Israel Election: Netanyahu or Not, the Next Knesset Will Be Overwhelmingly Right-wing

While polling data does not indicate who will be able to form a government, polling suggests 76 of the Knesset's 120 seats will be held by the right

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Bezalel Smotrich and Naftali Bennett, last year.
Bezalel Smotrich and Naftali Bennett, last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

From the final polls conducted before Tuesday's election it is unclear who will be able to form the next government (or whether anyone can at all), but one truth is apparent: the elected Knesset will include a clear majority of right-wing parties.

If the polls are accurate, there will be 76 right-wing lawmakers, whether they will support a coalition Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or are seeking to replace him. Even this number isn’t final. If the United Arab List crosses the electoral threshold, there may be 80 lawmakers who support the right-wing bloc. Of course, if any parties in the anti-Netanyahu bloc, or “bloc for change,” don’t pass the threshold, then the picture will be even more definitive.

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Since 2015, two parties sitting in government coalitions – Kulanu, and later Kahol Lavan – blocked controversial moves to advance a far-reaching right-wing agenda. One can guess that if the future coalition is made up of conservative and ultra-Orthodox parties without any moderating elements, it will renew their ongoing campaign to change the face of Israel, which they neglected over the past two years due to the repeated elections.

In recent years, those promoting a right-wing agenda focused on seven primary goals: creeping annexation of the settlements, laws to alter the Supreme Court, far-reaching reforms for the communications market, persecuting those who support a boycott of the settlements, undermining left-wing organizations, tougher enforcement against asylum seekers and anti-Arab legislation.

This agenda isn’t necessary exclusive to the right side of the political map. Parties now portraying themselves as center-left once supported various right-wing initiatives. Today Yesh Atid may tout its vote against the law to legalize outposts (which was overturned by the High Court of Justice recently) but in the past it voted differently. For example, in a preliminary reading, it voted in favor of a law to expel the families of terrorists, despite the attorney general’s objections.

A Yamina party banner in Sderot, earlier this month.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party can only take pride in initiatives for the future – the very near future. During the campaign it presented a plan to conduct public hearings for Supreme Court candidates, increase supervision of the prosecution and change the attorney general’s role by transferring their authority as head of the prosecution to the state prosecutor.

Moving further right to parties who aren’t trying to appeal to left-wing voters, thid becomes more apparent. The leaders of Yamina, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, have committed to toughen immigration policy and pass an “anti-infiltration law” similar to the one that was tossed in 2018, which would reintroduce the idea of detaining asylum seekers. Along with cracking down on asylum seekers who break the law, Bennett wants to forbid employing them during the first year after they submit an asylum request, hoping that they will be motivated to leave the country.

These are not new initiatives. Right-wing MKs will likely try to resurrect legislation from recent years that was never passed. The most explosive bill would be the “override clause,” which would give the Knesset authority to pass a law overturned by the High Court. Another bill that was attempted and supported by Netanyahu, is the “muezzin law,” aimed at limiting the use of audio systems in mosques. One wonders if it will get another hearing in the coming Knesset, given Netanyahu’s effort this campaign to attract Arab voters.

Although right-wing MKs proved unable to pass many laws, they did have some success, including the law requiring left-wing nonprofit associations to reveal the identity of their donors, and the law permitting the Knesset to impeach sitting MKs, which was meant to intimidate the MKs of the Arab Balad party.

Perhaps their most significant success, at least symbolically, was the basic law specifying Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. To the outrage of the Arab community, the law asserted Israel's identity as a Jewish state and altered the status of the Arabic language. However, the most significant clause in the law, which would have enabled judges to favor the state’s Jewish character over democratic values should the two clash, was omitted in the final version. Since passing the Nation-State Law, politicians, including Netanyahu himself, have promised to “correct the injustice” done to non-Jews through legal amendments that have yet to be advanced.

The outgoing Knesset has 66 right-wing members, 10 less than what the polls are currently predicting. The reason for the predicted increase in support for the right is in part due to "strategic voting” from centrist and left-wing voters whose priority is removing Netanyahu as prime minister over party affiliation or ideology.

It is estimated that 10 to 12 seats worth of voters who identify as left-wing will vote for Bennett, Sa’ar or Avigdor Lieberman, many of whom supported Kahol Lavan previously. Even if these voters achieve in ousting Netanyahu from government, if the polls prove accurate, their "strategic voting" will likely result in a government that almost entirely contradicts their values.

An election ad for Yisrael Beiteinu in Tel Aviv, last week.Credit: Hadas Parush

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