Israeli Elections and the Move to Moderation

The “guide to parties” link is a clear guide to Israeili political parties and their position in Israeli politics. Click on Guide to parties. It is possible to see how Israel has moved to the center a little and the public is not as right wing as the world thinks. The “guide to parties” is a good and clear introduction to the political parties in Israel. It is also reproduced on my Facebook page. Of course, the surprising winner in the 2013 Israeli elections was the political party termed “yesh atid” (there is a future) headed by a newcomer to the Israeli politics Yair Lapid. Some background on Lapid is here: Yair Lapid background here. His victory was surprising to everyone and it will be interesting to watch him develop, or not, into a political leader. Lapid is considered a lightweight by many and as you can see from the background story he is currently fairly unprepared for serious national leadership.

The graph below shows the political blocs in Israel and their relative power in the new 19 Knesset. Netanyahu did not do as well as people expected and in general the Knesset moved to the center. Israelis have spoken and they are concerned with the right wing’s recalcitrant positions with respect to the peace process and settlers. One should not overstate Netanyahu’s loss. He will remain the most powerful person in the government and holds a slim majority of seats. But there will be more moderate voices and Netanyahu will now have to include and deal with political pressures from the center. The answer to Israel’s most basic problem, their relationship with the Palestinians, does not lie in the discourse of the far right. For the last few years the confidence and even arrogance of the settlers has been bolstered. But this election took them down a notch. Here are a few insights and suspicions I have about what will happen after the gritty work of forming a coalition is complete:

First, Netanyahu will try to form a stable coalition that will not fall apart if one group leaves the governing coalition. Pressure to do something about illegal settlements would cause Bayit Yehudi and its leader Naftali Bennett to bolt the coalition under such circumstances. The entire right wing bloc (see chart )is weaker than in the past and will not get its way very easily. Some of the power of the right-wing blocs will be redeployed to left of center Yesh Atid.

Second, the success of Lapid and Yesh Atid will be fascinating to watch and potentially important. Lapid has been clever so far and avoided alliances that might have hurt him.  I spoke with some Israeli friends who think that Lapid will sell out to Netanyahu quickly and easily , and others who think he will remain more independent. In either case, he is in a position to form a powerful center bloc that can mediate some of the more conservative successes of the past.  Lapid truly appeals to the Israeli center and is in a position to be very influential.

Third, the Arab parties continued to be a puzzle.  Their turnout is low and their influence is less than it should be. If they were more engaged in the political process  and had some increased respect for Israel’s democracy they would get more from their government. Of course, the Israeli right concludes that they are oppositional for a reason, which is to contribute to the failure of the political system and Israel in general.

Still, actual change will be slight. Netanyahu will form his third government and the coalition will be reasonably close to what it already is. We will have to keep our eye on Netanyahu to see whether he pivots toward the center or keeps his conservative coalition and moderates some of his positions. My guess is that there will not be much new under the sun.

Just in Final Results here.

About Donald Ellis

Professor Emeritus at the University of Hartford.

Posted on January 28, 2013, in Israel, Political Parties and Elections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Israeli Elections and the Move to Moderation.

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