The day after elections is always the most fun. That's when all the amateur pundits get to speculate about who will make up the next coalition. I did that after the 2009 elections, and if I may say so myself, I thought I did pretty well. Here's a list of the things I called right:
- About Labor: "Ehud Barak has stated that he's expecting to be in the opposition, but I don't think he'd say no to any opportunity to be part of anyone's coalition... if he could hang on to a ministry - any ministry - by signing up for a Likud coalition, I don't think Netanyahu's diplomatic or economic agenda would faze him much. He might have more of a problem convincing his fellow MKs to come along for the ride..." And so it was. Barak surprised everyone else by leading Labor into a coalition with Likud, but halfway through the term, Labor split in half.
- About Kadima: "Kadima is not equipped to be an opposition party, and my prediction is that if they are not at least part of this government, they will be destroyed in the next election by the comeback of the more ideologically motivated Labor and Meretz." OK, according to the provisional results, they hung on to existence by their fingernails, with 2 seats. And the votes from the army might yet push them off the edge. But still... pretty much spot on.
- Livni would lose out in the coalition negotiations game to Netanyahu, mostly owing to her having burned her bridges with Shas.
So, having established my credentials from past performance, I now present my analysis of the first 2013 Knesset elections. (It's entirely possible we may be back at the polls later this year!)
Starting with the facts of seat allocations:
- Likud-Beiteinu: 31
- Yesh Atid: 19
- Labor: 15
- Bayit Yehudi (BY): 11
- Shas: 11
- UTJ: 7
- Meretz: 6
- Livni: 6
- Kadima: 2
- Arabs: 12
Everyone in the mainstream media (MSM) makes a big hoo-ha about the Left and Right blocs being evenly balanced at 60 each. Utter nonsense, from 2 perspectives:
- The Arab parties are not part of any bloc, inasmuch as they cannot be included in any coalition. Even the Lefties might briefly flirt with the idea of surprising everyone and making the first ever coalition that includes the Arab parties, but they'll drop that idea as soon as they consider what will happen the first time Israel has to respond to a security threat. If the Arab parties focused more on issues concerning the civil rights of Israeli Arabs and less on furthering the goal of destroying Israel as a Jewish state, there might have been something to talk about...
- Shas and UTJ are not part of any bloc, either. Economically speaking, they are much closer to Labor than Likud. The only issue they have with the Left is the anti-religious slant of most Leftist parties. Shelly Yecimovich, however, has been mostly conciliatory, and I thought her explicit refusal to demonize Haredim was a very dignified stand. Theoretically, she could form an alliance with them.
So I'm not going to analyze these results in terms of "blocs", but rather interests. Let's see where that leads us.
- Likud: This was the second consecutive electoral humiliation for Netanyahu. In both 2009 and 2013 he started the campaign with the wind at his tail, and twice now he has led the Likud into a situation where they have won by an embarrassingly narrow margin. He needs a very stable coalition now, because if his government collapses mid-term, the knives will be out for him in the Likud. Moshe Feiglin is a MK now. If Feiglin could take 33% of the Likud primary vote (before blatant cheating in the official vote count took it down to 24%) without even being a MK, Netanyahu knows he will be facing a very serious challenge next time around. For this reason, he may be prepared to offer much more than he would otherwise have wanted to to other parties in order to get a big coalition.
- Yesh Atid: Another one-hit-wonder party takes the political scene by storm. I give Yair Lapid a lot more credit than most other right-wing commentators; I don't think he's as rabidly anti-Haredi as his late father, and I actually do believe he has some ideals. He's a pragmatist, not a Lefty, not a Righty, which I think makes him an obvious coalition partner for Netanyahu. He's done the math, and knows that the Left can't form a government without Likud, and he wants to make a difference in government, so he will want to cut a deal with Bibi. But he has some compatibility issues in the coalition. His flagship issue was equality in bearing the burden of civic responsibility. That puts him at direct odds with Shas and UTJ. He has more seats than Shas and UTJ put together, so he's in a position to make serious demands. If he's in government, it is very unlikely Shas or UTJ will be.
- Labor: Silly, silly Shelly painted herself into a corner by publicly insisting she would not join a Likud-led government. She'll have major egg on her face if she backtracks now. Being that she is otherwise a very sincere person who means what she says, she will be the Leader of the Opposition.
- Bayit Yehudi: Will unquestionably be in the coalition. The math doesn't work otherwise. With 31 Likud + 19 Yesh Atid + 11 BY, there's your majority of 61. But too close for comfort. And any one party could bring down the government. Bibi needs more partners than that.
- Shas: As mentioned before, there's an incompatibility issue with Yesh Atid. Frankly, Likud is closer to Yesh Atid, ideologically speaking, than to Shas. The only way they will be able to get into government is by making compromises on things like army service and separation of synagogue and state. The nature of Shas is to fight rather than compromise, so I reckon it's the opposition for them.
- UTJ: They're generally more moderate than Shas, but still, I find it hard to envision how they will be able to compromise on their core issues of keeping Haredim out of the army and the workforce. Plus, they usually go hand in hand with Shas, so I also call them in the opposition.
- Tzipi Livni: The most delusionally egoistic politician in the country, she won't join Bibi's coalition without a huge price tag, like being named Deputy Prime Minister or something like that. Even her piffling 6 seats won't tame her demands. There will be talks, but they won't get anywhere. Bibi wants more support from somewhere to shore up his government, but the cost of having her on board will be too much to tolerate. She won't last long in the opposition, either - before the next elections she will huffily resign from the Knesset and go back into political retirement... before her next grand announcement of yet another comeback... yaaawn....
- Meretz: Too far left to consider. Next, please.
- Kadima: At this writing, Shaul Mofaz is still not breathing any sighs of relief, because the votes from the army could yet push him back below the entry threshold for the Knesset. But assuming he gets in, he knows his only chance of political survival will be to get some position of prominence in the coalition. His price will be very cheap, and Bibi will take him. Plus, he has the added benefit of being a "Center Left" party... and Lapid promised he wouldn't join the coalition without another "Center Left" party. Houston, we have synergy.
So my final prediction is that the coalition will be Likud, Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi and Kadima. Bibi may make overtures to a few others, and it's not out of the bounds of possibility that another party or two will be enticed to join, but unlikely.