MK Yair Lapid
MK Yair Lapid

With election day coming on April 9, the polls showed that PM Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the Blue and While of Benny Gantz were still locked in a neck-and-neck race. Amidst this fog of uncertainty, only one surprise development could swing the outcome for Gantz. With Election Day just hours away, one or two seas in the 120-member Knesset may determine who will get first chance at forming a new coalition government. Both Gantz and Bibi were floating around 30 Knesset seats and will require a coalition with other of the smaller parties.

  • Stage 1: After all the votes are tallied, State President, Reuven Rivlin, will meet separately with reps of the various parties. They will inform him who they favor becoming the new Prime Minister.
  • Stage 2: Rivlin will then officially authorize either Netanyahu or Gantz to start holding consultations with potential coalition partners.
  • Stage 3: In return for their support, these parties will demand a political price in future legislation. For example, the Far Right parties will require a commitment for new settlement building on the West Bank, whereas the religious parties will insist on continued exemption for their young men and women from IDF service. This is where the real horse-trading will begin.
Reuven Rivlin
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin

Past President

State President has always picked the party who wins the most Knesset seats first crack at trying to form a new coalition. And here’s the rub – what if Gantz and his Party win more seats than the Likud? It is conceivable that President Rivlin might call on Gantz to try his hand first at building a new coalition. This is what Netanyahu is really worried about.

There has been a wildcard in this hectic coalition process. Gantz, in return for the amalgamation with Yair Lapid’s Party, agreed to a so-called “rotation.” In other words, if they won the election, Gantz would first serve as Prime Minister, but in the final year or so he would hand over the premiership to Lapid. Now, get this: opinion polls indicate that their Blue & White Party could win another three seats or so if Lapid agreed to drop out of the PM’s job and let Gantz carry on for the full term. These additional three seats could be crucial in the final election result and give Gantz a victory over Netanyahu, leading to the President calling on the Blue & White Party to try and form the new coalition.

…he would be viewed as a political hero who put his Party before his own political aspirations.

However, Gantz publically prepared that a deal is a deal, and he will not call on Lapid to give up the rotation clause. For his part, Lapid has not indicated that he is not willing to do so. However, he must also be agonizing over the situation. If Blue & White loses to Likud by a couple of seats, Lapid could be blamed. This could also affect Lapid’s political future. If he were to announce that he is willing to give up the “rotation,” and so enable Blue & White to eke out a narrow victory, he would be viewed as a political hero who put his Party before his own political aspirations. Lapid is relatively young, and this would redound to his credit if he decided to run for the premiership in the future. But don’t hold your breath, because time has just about run out.

Over in Likud headquarters, Netanyahu is pulling out all the stops, warning his party-faithful to keep up the campaign. In an effort to draw voters from his Right Wing rivals, Bibi declared that he will annex parts of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) if he carries on as Prime Minister. And as the race draws to a close, US President Donald Trump has also gotten into the act on Bibi’s behalf. Trump noted that the race is very close, and both Bibi and Gantz “are two good people,” and then he noted that Netanyahu had persuaded him to grant US recognition of Israel’s control over the Golan Heights.

P.S. In the previous election of 2015 – Israeli polls predicted that Yitzhak Herzog of Labor would defeat Bibi. Remember who won? Netanyahu.

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