The upcoming Israeli election will bring no alternative to Likud

With the Israeli legislative election, scheduled for the 9th of April, quickly approaching, the Economist has sparked a discussion on whether a united left could become a realistic challenge against another Likud-led government. Could the opposition parties surpass the individual ambitions of their leaders, unite and defeat the long-standing front-runner?

According to Professor Shugart, this scenario is highly unlikely. It is dubious that a united opposition could muster the required number of votes to form a majority in the Knesset. Moreover, deep-rooted divisions in the agendas of opposition parties are bound to prevent the formation of such broad alliance. In his blog post, Professor Shugart carefully describes which parties may or may not be expected to be partners in the same governing coalition. We use that information, along with current poll results, to forecast possible coalition scenarios and power distribution for the next Israeli government.

First, we exclude the Joint List (JL) and Ta’al (Ta) from any possible coalitions due to their pro-Arab and anti-Zionist orientation. Neither of these two parties is expected to join a coalition of other Israeli parties, or facilitate a minority government, even if offered such an opportunity.

As far as Likud (Li) is concerned, the leading political force in the Israeli government stands strong according to current polls. However, it faces several challenges. Current coalition partners of Likud are losing electoral support, while Netanyahu, its leader, has to deal with corruption charges. In this context, several parties have announced that they will not join a coalition with Likud. These are the Labor party (La), Meretz (Me) and Gesher (Ge). The leader of the Labor party, Avi Gabay, also called for Yesh Atid (YA) and Hosen Yisrael (HY) to publicly denounce joining a Likud-led government – to no avail at this point, which most likely indicates that those parties do not rule out a possible role as future coalition partners.

Further constraints on the composition of a government coalition come from deep-seated incompatibility among some secular and religious parties. Specifically, we do not expect Yesh Atid (YA), Yisrael Beiteinu (YB) or Meretz (Me) to be in the same governing coalition with Shas (Sh) or United Torah Judaism (UTJ).

Based on the above constraints we obtain the following forecast. (Methodology: stability analysis of coalition structures according to the conditional Shapley value.)

First, it is worth noting that all winning coalitions would include Likud. At this point, we do not see any other party that represents a threat to Netanyahu’s leadership. The two most stable, and hence likely, scenarios in our forecast are a secular coalition of Li + YA/Ha + (YB) + NR, and a coalition supported by the ultra-orthodox parties, with Li + Ku + (Sh) + (UTJ) + HY. In both scenarios, Likud is expected to secure 7 cabinet members apart from the prime minister (assuming the same number of members as in the 34th Cabinet).

The former scenario, apart from Likud, includes Yesh Atid (now in coalition with Hatnuah), the New Right, and Yisrael Beiteinu as an external supporter. In such coalition Yesh Atid and Hatnuah would contribute 8 cabinet members, while the New Right would would contribute 5. In the second scenario, Kulanu and Hosen Yisrael would contribute 3 and 10 members to the new cabinet, respectively, while Shas and United Torah Judaism would provide external support.

It is important to emphasize that the situation in Israel remains very dynamic. Using a second recent poll, with slightly different support levels for the various parties, confirms that the two most likely scenarios remain a coalition with secular partners, and a coalition supported by the ultra-orthodox parties: yet, the composition and power distribution of the respective coalitions is no longer the same. Both would be led by Likud (PM + 6 cabinet members), and include Hosen Yisrael (13 cabinet members). The secular coalition would also include Yesh Atid and Hatnuah (1 cabinet member), and external support of Yisrael Beiteinu. By contrast, in a coalition which includes the ultra-orthodox parties we would expect United Torah Judaism to contribute 1 cabinet member, with Shas and Jewish Home providing external support.

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