With virtually all the votes counted we have the preliminary picture but the lines are fuzzy and the results produce more questions than answers. Likud is leading the pact with 29 seats with the “Zionist Camp” of Labor and Hatnua following with 24 and the Joint Arab List has 14 seats, followed by Yesh Atid with 11, Kulanu with 10, Jewish Home has 8, the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism tied at 7, Yisrael Beytenu has 6 and Meretz closes out the list with 4 seats and unfortunately Yachad party will be left out. The raw numbers would indicate a huge win for Netanyahu and loss for the “Zionist Camp” falling well behind due to Likud exceeding its lower polling and Labor-Hatnua equaling expectations. A closer look reveals where the Likud came by its higher numbers and it appears that Likud gains came at the expense of largely Jewish Home and potentially prevented Yachad from making threshold. The other obvious change has been that instead of preventing the fragmentation and reducing the number of minor parties the raising of the threshold only served to drive the smaller leftist, anti-Zionist Communist and Post=Modernist parties into a single block under the name of Arab Block and given them two to three additional mandates making Zoabi and Tibi appear all the stronger. These raw results are meaningless until the different parties, unions and blocks make their desires and support clear to President Rivlin producing a clearer picture who should be given first shot at forming a coalition.
The raw data would make Likud out to be the victor and to the victor go the spoils, but what spoils? The name of the game is coalition making and hopefully doing so with in kind minds and supporters of your positions. This means that any seats gained by Likud at the expense of Jewish Home makes the resultant total possessed by the two presumed to be allied parties no different and all the Likud gains from Jewish Home losses as simply rearranging the chairs on either a cruise ship or the Titanic. The truth is that Netanyahu does not really want the religious, Zionist, nationalist allied parties to be the base of his support when forming his coalition. Netanyahu wants to have as much political leeway allowing him to go in whatever direction provides him with the easiest path in the new government. By Netanyahu weakening the standing of Jewish Home, when forming any coalition now would make Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu parties more important and carrying a greater influence than Jewish Home and making Naftali Bennett’s voice virtually powerless and squelched while Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon will be the roaring lions in the government and also place them ahead of Jewish Home in choosing the Ministerial position of power in the cabinet. This will give Netanyahu the leftward freedom to ignore the demands of the Religious Zionists as he desired. Netanyahu’s ploy of assailing Jewish Home voters laying any loss he might face to Hertzog and Livni at their feet just as he had done previously except this time he did so with no apparent loss in voter totals that he faced in 2013.
So now we wait and see who will be chosen to form a coalition first and then suffer through six weeks of excruciatingly boring power plays which we already see Jewish Home and the Zionist and nationalists being mostly sidelined while the personal aggrandizing Yesh Atid and Kulanu parties empowering Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon loudly impressing their demands and thus control over the most critical areas in the next government. Lapid may demand Treasury Minister for himself and two other high position Ministerial position for his main people with Kahlon likely to demand Foreign Minister or Defense Minister and two other major Ministerial positions for his list leaving Jewish Home with second pickings of the scraps for the supporting members and a middle level leftover for Naftali Bennett. The one certainty is that the governing coalition will not be the nationalist, Zionist government that Netanyahu once again ran on but will once again claim he is prevented from pursuing due to the lack of support from, you guessed it, a weakened and ineffectual Jewish Home. As long as the religious Zionists fall for the Netanyahu cry after running a weak campaign making the certainty of his returning to the Prime Ministership a definitive possibility from the polls and then turning to the supporters of Jewish Home and the other ardent Zionist parties to vote Likud to stave off the leftist challenge then Jewish Home will be forever the bridesmaid and never the bride. Eventually the leader, be it Bennett or be it his successor or beyond down the road, assuming there is a down the road, decides to challenge and present Jewish Home as the new leadership for Israel, Netanyahu will continue to utilize this ploy of siphoning off the votes of those more Zionist than Netanyahu desires to govern with and neutering those Zionist parties from where Netanyahu glides to victory with the stolen support, then the real Zionist political power will remain neutered and voiceless in the future Likud Party led governments. For now we must wait and see what develops but be warned that the expectations of the ardent Zionists have once again been sacrificed to the Bibi and thus lower expectations are their feed in the coming government. The other reality is that it appears that Netanyahu will require Yair Lapid and his treasonous backstabbing to permit a coalition to be cobbled together, so expect new elections again in two or so years when Lapid again sees a wounded Netanyahu for his actions such as the silent building freeze or whatever other sacrifices made presumably in response to a powerful United States President Obama in order to salvage continued friendship from the White House. Anybody else notice that it is only Israel who needs to obey and bow to the will of Obama? Can bowing to golden calves or worse be far behind?
Beyond the Cusp