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3/17/15 Initial Election Results

by Marc Schulman

The results are in. One can say that the Israeli people have spoken. However, as one commentator stated this evening, more accurately – the people have mumbled. The results provide no clear mandate of who the Israeli people want to lead. Netanyahu came back from a low point in the polling; where it seemed his political career might be at an end. Now, (based exit polls) the Likud has as many seats as the Labor party. However, Netanyahu’s rise was at the expense of the other right wing parties (from which he took many of his votes). Based on the results of the exit polls, both the Zionist Camp and the Likud have 27 seats in the next Knesset.

For the average Israeli today was a holiday. Today was one of the rare days on the calendar in this country marking a public holiday that is not a Jewish holiday. Most Israelis took advantage of the beautiful weather to spend a day outside with their families. Others flocked to the open malls. In Tel Aviv the cafes were brimming with people. There was a sense of optimism in the air; optimism that everyone knew might be dashed this evening.

For politicians, today ushered in the last desperate chance to “GET OUT THE VOTE”. The two major parties both followed the same script, i.e. talking to their base, trying to convince them that the ship is sinking and the other side has the advantage … unless they come out and vote. Prime Minister Netanyahu stepped over a line, when came out with a warning – Arab Israelis were being bused to vote in large numbers, and as a result, there is a need now more than ever for his supporters to cast their ballots for him.

Over the course of the last few days Benjamin Netanyahu pulled out every trick in his book to appeal to his base – including a public announcement stating he rejects the idea of a Palestinian State. Instead of appealing to the center, as most politicians do in a general election, Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to veer right for the last few days instead. It worked Benjamin Netanyahu managed to take voters from both Bayit HaYehudi (which got only 8 seats, as opposed to the 12 seats they held in the previous Knesset) and Yisrael Beteinu (who dropped to 5 seats from 11 seats in the last Knesset).

Meanwhile, Yitzhak Herzog was stuck in a similar, but slightly different dilemma. MK Herzog needed to make sure he received enough of the votes from the left to give him more votes than the Likud party; while being continually cognizant of the fact that IF the Meretz party failed to reach the threshold of votes required to enter the Knesset, the left would lose those votes. Tonight we see that this approach worked even better than expected. It seems that Meretz ended up with 5 seats – one more than the four required to enter the Knesset.

So where do we stand? Anyone who claims they know for sure is lying. It’s going to be very Kachlon's 10 seats will be key. Whoever Moshe Kachlon ends up supporting will most likely become the Prime Minister. Moshe Kachlon was the Communications Minster under Netanyahu, and left the Likud because he could not get along with Netanyahu. Today the Likud used a recording that MK Kachlon made 3 years ago calling on people to vote for the Likud. The Central Election committee stopped the action and fined the Likud. However, it left Kachlon fuming. As a result, who Kachlon is going to support is very unclear. He said tonight that he would wait until Thursday when the official results are in to decide what to do.

Next, each of the parties will make a recommendation to President Rivlin as to who they support to be Prime Minister. Then, it will be up to the President to appoint a party head to try to form a government coalition. That person has 42 days to gain 61 votes in the Knesset to support their government. Usually that person succeeds. Although there have been cases when that person has failed. He can ask for an extension, or the President can appoint someone else to try to form the government. For those who thought that the Israeli election season was over, this is just the end of the first act. Now we enter the second and decisive act – creating a coalition. It might be a right wing government, it might be a left center or it very well might be a coalition of the Likud and the Zionist Camp

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