BREAKING NEWS: WAR and PEACE: Israel Election too close to call

Israel election

The tattered remains of the Israeli flag raised by Eleazar Shafrir upon hearing the results of the UN vote on the 29th of November. Copyright © Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection

Exit polls give  Netanyahu’s Likud and Herzog’s Zionist Union each 27 seats in the 120-member Knesset. HAARETZ offers a calculator that sows how difficult may be to create any ruling coalition, especially one that is devoted to peace.

In any effort to create a ruling coalition,  two parties may hold the balance between the pro peace Zionist Union and the pro war party aligned with the US Tea Parrty,  Likhud.   These two kingmakers are strange bedfellows:  1.  Kulanu, led by Moshe Kahlon , a former member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, split from Likhud over social policies that have created an American style wealth gap, threatening Israel’s middle class. Kulanu could be the  kingmaker is either Netanyahu or Herzog can sell MK Kahlon on a plan that lets him. perhaps along with the other centrist parties,  lead an effort to repair Israel’s economy.   2. The Arab List, a unified party formed from disparate Israeli Arab voters who want either a two party state or, at the extreme, a single secular state with an Arab majority.  The problem here is that the List includes Arab  parties that are as extreme in their ideal of a one state solution as the Likhudnicks and settlers are in their ideals.

Other players:

On the extreme right, Shas, led by a Moroccan Jew Aryeh Deri,  looks likely to come out of the elections with it’s pride intact and seven seats. This is a huge drop from its earlier total of 11  but may indicate strength for a pragmatic economic center since Deri has supported the struggle of Sephardi immigrants  to do well in Israel’s current top down economy dominated by Askenazi Jews.  The party’s losses reflect scandals associated with Deri’s finances and a split by a rival to for m a more radical party, Yahad.  Yahad, a party that would have automatically supported Netanyahu, failed to make the level needed to enter the Knesset.  Interestingly, both Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Deri to discuss a post election coalition.

All in all, however, the religious vote will dwindle in the Knesset.   The defeat of Yahad and the weakening of Shas 13 and 15 seats, down from  19 Knesset seats. Another former ally of Netanyahu, Moshe Kahlon,  formed  the Kulanu party, like Shas emphasizing  corruption and high housing costs.  Kulanu is expected to gain nine or 10 seats, and could form a coalition with either the Zionists of Likhud.

On the center, two other parties to look for are Yesh Atid , led by  Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi led by Naftali Bennett.  These are also pragmatic parties. like Shas and Kulanu focused more on social issues than on Iran or the two state issues.

On the left, Israel’s labor party, now called Meretz, survived with five seats.  “We did it against all odds!” elated Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On told the room. She  congratulated Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog , but warned him against joining any government with Netanyahu

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