On 17th March will Israel have voting for new Knesset and it seems to be creating very interesting scenarios for future. Last polls show that now there is a real possibility to replace PM Netanyahu with centre-left option. Centre-right Likud is losing elections to Zionist Union which is a new combination of Isaac Herzog’s Labor party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah. When PM Netanyahu made decision about early elections he or most analysts hardly were supposing so big change. It remains to see if possible win of Zionist Union is enough for centre-left led government which could boost Israeli-Palestinian peace process to new track.
According to the last polls Zionist Union is getting 24-26 Member of Knesset while the ruling Likud only 21 or less and its right-wing ally Habayit Hayehud 11-12 MKs. A new center-right party – Kulany – with its popular leader, ex-Likud minister Moshe Kahlon might get nine MKs and the secular populist party Yesh Atid 12-13 seats..
Yisrael Beiteinu is now in the danger zone as FM Avigdor Lieberman’s party barely crosses the electoral threshold and will get only four-five seats if any. By contrast, both Meretz and Yahad have improved their positions, exceeding the electoral threshold and getting five-six seats. The religious parties tend to be keeping their positions. Following the raising of the electoral threshold the main Arab parties – Balad, Hadash, the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, Ta’al and the United Arab List – agreed to run on the same list in the election, this Joint List, could increase turnout amongst Arab voters to 56%, 10% higher than in the 2013 elections. However, the more hardline northern branch of the Islamic Movement opted to boycott the elections, along the Abnaa el-Balad (Sons of the Village) movement. One interesting detail is that Kadima party is not running in this election at all.
One should make note that the margin of error in Israeli polls is quite high – some four per cent up or down. However if the winner is ZU so there is a huge challenge to form new government – actually putting together a coalition will be very difficult. Herzog would have to persuade parties like Meretz and Yisrael Beiteinu to sit together, and convince one or more Haredi parties to cooperate with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid. Arab parties probably prefer centre-left government more than other alternatives.
Solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not on top of the agenda in this elections . However the new government will have its impact to peace process to one way or other. In infograph below there is positions of parties related to main issues of Israeli-Palestianian conflict. Credits for the figure belong to MEMO –Middle East Monitorille.
My forecast is that if Zionist Union can form the new government there will be improvement with Israeli-Palestinian peace process based on two-state solution. If Herzog and Netanyahu create unlikely joint government so probably nothing new with this issue will be invented. If the new government is right-wing dominated so then there is possibility that Israel will carry out some unilateral actions such as officially annex main settlements to Israel.