Today I voted in the Israeli election. It gives me great satisfaction to say that. For the first time the number of Jewish voters exceeded six million, a significant number. The Jewish people is able to determine its destiny in its own land. But, there are many considerations that complicate this election, as in any election.
This is written of course before the results are in. If the voter turnout is high that is likely to help the front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, and all during the last days of the campaign Netanyahu has been pleading with his supporters to come out and vote and not believe that their victory is in the bag. So far the turnout (currently at 4 pm at 36%) has been within 1% of the last election in 2015. This would tend to indicate that Likud should do well. By contrast, the main rivals to Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid and their center left Blue and White Party might not be doing so well. Note that turnout in the Arab sector is very low, ca. 10% so far, which reduces the likelihood that an Arab Party will exceed the threshold of 3.25% of the total votes. Which small parties (out of a total of 40!) and how many seats they achieve, will make a huge difference in the chess game that becomes the maneuvering to actually form a new coalition government. In the end President Reuven Rivlin will ask the leader of the largest bloc to form the government.
After 10 pm when the polls have closed the exit polls project that the Blue-White Party has a narrow lead over Likud, the three major polls give them 37 seats to Likud’s 36, 34 and 36. Nevertheless Gantz has proclaimed that he is the winner! The fact that any newcomer to Israeli politics could even equal Netanyahu who has been in power for 10 years is in itself a victory. On the other hand, Netanyahu has counter-claimed that the right-wing coalition of Likud plus some smaller right wing parties has won, note that he did not claim victory for himself. But, these are preliminary projections of exit polls, so we must wait until tomorrow for the actual votes to be counted and published. Then the President must take the advice of all the Party chiefs who have been elected in order to decide who to ask to form a government. If the blocs are as close as projected there might be pressure for both sides to form a unity government, but where Netanyahu would come in this scenario remains to be seen. Keep tuned.