Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the Israeli people tonight maintaining he can not lead the country with the composition of the current government, therefore, he needs elections to form a new government. During the course of the speech (which was widely panned by Israeli political commentators,) Netanyahu claimed that his current government was a failure. He blamed the ministers in his government for that failure, asserting that they were constantly undermining him. Netanyahu contended that the current government had been forced on him. He waxed on wistfully about his previous government that included the ultra-Orthodox.
A little over an hour before his press conference Netanyahu fired both his Finance Minister Yair Lapid and his Justice Minister Tipi Livni asserting “he cannot tolerate the presence of cabinet members who attack government policies”. Livni responded to the dismissal stating that Netanyahu did not have to honesty and courage to fire her in person when they met earlier in the day. Lapid’s reactions were in the same vain.
These firings pave the way for Netanyahu to directly control two of the most important ministries in the coming months, during the period of an interim government. As part of the election process the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) will vote to disband itself in the coming days. During the interim period the government cannot pass any laws. Furthermore, its actions are limited by law. It is expected that the upcoming elections will be held in March. If the past is any guide it will take at least another two months to form a new government. In other words, for the next seven months Israel will not have a fully functioning government.
The Israeli people have reacted in disgust with the events of the past few days. While few citizens were enamored with the current government, even fewer had any interest in new election – just two years after the last elections were held. 51% of Israelis believe that having elections now is bad for Israel. Only 20% of the population thinks that having elections now is a good idea. The expectation is that unless something dramatic happens the next government will be as unstable as this last one – with one possible change – it will likely include the ultra-Orthodox parties. By all accounts, Prime Minister Netanyahu has reached an understanding with the ultra-Orthodox parties to form a coalition after the next elections.
The Israeli electoral system is made up of representatives of different parties, either elected through primaries, or in an increasingly larger number of cases appointed by heads of the party (or by rabbis.) These lists compete in nationwide elections and seats are allocated based on the number of votes received. One of the few pieces of legislation successfully passed during this current government was a law that increased the threshold of votes required to receive seats in the next election. This will force the Arab lists to unite. Expectations are that some of the parties in the Center-Left (such as the Labor party led by Yitzhak “Bu’ji" Herzog and HaT’nua led by Tzipi Livni will unite.) It is possible that Yesh Atid will find a way to join them.
The polls tonight show the Likud party leading in the next election garnering 22 seats; HaBayit Hayehudi led by Naftali Bennet receiving 17 seats, Labor earning 13 seats, Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party is currently slated to win 12 seats, and a new party led by Moshe Kachlon (who left the Likud) is speculated with obtain 12 sets. Predictions show the Yesh Atid party dropping to 9 seats (from 19 seats) and the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi party Yahadut HaTorah getting 8 seats; while Shas, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party and the Left-wing party Meretz each win 7 seats. According to the polls the Arab party of Ram Tal will get 5 seats and the Arab party of Chadash will get 4 seats. Bringing up the rear is Tzipi Livni's party projected to receive 4 seats as well.
Of course the figures above are the product of a snap poll. One thing is crystal clear. The people of Israel are tired. They are profoundly tired of the current situation, and frankly quite tired of having Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Despite these facts, it seems unlikely that a change in this a situation is likely to take place from the coming election, which may result in an even more right wing government than the present one. However, as one commentator remarked today – “Elections are like war … easy to start, but you never know how it will end.”