October 22, 2013 – The Possibility of the Longest Knesset of All-Time

When Israelis went to the polls on February 10, 2009, to elect the 18th Knesset I don’t think there was one person who thought there was a chance they would be electing the 19th Knesset on October 22, 2013, the date selected for the next Knesset elections.

The 17th Knesset was dispersed after less than three years. The last time a Knesset lasted four years was the national unity government of the 11th Knesset that produced a four year, three month term with two different Prime Ministers: Peres (1984-86) and Shamir (1986-88). You have to go back to Prime Minister Begin’s first term of 1977 to 1981 during the 9th Knesset to find a term that lasted over four years with the same Prime Minister.

If the 18th Knesset is still in session in June, 2013, it will pass the 3rd Knesset’s record of four years and four months as the longest serving Knesset of all time.

I would argue that following Kadima’s exit from the coalition the chance of this 66-MK coalition going into 2013 is better than it was when it had 94 MKs. It all comes down to the interest of the seven coalition parties.

It is in Likud’s interest to push off elections after they pass a stop gap measure to deal with the Tal Law alternative fallout. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud doesn’t want to go to early elections now because they know that Kadima and Lapid’s Yesh Atid have something to gain.

Foreign Minister Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu goes back to being Netanyahu’s leading coalition partner with the ability to influence government policy as they enjoyed before Mofaz’s Kadima joined the coalition.

Interior Minister Yishai’s Shas has been dropping in the polls since the Carmel fire, and Yishai is still dealing with that fallout thanks to the State Comptroller report being discussed in a series of meetings of the State Control Committee. Yishai also needs to figure out how to deal with his Aryeh Deri situation.

The ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism, like Shas, has no reason to leave the coalition since the departure of Kadima enables them to get off lightly on the Tal Law alternative. The ultra-orthodox have never brought down a government before because their goal is to join every government. The threat of thousands of Haredim in the army is no longer on the table.

Defense Minister Barak’s Independence will most likely not exist beyond this term according to most polls. There doesn’t seem to be a good reason for the five Independence MKs to give up their coalition jobs, especially since Netanyahu still would have a 61-MK coalition without them.

The Jewish Home has three MKs who don’t agree with each other and each is backing a different candidate in their November Chairmanship race. They have the least interest in leaving the coalition since there is a potential situation where none of them return to the next Knesset.

The Knesset goes on recess after the July 25 session is completed and reconvenes on October 15. Assuming the government survives until July 25, and I think I have proven my point that it will, the true test of the new/old 66-MK coalition will be the 2013 state budget that will be presented in October. The press and opposition can make a lot of noise, but even 500,000 people taking to the street last summer didn’t shake this coalition.

If Netanyahu doesn’t pass that budget he will call for elections in early 2013. If he does manage to pass the budget, he should be able to keep his coalition in tact through October 22, 2013.

About the Author
Jeremy Saltan is a veteran Knesset Insider, Campaigner, a leading Political Analyst and serves as Bayit Yehudi's Anglo Forum Chairman. He is a regular contributor on radio and TV, a local municipality politician and is one of Israel’s top poll analysts. He has run political campaigns in English & Hebrew for municipality, party institution, primary & general elections. Jeremy’s opinion pieces have been published, quoted, appeared or credited by the Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Israel National News, Jewish Press, IBA News, Voice of America, Daily Beast, France 24, Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, CCTV, Daystar and Foreign Policy among others. Website: www.knessetjeremy.com and www.jeremysaltan.com