A Fourth Election Would Be a Disaster for Israel's Left

Israel Harel
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A protester holds a sign during a protest against Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Oct. 31, 2020.
Israel Harel

The Zionist left has made many ideological, political and organizational mistakes in recent decades. These have led it to shrink, atrophy and lose its way.

The result was its loss of the country’s leadership and the rise of the biggest swindler in the country’s history to years in power. But as this adrift bloc drags us to a new election, its chain of errors has reached a peak.

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Despite Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz’s accurate remarks about the dire state of the country, the operative political rationale for dissolving the Knesset isn’t at all clear. After all, if an election is held, the left’s declared goal – ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – would founder on the rocks of reality.

According to all the polls of the past half year, Netanyahu would achieve in the next election what he failed to achieve in the three previous ones – the ability to form a rightist government that would let him do as he pleases with the country, and perhaps even get his trial canceled.

Based on these polls, the “anyone but Bibi” bloc would number at most 56 to 58 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. It would include the savior du jour, Gadi Eisenkot, along with the Yesh Atid, Joint List, Kahol Lavan, Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz parties. Even if Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman joins forces with the Arabs’ Joint List – which is utterly unlikely – they would not have enough Knesset seats to form a majority governing coalition.

Netanyahu, in contrast, would be able to form a government of 63 to 64 seats comprised solely of his Likud party, the ultra-Orthodox parties and Yamina. He would also be able to expand this coalition by adding three or four deserters from Kahol Lavan and Yesh Atid – and there will be some. It’s happened before.

Many people are counting on Yamina leader Naftali Bennett to be the man with the power to send Netanyahu packing from the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and back to his own home in Caesarea. But even if the Messiah arrives and Eisenkot, Lieberman, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid and even Meretz agree to crown Bennett as prime minister, the political reality is that even so, a change in government wouldn’t be feasible. Without the Joint List, a handover of power is virtually impossible.

Moreover, even with the Joint List, it’s politically impossible for Bennett to lead the revolution, because his partners in Yamina wouldn’t allow it. His base is the religious Zionist community, most of which isn’t built for a coalition with Meretz, or with parts of Yesh Atid, Kahol Lavan and Eisenkot’s future party. Nor are these parties built to make Bennett their leader, or to sit in a coalition with Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich and his ilk.

Since Bennett could not join forces with the left, or even the center-left, he would be forced, despite his impassioned rhetoric against Netanyahu, to crown him as prime minister once again. That means Netanyahu would head a stable coalition of rightists and the ultra-Orthodox in which Yamina would get several key portfolios, such as defense, justice, finance and transportation.

To remain in power, Netanyahu would give it all of the above. And that will assuage the anger of most Yamina members over his failure to build in Jerusalem and his squandering of the opportunity to apply sovereignty to the settlements in Judea and Samaria.

His continuation in power would cause great despair and loss of hope among the Zionist left. Its resentment would intensify, as would its divisions, and how it would end nobody knows.

Therefore, even though this is a terrible government the likes of which we’ve never seen before and even if the current coalition is intolerable, it’s better than what the country could anticipate if it were to be dismantled. After all, it would be replaced by a government in which even the few checks that restrain Netanyahu would disappear.

The obvious conclusion is that the people who are dragging us into holding a new election must halt the process immediately. It’s still possible to sober up.

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