A picture in this case is worth 1000 words. As we predicted here, before anyone, the left did not win, despite endless reporting to the contrary, and Lieberman is in fact the Kingmaker.
As my last update of the election night read:
Official numbers are not out yet but already today, we have three types of reporting. We either have reports of a Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu loss, A Benny Gantz Blue and White victory, or a tie too close to call. All of these are massively inaccurate.
The media reports the results on election day, typically by a right / left camp aggregate, since this is what matters in making of the coalition. In Israel, a single party never gets the 61 seats needed to rule on its own. But there are basic blocs that determine the victor. So when the media finally admitted last time (way way after we did here), that Benjamin Netanyahu “won” the election, this did not mean that the Likud alone had anywhere near the 61 seats needed. It is always reported as a camp.
So to demonstrate, in the previous April round, after they stopped their hopeful predictions such as this:
with the left wing at 61, and right at 59, and specifically for Gantz vs Bibi such as this:
they eventually had no choice but to switch to the truth, and reported the results in such ways as follows. Even when including the detailed party numbers, notice the bottom aggregating the camps:
Sixty five to fifty five for the right. So much for their predictions. The international media followed with for example, the Economist repeating:
And always dramatically on Israeli TV:
This is the result of the election… 63 for the right, and 57 for left in the 21st Knesset (the April election this year). And of course, always to keep in mind, the 57 on the left includes not only the Arab parties, but also the Arab voters who vote for the Jewish leftist parties rather than the Arab parties.
And you will note please, as we will discuss further shortly, that in all the polls and results, Lieberman’s party, Israel Beiteinu, is considered part of the right, and in fact joined and was member of such a coalition as Minister of Defense in actuality.
So what is happening for the 22nd Knesset?
Well in all probability the new Knesset is actually shifting towards the right. Despite the massive increase in Arab turnout and Arab seats, the left will have 57 at best, and probably diminish to a couple less. Certainly they are are far from the 61 needed to make this a leftist victory as being reported and it is not a “close call” either. The right has a slightly larger victory than it did a few months ago.
What happened is also exactly as I predicted previously… while the media and Bibi’s legal troubles managed to lower the Likud votes somewhat, and were aided by the larger Arab turnout, this was more than compensated by the right wing bloc NOT throwing away 7 seats in votes for parties that did not pass the threshold. The Net gain is a couple of seats to the right.
So what is the problem? And why the mixed reporting? With Coverage like this:
Well, unlike in America, the election is not really over when it’s over…. it’s only sort of over (and never really over, hence the constant elections) when the ruling coalition is formed. If the media reported what had actually happened, a right wing victory, then certainly this is what the people would expect in a ruling coalition. But because they are pinning their hopes on Lieberman switching sides, they are reporting a leftist victory so that it is palatable to the politicians and public when and if it happens.
This is incredibly disingenuous because up until the last few days, Avigdor Lieberman was considered an arch-conservative ultra right wing wacko by those same folks. He is definitely right of Likud, and famously once said, that right of him there was only a wall (meaning there is no more right). Regardless of what he chooses to do now, if he is not part of the right wing camp then who is? And it should be reported as such… just as he was included as part of the right in all previous elections.
And if he chooses to betray his constituents and swerve far left, the public should be surprised at that, and not simply be expecting it because the media has paved the path for it.
Now what do I think is really going on here? Meaning in Avigdor’s head? Well I think firstly, as is not uncommon for Russians immigrants in Israel, he is somewhat of a statist. Not in the socialist sense but that he is a patriot to the state. For him, the Arabs are not loyal citizens to the State of Israel so he opposed them and often deems them traitors. Many of the Orthodox Jews are not loyal citizens to the state either, and so he opposes them as well.
I, on the other hand, am a patriot for Am Israel, the nation of Israel that was not created some decades ago in 1948, or worse yet, in 1947 by a UN vote. And while the Arabs (whom I never call traitors.. that is absurd), are not part of Am Israel, the Orthodox Jews most definitely are. Anyway, so in some sense I believe Lieberman believes at least some of his anti-haredi recent rhetoric. But not entirely. Clearly, he saw a way to drastically increase his importance and has achieved it… and he is smelling the premiership, he can taste it, soon he believes.
We already see signs of that because in his “victory” speech while he re-iterated that he would not sit in a coalition with the Arab parties, he omitted the Orthodox parties, which he had previously mentioned. He is already position himself for compromise.
I think ideally, he wanted to gain so many seats, that together with the right wing parties, they could make a coalition without the Haredis. However, they are short of that, just like the right wing parties along with the Haredis are short without Lieberman.
Alternatively, Lieberman hoped to perhaps be included in a Gantz/Bibi coalition. So scrap the more leftist elements of the left, Meretz, Labor and the Arab parties and all remaining parties with the exception of the haredis can make a very strong coalition.
But there are two major issues here in this respect. Firstly, that would only work if Blue and White would accept Netanyahu as the PM, in which case we have a right wing bloc victory in any event, and secondly in such an event Lieberman would not be important nor could he receive the Defense Ministry he wants with enlarged powers. This is because Blue and White and the Likud alone have more than enough votes for a majority, and if Blue and White accepted serving under Bibi, they would certainly demand the rest… Foreign Minister, Defense Minister and the like (remember they have 4 key figures at the top of the list who can’t stand each other).
And at that point, any other party that wanted to join could, but would be offered little, including Lieberman.
So I see no choice for Lieberman but to back a right wing coalition as he should. Despite the media’s best wishes, he will NOT sit in a coalition with Labor, Meretz and the Arabs. This is not a choice. Communist parties members of the Socialist International and the enemies of the state he despises, it is impossible. Lieberman is many things, and a politician at that, but a man of at at least some principle as well.
This leaves us with the only other alternative to alternatives. Lieberman could agree to join the right wing coalition, including the religious parties, but request that the Likud replace Netanyahu as the head. Firstly, unless something very personal happened that I don’t know about recently, despite the usual reporting, Netanyahu and Lieberman get along well and respect each other, and have worked closely together for decades. This much resentment would be quite new and surprising.
Secondly, the Likud is still the largest real single party, and the leader of the largest camp (the right), and the large number of Israelis who voted for it voted for Bibi. They will not be pleased to have him replaced by some hack on the list.
This is not the case with Blue and White, who rivals the Likud’s size only by amalgamating all the trendy, well known recent and ideologically vague figures together. Gantz, Lapid, Ashkenazi, and unfortunately even Boogie (Yaalon, a life long (almost) Likudnik defected upon being personally offended that Bibi offered the Defense Ministry to Lieberman instead of him). This ads another obstacle to any Blue and White / Lieberman agreement.
So wheather they:
- Pull off some broad coalition without the Orthodox parties that includes Gantz, but leaves out the more extreme left parts of the camp, namely Meretz, Labor and the Arab parties (not leftist, just enemies), or
- Replace Bibi as head of the Likud and then form a more right wing coalition along with the Orthodox parties or
- Lieberman simply agrees to join his traditional allies in a normal coalition under Bibi (as he should),
in all above cases Bibi and/or the Likud head the ruling coalition. The left simply does not have the votes thankfully to form a leftist coalition and this is why all the reporting is just fake news, in an attempt to wag the dog.
Let’s not let them.
There are other more creative possibilities if Lieberman will really not yield, and if the Likudniks do not betray their boss. Rotating premiership, splitting up Bue and White, desperate measures at averting a third election. But in no circumstance do I see anyone joining Labor, Meretz, Arab parties, along with Blue and White or parts thereof, to reach the 61 needed for a true leftist coalition. What is unfortunately a possibility is for the right bloc, to invite parts of Blue and White, or Labor or even Meretz to reach the 61 needed without Lieberman. But even for that they would have to break their commitments to not serve under Bibi/Likud (which won’t be a problem for Labor, perhaps more so for Meretz). Shas can be invited to the left as has happened in the past, but even they won’t sit with Meretz and the Arabs. Any way you slice it, the left just doesn’t have the votes. Unless they accept the chaos of a third election, Lieberman will likely, and ought to, come to an understanding with his natural allies, address the issues that correctly bothered him (such as us surrendering to Hamas) and help lead Israel with a stronger coalition to positive achievements.