seats.
  • The polls have however been consistent and neither Gantz nor Netanyahu have a clear route to a 61 seat majority Government. If Netanyahu were to resign then a national unity Government would be possible. Failing that there could be a deal where Yisrael Beitenu agree to join a centre-left Government supported by the Joint List, though that is much less likely.

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