Benjamin Netanyahu consults his cabinet.

Benjamin Netanyahu consults his now former cabinet.

By Toby Greene, The Director of Research at BICOM (Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre) ????????

Netanyahu has said he is seeking a stronger mandate and more manageable coalition. He will be banking on current polling, suggesting Likud will grow to over 20 seats, with a sharp drop for Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. He can them hope to build an alliance with Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home, which is predicted to grow, and Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu, bringing in other factions to make up numbers.

Another Netanyahu led government looks most likely right now, but this is no sure thing. The polls will surely shift by March, and Israeli elections frequently defy predictions. Netanyahu is still seen as the most appropriate candidate for Prime Minister, and he will campaign on his own personal credentials. But after six years in office there is fatigue, and voters may blame him for causing new elections. The summer conflict and recent terrorism may also have dented Netanyahu’s image as a guarantor of security.

Parties to Netanyahu’s left, including Labour led by Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid, currently look off the pace, but centre-left parties could join forces. Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett, surging in the polls, could threaten Netanyahu’s mantle leader of the Israeli right.

Then there are new entrants.

The new party of Moshe Kahlon, the popular former Likud minister, is likely to grab seats in the centre, and other parties will look to bring in ‘star names’ from the security establishment or media to attract votes.
As difficult to predict as the election result, is the coalition building. Unlikely alliances may emerge, as they did in 2013.

A more left-leaning Prime Minister, who would be more conciliatory on the Palestinian issue, would clearly be welcome in European capitals and with the current US administration, whilst the opposite can be said of Bennett.

But whoever forms a government is unlikely to have enough seats to really dominate, making whatever coalition emerges likely to be another fragile beast.