5 Things to Watch for after Israel’s Election

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the wake of the election.

PM Netanyahu speaks in the wake of the election. Photo courtesy of AFP via Haaretz.

Despite trailing in the polls leading up to the elections, Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged in the best position to form a new coalition government with the right-wing Likud taking 30 seats over the left-center Zionist Union party’s 24 seats. While Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union party conceded to Netanyahu, here are some things to watch as the coalition begins to form.

1. Kulanu as Kingmaker 

Moshe Kahlon, a popular Likud minister who broke away from his party to form Kulanu, now has the political capital to essentially pick the next prime minister. With 10 seats, both Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union party as well as Mr. Netanyahu need Kulanu to secure the minimum 61 Knesset seats, barring unlikely alliances. While right leaning and a potential natural ally of the Likud, Mr. Kahlon to this point has not publicly supported a candidate.

2. The Ultra-Orthodox

If Mr. Herzog were to form a coalition, he would likely need Yesh Atid, a centralist secular party, as well as at least one ultra-orthodox party in the coalition. Unfortunately for Mr. Herzog, Yesh Atid supports ending the military draft exception for the ultra-orthodox, something staunchly opposed by the Shas and the United Torah Judaism who together make up 13 seats. Getting them in the same coalition may prove difficult.

3. Rivlin’s call for National Unity Government

While the office of President is largely a symbolic position, President Reuven Rivlin will poll party leaders in the coming days to see who they support as prime minister. Contrary to both major parties in Israel, Mr. Rivlin told newspapers he supports a coalition national unity government. “I am convinced that only a unity government can prevent the rapid disintegration of Israel’s democracy and new elections in the near future.” However unlikely, in the case of deadlock, this idea may be revisited.

4. The Aftermath of Netanyahu’s Campaign

Clearly appealing to right wing Israelis the day before the election, Mr. Netanyahu told the media he would not allow a Palestinian state during his reign as prime minister. Clearly against America’s stance and as a reversal of his own policy, this statement is likely to complicate his already strained relationship with the current U.S. administration going forward.

5. Senate Probe into Alleged White House Funding

According to Fox News, The US Senate launched a bipartisan probe into the alleged funding of an anti-Netanyahu NGO by taxpayer-funded grants worth $350,000. While the NGO, OneVoice denies having worked with the administration in the upcoming election, it is unclear if any of the funding violated its tax exempt status under U.S. law. This could further complicate U.S.–Israel relations.

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