A trio of recent polls points to renewed hope for the Israeli opposition, as for the first time in months two polls have found the center-left opposition parties commanding a slight majority of seats, while a third found Netanyahu’s governing alliance reduced to a mere 62-58 lead. The narrowness of the results, however, illustrates how difficult it will be for an alternative center-left government to come together. In all 3 scenarios, the 12 seats the Joint List (an alliance of 4 smaller Arab parties) is projected to receive are counted as part of the opposition, though it is extremely unlikely that the two largest opposition parties, Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union, would agree to form government with it. Without the Joint List the center-left will need to peel off parts of Netanyahu’s current coalition to obtain a majority. The two most likely candidates, however, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu and Avidgor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, recently declared that they would not join a Zionist Union-led government headed by Avi Gabbay.
If this was meant sincerely, and not merely as a bit of extremely early pre-negotiation posturing, it nonetheless leaves open the possibility of their joining a centrist coalition led by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party. Even in this case, the 4 potential coalition partners look set to win only 53-55 Knesset seats-leaving them 6-8 seats short of a majority. They would need to add at least one additional party to form government, but it is unclear who that might be: none of the 4 parties would be willing to sit with the Joint List, and a coalition with Meretz is only slightly more plausible. The bad blood between Yair Lapid and the haredi parties (United Torah Judaism and Shas), stemming from Lapid’s tenure as Finance Minister, would likely stop them from entering a coalition with him at its head. The Likud, should it find itself dethroned, would likely prefer to lick its wounds and hope to quickly topple the potentially fragile new coalition rather than play second fiddle. That leaves only the right-wing religious Jewish Home party, though its involvement in such a government would likely torpedo any advances on the Palestinian front, and might in any case be too much for Labor leftwingers to stomach. The time left before the next elections still amounts a lifetime in politics, but Netanyahu’s would-be successors would seem to have their work cut out for them.