The Knesset returned and so has the drama. Last week was picklegate and this week?
- The narrative of a collapsing left has dominated Israeli politics since the last election. However, new polling suggests that the center-left bloc may have surpassed the right*. While the Likud maintained its support, all three polls show Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union winning a combined 41 seats (up from around 35 in many previous polls). The shift gave the center-left-Arab coalition* a majority in one of the polls. In other news, Kulanu remains weak and Shas didn’t make it into the Knesset in one of the polls.
- * Frequently, in analyses of polls, the “center-left” coalition includes the Zionist Union, Yesh Atid, the United Arab List and Meretz. The religious parties, Kulanu and Yisrael Beitenu are also considered potential partners for the left. However, much like Bougie Herzog’s aspirations, this approach fails to mesh with reality. The Zionist Union’s leader Avi Gabai has said he will not sit with the Arab List in a government. Furthermore, Gabai quit Kulanu over the appointment of Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman as Defense Minister. Unsurprisingly, both parties have declared that they would never join a ZU led government. The fact remains that it will still be easier for a right wing government to bring in Yesh Atid then for a left wing government to bring in the multiple parties they will need to reach 61. That said, everyone has a price and declarations well before elections could look empty in the future.
- Meanwhile, the current coalition is finding new ways to publicly squabble. Coalition head and short sleeved button down shirt victim MK David Bitan has been trying to rush through a law that would protect sitting Prime Ministers from being investigated except in cases of violent, sexual, security or drug crimes (the law does not apply to investigations already underway and would not protect Bibi from his current problems). Kulanu had already expressed unease with the law and Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked had made clear that she was unhappy with the attempt to rush the law through the legislative process. At the same time, HaBayit HaYehudi would not commit to supporting the bill. In response, Bitan used his power to prevent all coalition members’ legislation from progressing. Eventually, Bitan and Shaked agreed to delay the investigation law for a month, but only after Likud ministers criticized Bitan for trying to instigate a crisis with HaBayit HaYehudi.
- Meanwhile in the opposition, another Zionist Union MK may leave the party. After Arab ZU MK Zoheir Bahloul clashed with leader Avi Gabai over Gabai’s statements that Israel would not necessarily have to evacuate settlements, Bahloul did not come to a Knesset event celebrating the Balfour Declaration. In response, people close to Gabai predicted that Bahloul would not be on the Zionist Union list in the next election. Will Gabai succeed in shaping the ZU as he wants or will the ascension of Gabai, a right wing minister a short while ago, split the party into two?
Totally precise and not arbitrary election date: February 20, 2018 (This prediction is looking very, very shaky. Luckily, I will be able to go back and retcon all my old posts if it doesn’t come to pass).
Runner Up: Zionist Union