THE MARLOW REPORT:
Thirty-nine political parties this time registered with the Central Elections Committee, which is slightly below the average number, probably because several parties dropped out, right before last Thursday night’s deadline.
Of the 39 competing parties, no more than 13 are seen as having a realistic chance of winning a minimum of 3.25% in the 24th Knesset, which is equivalent to 4 seats.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is bidding to extend his unprecedented 12 consecutive years as Prime Minister in a fourth general election within two years.
This time Bibi is facing challenges primarily from the centrist Yesh Atid party, led by Yair Lapid, the New Hope right-wing party, founded last December by former Likud Minister Gideon Sa’ar and the right-wing Yamina party, led by Naftali Bennett. Once again no party on the left is able to challenge the Likud and it remains the only team to beat.
Several of Netanyahu’s fiercest critics – Avi Nissenkorn, Ofer Shelah, Ron Huldai and Moshe Ya’alon have now all bowed out of politics. Two of the three former IDF chiefs of staff, who joined together to bring Netanyahu down for three elections, have now quit and the one remaining, Benny Gantz, may not even receive enough votes to make it back into the Knesset.
The four factions of the Arab Joint List party have now become three, as Ra’am decided to run alone and may not even reach the minimum threshold on Election Day.
In addition the nightmare scenario for Netanyahu of Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett uniting their parties, failed to materialise, as both leaders insisted on being in charge. Neither Sa’ar nor Bennett brought in a last-minute “star candidate” and their lists were submitted without any fanfare. Now Netanyahu’s two potential rivals on the Right, are practically tearing each other apart.
Amazingly Yair Lapid in the centre, has outlasted the party heads of Kadima, Labour and Blue and White and according to polls, is the closest party to the Likud and growing in support, despite not merging or making any significant editions.
But Lapid’s efforts behind the scenes to bring about a merger of the Center-Left camp failed. Ofer Shelah from the political left, broke away from Lapid’s Yesh Atid party to form his brand new Tnufa party, but could not gain much support.
Another on the political left, Avi Nissenkorn, who was the Justice Minister from the Blue and White party, dumped Benny Gantz to join Shelah. Ironic considering we are having this election because Likud wanted Nissenkorn removed from the Justice Ministry, but Gantz refused to do so. Now Nissenkorn is not even running.
Tel Aviv mayor, Ron Huldai who boasted he would run for Prime Minister and oust Netanyahu, initially polled 7 seats. But when he declared, he would overrule the Health Ministry and re-open Tel Aviv as normal, his small following plummeted. Huldai also found out he was not as popular with the country as he thought he was.
Merav Michaeli won the leadership of the Labor party and is now polling just past the minimum threshold, but she also wanted to be the “boss” and couldn’t stomach a merger with the centrist Lapid.
As for Nitzan Horowitz who heads the far-left Meretz, he claimed that Labor did not want to join with his party. But in response, Michaeli said, it was Horowitz who didn’t want to join.
There is a good chance that Labor or probably Meretz, will not cross the minimum threshold, which could be disastrous for the Left camp.
Moshe Ya’alon who is on the political right, decided to leave Lapid’s Yesh Atid to run alone, but no one could bear to vote for him, so he pulled out of the race.
Voters on the Center and Left now have a choice of three parties, Yesh Atid, Labor and Meretz. All three are led by former journalists of Ashkenazi descent and all three live in Tel Aviv.
The anti-Netanyahu camp is still strong if you also count the two right wing parties of New Hope and Yamina. But the polls suggest they could only oust Bibi if all the right and left parties along with the far-left Meretz join together in a coalition, which is almost impossible to envision.
If neither side reaches the magic number of 61, Israelis will look forward to yet another rematch later in the year.
IMPORTANT DATES TO NOTE
Deadline to challenge party lists and candidates: Feb 11
Final party lists set after challenges to Supreme Court: Feb 21
Election commercial begin: March 9
Diplomats, soldiers start voting: March 11
Last day for polls: March 19 Election Day: March 23
Final results presented to President: March 30
Deadline for President to choose candidate to form government: April 06
Deadline for first candidate to build coalition: May 18
Deadline for second candidate to form coalition: June 15
Deadline for any MK to form government: July 6
Date of next election of no government is formed: October 5