The 2021 Israel election takes place on 23 March, and this is a road the Israeli people have been down recently.
There has been not one, not two, but three prior elections in the past two years. 2019 saw Benjamin Netanyahu lead his Likud Party to the polls twice, and 2020 saw a third election. As the fates would have it, there was further instability due to trouble passing a budget, and a fourth election since 2019 is underway.
What does this election have in store? We know for one thing that the individual party seat counts will be very different. This is because the Blue and White alliance led by Benny Gantz in the first three elections has split. Two of its three member parties left the alliance, so Yesh Atid and Telem are running as solo acts, as is now Blue and White. This will have the almost certain effect of Gantz not leading one of the two largest parties following the vote.
The Joint List, a coalition of Arab parties, has also split. Ra’am is going it alone this time and it took four seats out of their total.
In sum, there are 15 parties in the outgoing Knesset, and of those running now, every one may prove crucial when it comes to stitching together a majority coalition. As a reminder, no party has ever won a majority government in Israel, and with proportional representation and a flourishing multi-party democracy, we won’t see one any time soon.
The Three Previous Elections
Election #1: 9 April 2019
Likud and Blue and White tied with 35 seats each. The Labor Party was nearly wiped out as Blue and White took the center-left away. Yisrael Beiteinu would not join the Likud government which contained several Orthodox parties; Likud was therefore not able to form a majority coalition. The Knesset was dissolved before Gantz was handed a mandate to govern.
Election #2: 17 September 2019
Both Blue and White and Likud lost seats, but Gantz’s alliance finished one seat ahead of Netanyahu, 33 to 32. Yisrael Beiteinu and the Joint List both gained. Much like in the April 2019 election, Netanyahu could not form a government coalition, but as the incumbent, he got the first bite of the proverbial apple again.
Election #3: 2 March 2020
Likud gained seats while Blue and White stayed still, giving us a slightly more conclusive but still very shaky election result. Netanyahu’s party won 36 to Blue and White’s 33. Wanting to avoid a possible fourth election, Netanyahu and Gantz worked out a grand coalition deal, but this lasted less than a year.
Why Is The 2021 Israel Election Happening?
When we last left off with Israel as above, the two major parties had worked out a coalition deal. It was a power-sharing agreement similar to what happened in Ireland, where Likud and Netanyahu got the premiership first, and then Blue and White would see Gantz become prime minister. However, an Israeli government must get a budget through the Knesset, and if they are unable to do so within a certain time frame, it is tantamount to an automatic vote of non-confidence and the government is dissolved. This is what happened late in 2020, prompting the 2021 vote.
2021 Israel Election Analysis
Do not get too hung up on this party vs. that party when it comes to Israeli elections. The big picture is what bloc is doing better than the other. Likud and its right-leaning friends against Yesh Atid and the parties of the center and the left is more like it.
For example, a recent Channel 12 poll gave Likud 28 seats. That’s not great, but Netanyahu has formed a government with fewer. This poll also gives 12 other parties seats in the Knesset, so it’s time to play some coalition math. Based on the Channel 12 poll, you can work up Likud 28 plus Shas 8, plus UTJ 7, plus Yamina 11, plus 5 for the Religious Zionists. That’s 59 if Netanyahu can pull in all of those parties, which is two short of what he would need. As noted, and it seems as always, Yisrael Beiteinu would have enough seats to get him over the top but they will not join a government with Orthodox parties.
Blue and White may not even get into the Knesset this time, but Yesh Atid does not appear to be making a lot of headway it is own right. They may gain a small handful of seats, but with all those right-wing parties in the mix, this could be tough for them if the polls are correct. Yair Lapid’s best hope of becoming prime minister involves outperforming the polls and wooing a party like New Hope, while also counting on support from the Arab parties and others to the center-left, like Labor. It could happen even if Yesh Atid wins just 18 seats.