Surprises and Upsets in Israel’s 2019 elections

It’s election season in Israel! That’s the time when asserting our civic duty go hand in hand with Bibi bashing/defending Facebook posts. For those of you new to Israeli elections, it’s safe to say that the Jewish state’s electorate falls into the five following categories:

  1. Those who hate Bibi
  2. Those who love Bibi
  3. Those who don’t love Bibi, but see no alternative
  4. ‘Change voters’ who are willing to give a new party a chance
  5. Smaller party loyalists (ie. Arab parties, Meretz, United Torah Judaism etc.) 

The shoo-ins

Likud The only real shoo-in in this election is the Likud under the leadership of Netanyahu. Polls show him sweeping the election with a landslide victory. That’s because the Bibi lovers and those who see no alternative, makeup enough of the Israeli electorate to help King Bibi defend his crown.

Current seats: 30

Expected seats in next election: 28

Meretz Transgender socialists and their sympathizers will always be loyal to their overlords! Plus, they’re the only ideologically left wing party. The rest are just pragmatically left wing.

Current seats: 5

Expected seats in next election: 5

United Torah Judaism I don’t actually have any insight regarding this prediction. I’m just basing it on EVERY OTHER ELECTION IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY EVER!

Current seats: 6

Expected seats in next election: 6

The big losers

Bayit Yehudi Although the Jewish Home party has a very loyal religious nationalist base, they tend to be further to the right than the average Likud voter. This will pose a problem for Bennett’s party since the current government’s security performance is seen by them as an utter failure, especially in Judea and Samaria where most of the party’s base lives or sympathizes with. The fact that his government was responsible for destroying several Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria yet not the illegal arab outpost of Khan Al Akmar doesn’t help his cause much either.

Current seats: 8

Expected seats in next election: 5

Yisrael Beitenu Avigdor Lieberman has always been viewed by his voter base as a hawk. However, it was only in the current government where he accepted a position that would put his right wing rhetoric to the test – the defense ministry. As defense minister, he suffered the same problem as Bennet. He was in charge of what much of his base views to be a position where he can finally prove himself. But the endless missiles from Gaza will eclipse his exit from the government as it’s viewed by many to be too little, too late. Empty promises of him killing Haniyeh if he ever became defense minister combined with defending the IDF’s weak response could keep him out of Jerusalem this time around.

Current seats: 6

Expected seats in next election: 0

Yesh Atid To understand why Yesh Atid will drop significantly, you must first understand why they were so successful to begin with. They were largely viewed a change party. The middle class Israeli who felt like they were left behind by establishment politicians representing special interests initially put Lapid in power. That’s why he received a jaw dropping 19 seats in his initial run back in 2013. But since he couldn’t deliver as finance minister, his seats were almost cut in half by the time the 2015 election rolled around. And since he’s been sitting in the opposition for the past three years, his role in the government is seen as largely irrelevant. Plus, newer, fresher versions of Yair Lapid like Orly Levy and Benny Gantz will give him a run for his money.

Current seats: 11

Expected seats in next election: 7

Kulanu In 2015, Yesh Atid lost 8 seats and Kulanu gained 10. It’s safe to say that eight out of the 10 seats that Moshe Kahlon picked up came from Yesh Atid voters who were disappointed in Lapid’s performance as finance minister. And although Kahlon likes to brag about his economic improvements, the typical Israeli taxpayer hasn’t noticed or felt any of them. Those nine seats will likely find a new home come April.

Current seats: 10

Expected seats in next election: 0

Labor In 2015, the Labor party changed their name to Zionist Union in an attempt to brand themselves as a less left-wing party. Now they have placed a Sephardic, traditional man at the helm in another attempt to re-brand themselves and woo a new voter base. But this won’t work either. That’s because everyone knows that no matter how hard they try to dress it up, it’s still the same anti-sephardic Labor party that discriminated against North African immigrants during the 1950s. And since the Likud has treated Israel’s labor unions just as well as the Labor party has, their traditional base in the worker’s unions will likely weaken. Additionally, not being Bibi won’t be a good enough incentive for many voters looking for a fresh face to lead the country.

Current seats: 24

Expected seats in next election: 11

Shas The passing of Rav Ovadiah Yosef z”l took place before the 2015 elections. The timing worked out well for Shas whose electoral campaign used his death to guilt-trip their base into voting for the party that he used to endorse (I know, creepy). But in April, his passing will no longer be fresh in the minds of Shas voters. Making matters worse, their leader, Aryeh Deri, is looking at another indictment. Shas’ base has by in large, lost faith in the current leadership. Therefore, don’t expect any heavenly miracles for them in 2019.

Current seats: 7

Expected seats in next election: 0

The Wild Card

Joint List Everyone knows who the Israeli Arabs will vote for. What we don’t know is how many of them will actually turn up to vote. That’s why many Israelis were skeptical when Netanyahu made his famous election day address warning his base that the ‘Arabs are coming out to vote in droves’. And they did, garnering a historical 13 seats. This made them the third largest party in the Knesset. And although this prediction is especially tricky, the Joint List hasn’t really done anything to improve the quality of life of their constituency (despite the fact that they have enjoyed unprecedented representation). That is why I see the Arab sector making other plans on election day.

Current seats: 13

Expected seats in next election: 6

The dark horses

Zehut For those who won’t vote for Bibi, the 2019 election will be a very tough decision. That’s because unlike the 2015 election, the Zionist Union was the only party that was being sold as the one that can take down Netanyahu. But in April, there will be be about six other options. So what’s a Bibi hater to do? They could vote for either Lapid, Gabai, Orly, Lapid, Kahlon or Gantz. The problem is that none of their policies, be it economic or social, bring anything new to the table. This will likely compel them to turn to a party with substance that actually offers an organized set of solutions to Israel’s current problems. Unfortunately, the only party that appears to be doing that is the Zehut party headed by Moshe Feiglin. It also seems to be the only party that can attract change voters from both the right and the left. Zehut’s results could shock Israel’s media with the same force that Trump’s win did in America.

Current seats: 0

Expected seats in next election: 15

Orly Levy-Abuksis Orly Levy hasn’t presented a plan. Nor has she offered any new ideas or solutions to Israel’s problems. But she does have one thing going for her — she’s a woman. In fact, she’s the only woman heading a centrist party. Therefore, many female voters will assume that she’s a feminist and will vote accordingly. But she’s not just any woman. She’s a pretty woman. And if being pretty was enough to get Yair Lapid 19 seats in the 2013 election, there’s no reason it shouldn’t get Orly at least seven.

Current seats: 0

Expected seats in next election: 7

Otzmah Yehudit Itamar Ben Gvir really has no reason to feel compelled to join forces with Moshe Feiglin. That’s because they only missed the minimum threshold by a mere 9,000 votes in 2015. Remember, in the upcoming election, we should expect a lot more disgruntled voters from the right who see Otzma as a viable alternative. Plus, if they run with Eli Yishai as they did last time, they could steal a lot of unhappy Shas voters as well.

Current seats: 0

Expected seats in next election: 4

Bottom line

The above mentioned predictions that I have made are loosely based on recent polling as well as overall sentiment. And as someone who lives in a right wing hotbed like Efrat and works in a left wing bubble like Herzliya Pituach, I feel that I have a pretty good grip on the general pulse of the Israeli public. Either way, these elections should be highly entertaining. So get out the hummus flavored popcorn, kick back and enjoy the show.

About the Author
David Sidman is a candidate in the Zehut political party, Israel activist and contributor to Shoebat.com. He is also a professional dog trainer. You can follow him at @theIsraeliShow
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