It’s open season (maybe even the silly season) for prognosticators of Israel’s upcoming elections. J.J. Goldberg, for example, has seemingly reversed his lament of the other day with a long and intricate examination of how Netanyahu’s Likud could either come in second or third on March 17. But if he comes in second (which now seems possible if Livni runs on a joint list with Labor), J.J. sees how he could still find it easier to cobble together a majority coalition — as he did in 2009, when he came in second to Livni’s Kadima party — than Labor’s leader, Isaac “Buji” Herzog. Goldberg indicates that a strengthened Labor ticket, with Livni, would take votes away from other center-left forces, mainly Lapid’s party and Meretz. Goldberg’s unstated implication is that the center and left need to coalesce in a broader unified bloc, as advocated by Uri Avnery.
And for another (somewhat dizzying) view of plausible scenarios, there’s Mazal Mualem writing in Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse:
. . . the predominant assessment is that after the next election, there will be only small and mid-sized parties in the Knesset, without a single large party. These elements, combined with the emerging anti-Netanyahu coalition, make the upcoming elections entirely unpredictable. Ostensibly, even the head of a mid-sized party could cobble together a coalition and be appointed prime minister if that person can put all the pieces together. For instance, even with just 10 seats, Liberman can bring together Lapid, Herzog from the Labor Party and the ultra-Orthodox, and become prime minister.
Another possible scenario is a rotation agreement over the premier’s seat between the heads of two mid-sized parties, who manage to put together enough seats to block Netanyahu from forming a coalition. Two potential party heads to do this are Herzog and Liberman, with the latter signaling of late that he is moving from the right to the political center. What is certain, however, is that both Liberman and Herzog believe that becoming prime minister lies within the realm of possibility for them — and they have good reason to believe that, too.
. . . This is just the beginning of one of the strangest election campaigns that Israel has ever seen. Unlike the previous election, in which it was obvious that Netanyahu would continue to serve as prime minister, and unlike all the other, earlier elections — in which two outstanding candidates competed with each other over the post — this time around there is a real chance that after March 17, Netanyahu could find himself out of office. At this point, it remains unclear as to who will take his place. Such a situation has never been seen before.
Perhaps looking more soberly and somberly at Israel’s electoral map is PPI’s former executive director, Ron Skolnik, writing at the Jewish Currents website. He discourses with some amused detachment, but also registers how bad a prime minister Netanyahu has been, reminding us of the high stakes riding on this new electoral contest:
. . . Making a name for himself as a diplomat at the UN and an expert in foreign affairs, he has, as prime minister, alienated world leaders and plunged Israel’s international standing to new lows. And whereas, as a first-term prime minister in 1996, he accepted -– albeit grudgingly –- the Oslo Accords he inherited, his encore performance in 2009 was something else entirely: He summarily refused to follow up on Ehud Olmert’s peace initiative, and immediately rescinded Israel’s agreement to the Annapolis Understandings on which his predecessor’s negotiations were based.
While Begin and Sharon ultimately faced down the forces of the far right, Netanyahu has appeased them at the expense of erstwhile moderate allies. With Netanyahu at its helm, the Likud has seen the likes of theocrat Moshe Feiglin and assorted xenophobes and hardliners gain prominence . . .
And while Prime Minister Netanyahu has swallowed the insults hurled at him –- during wartime, no less -– by militant coalition partner Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-annexation Jewish Home party, and turned a blind eye to the dangerous provocations of right-wing MKs, he found Lapid’s and Livni’s public disagreements with him grounds for discharge. Netanyahu has now doubled down on his alliance with Bennett, their two parties moving swiftly to sign a surplus-vote-sharing agreement.
. . . Once known as a leader who talked tough, but whose penchant for caution made him resist military adventures, he led Israel into summer 2014’s ultimately indecisive “Operation Protective Edge.” The operation morphed into a devastating seven-week Gaza war that was brought on, some claim, by his own blunders and lies. In the midst of the war, moreover, he walked back his ostensible commitment to a two-state solution, emptying his much ballyhooed Bar Ilan Speech of any meaning. And he made it a priority in recent weeks to throw his full weight behind an alarming “Jewish Nation” bill that deprioritizes democracy and equality . . .