Richard Pater is Director of BICOM [British Israel Communications and Research Centre]. Follow Richard on Twitter.
In all likelihood, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Israel Beteinu party will win next Tuesday’s election and be asked to form the next government. The left and centre left parties have failed to unite behind a realistic prime ministerial candidate. Furthermore, due to the dynamic of the Israeli political system, even if the left and right blocks come out close to even, the ultra-orthodox parties will once again hold the balance of power, and inevitably endorse Netanyahu as Prime Minister when they are invited to the President’s residence to make their recommendation. However, Likud-Beteinu may not have it all their way.
This is because the vote could be closer than most of the opinion polls have been predicting, as around 18% (21 seats out of 120) are still undecided. Following the results, the real (fun) horse trading begins. With Netanyahu’s Likud–Beteinu joint list expected to be the largest party, it will receive upward of 35 seats, (although not as much as the 42 the joint list has today or the prediction of 45+ when the merger was announced), and will need thus to bring in coalition partners to pass the golden 61 threshold.
The Prime Minister has two broad choices - to remain with his ‘natural partners’: the ultra –orthodox parties and the pro-settler right wing. Or to veer to the left, and peel off one or two centrist parties to give the government more balance. He could of course choose a third option by blurring the above distinction and accommodate competing interests in the same government. On top of the consternation of the parties is an added layer of intrigue; who will take the most important jobs within the Cabinet?
One person now unlikely to be in it is the Prime Minister’s partner and leader of Yisrael Beteinu - Avigdor Lieberman. When their merger was announced the latter was apparently offered his choice of the three most senior cabinet positions: Foreign Affairs (in which he served in the outgoing government), Defence and Finance. Since that deal, Lieberman has resigned his post as Foreign Minister as he is facing charges on breach of trust. At this stage, he cannot serve as a Minister, but until he is indicted he can continue to serve as a member of parliament. He will most likely take a role as head of the foreign affairs and defence committee in parliament. Here are some of the characters who could feature in the next government.