The structure of the Israeli electoral system yields many realistic permutations for the outcome of a given election. As we’ve shown in several examples, an Israeli election will result with anywhere from 7 to 12 parties receiving various numbers of Knesset seats. Despite this variance in potential outcome, the bottom-line result of an Israeli election is pretty simple.
In most Israeli elections political parties will coalesce into two “blocs”. These blocs will be made up of several parties who share a common political goal. Thus, if one of these blocs receives the majority of the seats in the Knesset, then this bloc will form the coalition government and will take political power of the Israeli executive.
For this current election there are two such blocs. They can be labeled the Right-Religious bloc and the Arab-Left-Center bloc. We’ll do a deeper dive into the political parties that make up these blocs later. But, for now, let’s do a basic overview of the political leanings of the components of these blocs, so we can get a sense of how these political alliances function.
The left is made up of left wing Zionist parties, such as Meretz and Labor, who favor socialistic economic policies and a more conciliatory position towards Palestinian national aspirations. They also tend to be the parties pushing for a more liberal understanding of Israel’s national concept- balancing their desire for Israel to remain a Jewish State with their desire to maintain political equality among Israel’s various races and religions.
The natural political allies of these Jewish left parties are the parties that represent some of these non-Jewish races and religions- the Arab political parties. These Arab parties advocate a great variety of political and religous viewpoints (Hadash is communist, Raam is a religious Islamic party, Balad is Arab-nationalist, etc.). Their policy goals are economic and political power for the non-Jewish minority in Israel, the restructuring of the State away from a dominant Jewish identity and a radically conciliatory posture towards the Palestinians.
The center parties are more moderate versions of the Zionist leftist parties. They include Israeli Resilience, Yesh Atid and Gesher. These parties seek a more liberal version of a Jewish State (though not quite as liberal as the left parties) and also want a more conciliatory posture towards the Palestinians (but, as is a running theme here, not AS MUCH of a conciliatory posture as the left).
The parties that make up this Arab-Left-Center bloc all have disparate goals and constituencies. But they are united in desiring movement away from the current cultural and political status quo towards the left end of the political spectrum.
The parties of the right, much like the left and center, have various electoral bases and policy differences, but they share a few key political similarities. They believe in either keeping the status quo in terms of Israel’s political relationship with the Palestinians or taking a more aggressive posture. They also firmly believe in tying the Jewish culture and religion to the state in a significant way. Finally, the right wing parties espouse a more capitalist economic viewpoint.
The religious parties share the right’s posture towards the Palestinians and their belief in the close connection between Judaism and the state. But, their priority is allowances and protections for specific facets of the Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel. The religious parties have a quid-pro-quo alliance with the more secular right wing. If the right wing will protect them and their communities, and honor their primacy in certain facets of Jewish governmental administration, then they will continue to support and form coalitions exclusively with right wing parties.
So, we have two opposing blocs of the running in the Knesset elections the Right-Religious bloc and the Arab-Left-Center bloc. If either of these blocs gets the votes to acquire a large majority of the Knesset seats then that bloc has won the election. If, however, these two blocs acquire a nearly equal amount of Knesset seats, then the election result is something more akin to a tie. Remember, in the previous article we discussed how having a narrow majority in the Knesset in a coalition will make the government executive unstable and vulnerable to votes of no-confidence. Thus, if both blocs acquire near equal amounts of Knesset seats, then some form of national unity government, where parties of both blocs participate in the coalition, will be formed.
So, there you have it. Despite all the different combinations of seats that each of these different parties can acquire, in the end it boils down to three possible outcomes. The Right-Religious bloc wins, the Arab-Left-Center bloc wins or they tie and some kind of joint coalition is formed.