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March 2021 Elections IL

Monfort Advisory brief / January 2021
The fact that the country was headed to elections – the fourth in under two years – was a known
fact dating as far back as Gantz’ entrance to a unity government with Netanyahu in early 2020.
To the surprise of no one, Netanyahu did not vacate his seat for Gantz but instead maneuvered
his way into another election, in another attempt to gain his 61 majority, form a government and
pass legislation that will absolve him of his trial. And so, with the next election scheduled for
March 23rd and with about two weeks before the final party lists are to be submitted, here’s
where we are:
● Recent polls show Netanyahu’s Likud to be in the strong lead with about 28-30 seats. In
the absence of a strong rival – a position filled by Gantz in the past 3 rounds – Netanyahu
has no real threat from the opposing ideological camp. His opposition comes from his
own political camp in the form of former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who has left Likud to
form his own party and vowed to not sit under Netanyahu, and, to a lesser extent, Naftali
Bennet, who has yet to vow to not sit under Netanyahu’s government, but has also
refrained from doing so – making him this election’s wild card and, possible “king-maker”.
● Despite Netanyahu’s considerable lead in the polls, no poll has given him the coveted 61
seats needed to form a government. The anti-Netanyahu camp remains slightly larger
than the pro-Netanyahu camp (i.e., those who intend to join Netanyahu’s government),
but this assumes that those who now say they will under no circumstances join Netanyhu
will stay true to their word – unlike Benny Gantz and the Labour Party. The likely outcome
is another stalemate, with neither side winning enough seats to smoothly form a
government and, as usual, several parties that find themselves in the enviable position of
decision-maker. In the past this privilege fell to Lieberman, with Naftali Bennet now
positioning himself as the tiebreaker.
● With Netanyahu’s main opposition being Sa’ar, who has the potential to attract Likud
voters who have had it with Netanyahu, the center-left camp is struggling to find its
footing. Every day seems to bring with it new center-left parties and the political camp is
dissolving and fragmenting rather than putting forward a unified strong opposition to
Netanyahu (similar to Blue and White in the past three elections). In fact, Blue and White
has dissolved into 3 separate parties: Gantz, who is bleeding votes (and members) and is
in tangible danger of not crossing the threshold; Yair Lapid, who has gone back to running
on his own (as of this moment), and Bogie Ya’alon, who has parted ways with Lapid and
is also running solo (and in danger of not passing the threshold). In addition, Lapid’s long standing right-hand man, Ofer Shelach, has left and formed his own party, which is
struggling to find its footing and, unless it merges with another party, is not expected to
gain enough seats.
● Also, on the center-left is a new party by Tel-Aviv’s Mayor, Ron Huldai, which is polling at
single-digits. And of course, Meretz, who is standing solid at about 5 seats, and the Labour
Party, which is not expected to win enough seats if it does not join an existing party. The
prevalent joke is that the center-left has more parties than it does voters, and indeed,
mergers are expected to happen to try and ensure that votes are not wasted on parties
with no chance of crossing the threshold (and, in essence, going to Netanyahu). The likely
mergers, at this moment, are Ofer Shelach and Ron Huldai, but there is nothing certain
with any other party, as of now.
To conclude, there is still room for changes – mainly mergers between smaller parties on the
center-left. But this election seems to be shaping up as a battle between Netanyahu and his
former partners- not Netanyahu and his former rivals.