The 2020 Israel election results are as inconclusive as any other Israeli election tends to be, at least in the past year.
For the third time in less than a year, Israel went to the polls to elect a new government. Since last April’s first election, the small nation has been gripped by political deadlock. In part due to the weakening of Benjamin Netanyahu, the longtime prime minister, and the founding of a formidable political opposition, the Blue and White alliance, vote after vote has been too close to call. This upheaval has sparked two unprecedented electoral redos with neither Netanyahu nor Benny Gantz able to form stable coalitions.
How were the (March) 2020 Israel election results different from the April 2019 and September 2019 votes, if at all?
2020 Israel Election Results: Seat Count
Comparison of Recent Israeli Election Results: Seats
|Party||April 2019||Sept 2019||March 2020|
|B & W||35||33||33|
The right-bloc led by Netanyahu controls 58 seats in the Knesset, a few short of an overall majority (61). This is formed by Likud and orthodox religious parties such as Shas. As it has been throughout this process, Yisrael Beiteinu, who were a coalition partner of Likud, will not join forces with a government that has the religious right. Given that the Gantz coalition of left-leaning parties is on just 55, Yisrael Beiteinu is the kingmaker.
Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, is said to support Benny Gantz in his quest to become prime minister, but the Arab-backed Joint List is no fan of Lieberman’s party.1 Any coalition that comes of this strange marriage of parties will likely not last. However, with Lieberman unwilling to support Likud while Netanyahu remains leader, the impasse continues.
What’s Next In Israeli Politics?
There are a number of ways this can go, most of which will lead to more uncertainty:
- Lieberman backs Blue and White, making Gantz prime minister. This bloc would control a narrow majority in the Knesset, but Yisrael Beiteinu would stick out in this collection of Arab, left-leaning, and/or centrist parties. Who knows how long such a coalition would last, or if all members would be fine with its construction.
- Likud and Blue and White work out a “grand coalition” deal. This would result in a more comfortable working majority for the government, except that Netanyahu remaining leader will prevent this from proceeding.
- The Netanyahu bloc woos some unfaithful opposition MKs to cross the floor. Getting three will be difficult, but not impossible.
- Netanyahu steps down and a new Likud leader puts together a coalition. Hard to see this happening, but it was also hard to see three elections happening.
- A fourth election. Nobody wants this, but the clock is ticking once the election happens and the president hands out a mandate.
March 15: Apparent Resolution2
It appears that Israel’s political gridlock will come to an end, at least for now, after almost a year: Yisrael Beiteinu will throw its support behind Blue and White, and Benny Gantz has enough votes to become prime minister. Gantz will receive the mandate and now must test his support in the Knesset. This does not mean he will become prime minister, but he has taken a step towards this happening.
1: Zachary Halaschak, “Israeli opposition parties may unite to deny Netanyahu power,” Washington Examiner, March 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/israeli-opposition-parties-may-unite-to-deny-netanyahu-power)
2: David M. Halbfinger, “Benny Gantz, With Thin Majority, Wins Chance to Form Israeli Government,” New York Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/15/world/middleeast/netanyahu-trial-coronavirus.html)
X: Our library of world elections on Electionarium starts here.