Category: Opinion Pieces

Netanyahu’s House of Cards

Spoiler Alert: Plot points from the three seasons of the UK version of House of Cards disclosed in this article.

In the British version of the now popular American television series House of Cards, Prime Minister Francis Urquhart serves as the leader of the United Kingdom for 11 years and 210 days, passing Margaret Thatcher by a single day to become the UK’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

65-year-old Benjamin Netanyahu has been Prime Minister for a collective 9 plus years. According to a study by the Israel Democracy Institute, Prime Minister Netanyahu would pass David Ben-Gurion to become Israel’s longest-serving leader on September 23, 2018. Israel will most likely hold an early election before the next scheduled election on November 5, 2019. Expect Netanyahu to focus on the earlier date.

1,233 days to go.

Prime Minister Netanyahu signed agreements with four coalition partners to reach a narrow coalition of 61 MKs to the opposition’s 59. Although navigating a narrow coalition has been done before, it is extremely difficult.

What happens when an MK is in the hospital with his wife who is going into labor? What if an MK is in the hospital for a more tragic reason such as a serious injury? What happens when an MK decides that his best friend’s daughter’s wedding is more important than waiting all night in the Knesset to vote against his ideology because of a previous coalition deal agreement?

There is no doubt that this will be a difficult coalition to manage, and it still is not clear who will be named as the coalition chairman (chief whip) who will have to answer the above questions and keep coalition MKs from flying overseas. The next coalition chairman will play an important role in the success of the next coalition. Similar to the House of Cards series, with such a narrow coalition if the person who is in charge of keeping the backbenchers in line has their own agenda it could result in an eventual leadership change.

Even with a loyal coalition chairman, the anticipated legislative deadlock between parties with polarized views on certain issues will make maintaining the coalition extremely difficult for the new appointee.  However, just like the fictional Prime Minister Francis Urquhart, Netanyahu’s undoing might come from within.

The coalition parties do not have a good reason to vote against the government for at least the next two years. They all were given the authority, responsibility, and budgets they requested.

The ultra-orthodox parties of Shas and UTJ are back from the exile of the opposition. They suffered great losses in the last Knesset and would not do anything to jeopardize the collapse of the fourth Netanyahu government, nor do they harbor the ambition to one day replace him. They both signed coalition deals that they know are once-in-a-lifetime. Opposition Leader Herzog will not offer them nearly as much as Netanyahu did.

Bayit Yehudi will be motivated to follow coalition discipline after the package they received that included the Justice and Education portfolios. Even in a scenario of new elections and additional seats, Bayit Yehudi would not be expected to receive a better deal.

Kahlon’s new centrist Kulanu Party cannot afford to topple a government before his planned reforms on housing and the banks are completed. Although Kahlon might pick a fight or two he will be bluffing, since he risks losing his constituency to Lapid in the next elections if he doesn’t deliver on his reforms, his reason for agreeing to the highly unpopular steep payday for the ultra-orthodox community.

The situation in Likud is different. While the coalition parties negotiated attractive deals they are unlikely to give up, Netanyahu will have difficulty satisfying the demands of Likud’s MKs. Interior Minister Gilad Erdan is frustrated that, as the number 2 of the party that received 30 seats, he likely will not receive a top portfolio or a promotion. Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom is done playing Mr. Nice Guy with Netanyahu and expects a top post. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon cannot be happy that, although Netanyahu backtracked, the Prime Minister did offer Yaalon’s position to Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett before the election. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz was reportedly furious when Netanyahu tried to give his portfolio to Shas’s Aryeh Deri a few weeks ago. Netanyahu’s top cabinet loyalist, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, wants a promotion, and it will be difficult to find one for him. These five Likud ministers all view themselves as candidates to replace Netanyahu one day, and the Prime Minister is aware of that. If Netanyahu does not find a way to keep them happy in their next cabinet posts, it could lead to his eventual undoing.

Netanyahu plans to re-appoint Benny Begin and Tzachi Hanegbi to the cabinet, two of his previous ministers who were members of his first cabinet back in the 1990s and veteran MKs of the famous 1988 class in which the Prime Minister himself was first elected. The Prime Minister also plans to appoint five new Likud ministers from ten potential candidates. There will be disappointed Likud MKs, and some, such as Ayoub Kara, might threaten to vote against the establishment of the government. Finding appropriate jobs for the five disappointed minister candidates will be essential for Netanyahu’s survival. Many of the minister candidates might have little experience and lack the qualifications that would make them suitable for a ministry, but they insist that they are loyal and should be rewarded.

In House of Cards Francis Urquhart is always victorious against his external foes whether it be the opposition Labor Party or going head-to-head with the King. However, in the final season Urquhart chooses to bully weak cabinet members, fire his Parliamentary Private Secretary and later disrespect his Foreign Secretary Tom Makepeace by asking him to take a demotion to Education, which leads to Makepeace’s resignation. It is not external elements that becomes Urquhart’s undoing; rather, it is the cabinet reshuffle in which he promotes loyalist backbenchers with little experience who get into trouble. The disgraced Foreign Secretary who chooses to run against the sitting Prime Minister after finding skeletons in the Prime Minister’s closet eventually leads to his downfall. The crafty Francis Urquhart who had never thought Makepeace was capable of replacing him was left blind-sided.

Netanyahu seems focused on external potential Prime Minister candidates such as Isaac Herzog, Naftali Bennett, Moshe Kahlon, Yair Lapid and Avigdor Liberman at the expense of ignoring the threats from within his own party. The end of Netanyahu’s tenure as Prime Minister might begin by not promoting his current Likud ministers and leaving other Likud MKs without a spot around the cabinet table.

Although Netanyahu will not end his political career this week, the seeds will be planted with the formation of his government this week. Netanyahu is a skilled politician and will most likely find a way to form and maintain the next government for the short term. He knows how to ensure his government can survive even with one or two renegade MKs. The Israeli electorate will not vote for a Likud Party that cannibalized itself so quickly after an election and Netanyahu’s potential successors are aware of that. The question is what happens when one of those potential successors from within, or perhaps from the outside such as Gideon Saar, find a way to force an internal Likud leadership election and find support with a large number of disgruntled Likud MKs. This week Netanyahu will disappoint some of his MKs, both those looking for a ministerial promotion and those looking for a seat in the cabinet. Those who are considering running for Likud leadership will look to befriend every disgruntled Likud MK they can. Don’t expect them to wait until September 23, 2018.

When Prime Minister Netanyahu realizes that it is the Likud that will be his undoing, he might identify with Prime Minister Francis Urquhart’s quote after receiving the headcount ahead of the next leadership race.

“175 of my honorable colleagues firmly intend to vote for me, 123 are almost certainly against me. How dare they! They owe me everything. Half of them wouldn’t even have jobs let alone seats in Parliament. As if I hadn’t won three elections in a row and kept their noses in the gravy and these stuffed suits, these lumps of lobby fodder dare to raise themselves against me?”

Prime Ministers do not live forever, even if Netanyahu might think that he can.

However, a warning is in order for Netanyahu’s potential Likud challengers: In the novel version of House of Cards, despite ousting Urquhart, Makepeace fails in his attempt for Prime Minister.

Profiles of Likud Minister Candidates – A method to the madness of my wild guess scenario.

The 5 current Likud Ministers:

Gilad Erdan

Entered Knesset in: 2003

Knesset Terms: 5th

Spot on Likud List: 2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2013, 3rd in 2009

Current Title: Interior Minister

Former Titles: Communications Minister, Environment Minister, Homefront Defense Minister

Predicted Title: Internal (Homeland) Security Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu knows that it will be difficult to give the new #2 Likud the promotion he seeks in the current political atmosphere. Netanyahu is worried he might disrespect Erdan similar to the mistake he made with the previous Likud #2 (Saar). The Homeland Security Minister position allows Erdan to maintain his position in the Security Cabinet and is among the best positions available to Likud members. Erdan, who wants Foreign and is upset that he lost out on Education, might decide to fight the position. If Erdan does take the job he will be able to grab headlines as the man who brought back law and order to both the police and certain sectors and geographical locations of Israeli society.

Yisrael Katz

Entered Knesset in: 1998

Knesset Terms: 7th

Spot on Likud List: 4th in 2015, 5th in 2013, 11th in 2009

Current Title: Transportation Minister (since 2009)

Former Titles: Agriculture Minister

Predicted Title: Transportation Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu wants to stay on the good side of the internally popular minister who is also the head of the Likud Mazkirut (Secretariat). Allowing Katz to remain in the same position for a third straight term will allow him to oversee some of the finishing touches to some of his major transportation projects.

Silvan Shalom

Entered Knesset in: 1992

Knesset Terms: 8th

Spot on Likud List: 6th in 2015, 4th in 2013, 7th in 2009

Current Title: Energy & Water Minister, Negev & Galil Minister, Regional Cooperation Minister

Former Titles: Deputy Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Finance Minister, Science & Technology Minister, Deputy Defense Minister

Predicted Title: Interior Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu knows that after fulfilling an impressive resume that Shalom is eyeing the post of Prime Minister and because of that reason Netanyahu has been cautious of him. Interior is one of the best positions available and is one of the only top ministries that Shalom has not yet experienced. Shalom, who feels slighted, is ready to go for Foreign or bust, but Shalom might be in a pickle with the Prime Minister not giving out the portfolio. Increasing the relationship with Likud city mayors in the field is something that any potential Likud leadership challenger will find difficult to resist. Shalom would be the only Minister to serve in all four Netanyahu governments.

Moshe Yaalon

Entered Knesset in: 2009

Knesset Terms: 3rd

Spot on Likud List: 7th in 2015, 8th in 2013, 8th in 2009

Current Title: Defense Minister

Former Titles: Deputy Prime Minister, Strategic Affairs Minister

Predicted Title: Defense Minister

Analysis: Despite promising the position to Bennett before the elections, it looks like Netanyahu will offer Yaalon the job of Defense. Despite the fact that the former IDF COS has never reached the Likud’s top 5, Yaalon will most likely stay in the key top position, as no one has dared compete against him for it.

Yuval Steinitz

Entered Knesset in: 1999

Knesset Terms: 6th

Spot on Likud List: 13th in 2015, 16th in 2013, 9th in 2009

Current Title: International Relations Minister, Strategic Affairs Minister, Intelligence Affairs Minister

Former Titles: Finance Minister, Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman

Predicted Title: Communications Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu has always offered Steinitz a better job than his position has called for and this time will be no different. The coalition agreements clearly call for new powers to go to a loyalist Communications Minister who will enjoy an expanded ministry. Steinitz might ask for a second portfolio from Netanyahu that is of lesser value and he might get it.

The 6 Veteran MKs:

Benny Begin

Entered Knesset in: 1988

Knesset Terms: 5th (Did not serve in 15th, 16th, 17th and 19th Knesset terms)

Spot on Likud List: Netanyahu reserved spot #11 for him in 2015

Current Title: Returning from his second retirement

Former Titles: Minister without Portfolio that serves in Security Cabinet, Science & Technology Minister

Predicted Title: International Relations Minister, Strategic Affairs Minister, Intelligence Affairs Minister, Regional Cooperation Minister, Jerusalem Affairs Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu asked Begin back from retirement and now he must reward him with a good ministry. The idea of merging perhaps as much as five ministries into one could be the answer. Netanyahu could add Begin, using the excuse of Strategic and/or Intelligence, to the Security Cabinet to gain an extra vote. It is hard to believe that Begin is the same guy who ran against Netanyahu under the National Union flag in 1999.

Tzachi Hanegbi

Entered Knesset in: 1988

Knesset Terms: 9th (2 terms in Kadima)

Spot on Likud List: 12th in 2015, 17th in 2013, in Kadima during 2009 elections

Current Title: Deputy Foreign Minister (technically left post following Liberman resignation), Deputy Health Minister

Former Titles: Justice Minister, Health Minister, Internal (Homeland) Security Minister, Transportation Minister, Environment Minister, Minister in Prime Minister’s Office

Predicted Title: Energy & Water Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu knows that the veteran Hanegbi has been loyal and the time has come to pay him with a good ministry. Energy & Water is a large budget ministry that has traditionally went to top ministers. Hanegbi, who a few weeks earlier was calling for Foreign, would probably take it if offered.

Gila Gamliel

Entered Knesset in: 2003

Knesset Terms: 4th (did not serve during 17th Knesset)

Spot on Likud List: 14th in 2015, 20th in 2013, 19th in 2009

Current Title: Likud Backbencher

Former Titles: Deputy Youth Minister, Deputy Agriculture Minister

Predicted Title: Senior Citizens Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu promised Gamliel that she would be the next Minister appointed to the previous government and it never happened. Netanyahu knows that considering this will be her first minister job that he can give her a less glamorous ministry and she will probably take it.

Chaim Katz

Entered Knesset in: 1999

Knesset Terms: 6th

Spot on Likud List: 17th in 2015, 13th in 2013, 14th in 2009

Current Title: Labor, Welfare & Health Committee Chairman

Former Titles: Likud Backbencher

Predicted Title: Welfare Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu gave away Katz’s Committee Chairmanship to Kulanu. Katz had served three of his previous five terms as the Labor, Welfare & Health Committee Chairman. Katz has in the past declined Deputy Minister positions and is a great position to receive a portfolio considering there are not many Committee Chair positions that would be considered a promotion that are left open. Welfare seems like the most natural fit.

Ayoub Kara

Entered Knesset in: 1999

Knesset Terms: 4th (Did not serve in 17th and 19th Knesset terms)

Spot on Likud List: 24th in 2015, Did not enter Knesset in 2013, 23rd in 2009

Current Title: Returning from forced retirement

Former Titles: Deputy Negev & Galil Minister

Predicted Title: Deputy Defense Minister #2 and Deputy Minorities’ Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu knows it makes sense to appoint Kara as the only non-Jewish Minister to his government but he doesn’t plan to do so. He isn’t going to appoint the only Ethiopian MK as the Immigration & Absorption Minister either. It would be hard for Kara to refuse a Deputy Defense Minister position and control of a large budget as the Deputy of Minorities without a Minister above him. Kara, might not be satisfied and throw a fit.

Avi Dichter

Entered Knesset in: 2006

Knesset Terms: 3rd  (Did not serve in 19th Knesset, elected to both previous terms as a Kadima MK)

Spot on Likud List: #26 in 2015, Was not elected in 2013, Was elected as Kadima MK in 2009

Current Title: Returning from forced retirement

Former Titles: Internal (Homeland) Security Minister, Homefront Defense Minister

Predicted Title: Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman

Analysis: Netanyahu wants to appoint the ex-Kadima MK to a top position and it is difficult to do so with his low showing in the Likud primaries. Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman is a great offer for the former head of the Shabak (Shin Bet).

The 6 Members of the 2009 Likud Class:

Zeev Elkin

Entered Knesset in: 2006

Knesset Terms: 4th (1st term was as a Kadima MK)

Spot on Likud List: 8th in 2015, 9th in 2013, 20th in 2009

Current Title: Coalition Chairman

Former Titles: Deputy Foreign Minister, Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, House Committee Chairman

Predicted Title: Culture & Sport Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu knows that the veteran of this class has helped him move mountains over the last six years and that it is time for him to reward Elkin. Elkin would probably like the Immigration & Absorption Ministry but Netanyahu might hold on to it for now. Culture & Sport is a good fit considering the large budget ministry and the fact that Elkin has excellent relations with Shas who will Chair the Education, Culture & Sport Committee.

Yariv Levin

Entered Knesset in: 2009

Knesset Terms: 3rd

Spot on Likud List: 10th in 2015, 11th in 2013, 21st in 2009

Current Title: Defense & Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman

Former Titles: Coalition Chairman, House Committee Chairman

Predicted Title: Science & Technology Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu knows that he also owes a great deal of debt to Levin. Out of the lower class ministry positions that you would give a rookie minister the Science & Technology is a Ministry that makes sense for Levin.

Miri Regev

Entered Knesset in: 2009

Knesset Terms: 3rd

Spot on Likud List: 5th in 2015, 14th in 2013, 27th in 2009

Current Title: Interior Committee Chairwoman

Former Titles: Likud Backbencher

Predicted Title: Tourism Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu doesn’t want to make Regev a Minister but by appointing her she will be more careful with her conduct and it will add an additional Likud female minister to the cabinet table. Regev probably will not like Tourism but there are limited options as to what Netanyahu will want to give Regev.

Ofir Akunis

Entered Knesset in: 2009

Knesset Terms: 3rd

Spot on Likud List: 15th in 2015, 19th in 2013, 26th in 2009

Current Title: Deputy Environment Minister, Deputy Minister in Prime Minister’s Office

Former Titles: Finance (Kalkala) Committee Chairman

Predicted Title: Deputy Minister in Prime Minister’s Office

Analysis: Netanyahu might decide to make Akunis a minister but he knows that Akunis will probably agree to stay where he was in the previous term. It is possible he gets an additional Deputy Minister position in another ministry.

Danny Danon

Entered Knesset in: 2009

Knesset Terms: 3rd

Spot on Likud List: 9th in 2015, 6th in 2013, 4th in 2009

Current Title: House Committee Member, Likud Backbencher

Former Titles: Deputy Defense Minister, Immigration, Absorption & Diaspora Affairs Committee Chairman, Child Rights Committee Chairman

Predicted Title: Offered a Deputy Minister that he will turn down

Analysis: Netanyahu doesn’t like the Central Committee leader who challenged him for the leadership. Danon was the only Likud member of government to be fired in the previous government. Most likely Danon is offered a Deputy Minister again and declines. It is probable that Danon will keep on being one of Netanyahu’s biggest critics from within Likud.

Tzipi Hotovelly

Entered Knesset in: 2009

Knesset Terms: 3rd

Spot on Likud List: 20th in 2015, 10th in 2013, 18th in 2009

Current Title: Deputy Transportation Minister, Deputy Science & Technology Minsiter

Former Titles: Status of Women Committee Chairwoman

Predicted Title: Deputy Minister

Analysis: Netanyahu will probably not see a reason to appoint her after she failed in her attempts to get national religious figures to pressure the Bayit Yehudi during the coalition negotiations. She feels that despite finishing in the 20th position in the Likud list that she deserves a Minister position. She probably doesn’t get it but does get a nice position as Deputy Minister somewhere.

Dark Horse Candidate: Orly Levy splits with part of Yisrael Beitenu and takes the Welfare Ministry.

Additional Note: Netanyahu will announce 10 of the 12 Likud Ministers for Wed vote in order to ensure the 61 MKs needed to approve his government. He can survive with a safety net of disgruntled MKs down the road but he needs them for that first vote that approves the government. My guess is that Elkin & Levin are the two he saves for later so that they have the extra motivation.

Important Disclaimer: This is an analysis piece and is not based on anything the Prime Minister has promised, said or done. It should be expected that many of the appointments that were predicted above are wrong. The decision to make a wild guess prediction was made because I didn’t find anyone else that was bold enough to predict it.

Netanyahu’s Fourth Cabinet

Prime Minister Netanyahu will work to sign coalition agreements with Kulanu, Bayit Yehudi, Shas, UTJ and Yisrael Beitenu over the next few weeks. Judging by his previous three governments Netanyahu will save the Likud ministry appointments for last. It will be a tough race since everyone is looking for a promotion following Likud’s jump from 18 Knesset seats to 30. The Prime Minister was re-elected with 15 MKs from the previous Likud list, and 3 MKs are returning vets who are all looking for top jobs. The race for the Likud ministerial slots will be intense if after signing coalition deals with five other parties the next government indeed is limited to 18 ministers as the current law mandates. Netanyahu has in the past ignored the Likud primary results and created his own formula for appointing Likud members to his cabinet.

The Likud minister candidates can be divided into four groups: The current ministers, the veterans returning from hiatus, the veterans who were not on hiatus, and the class of 2009.

Prime Minister Netanyahu was able to reduce the large number of Likud veterans seeking a portfolio by one with the reconfirmation of Speaker Edelstein on the first day of the Knesset session. The five current Likud Ministers view themselves as candidates for a promotion to top portfolios. Defense Minister Yaalon expects to keep his position despite Bayit Yehudi’s Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beitenu’s Avigdor Liberman’s demands. Likud’s new #2, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, who was Likud’s #3 in the previous two Netanyahu governments, is looking for a promotion, and there are only a handful of portfolios that would accomplish that such as Foreign Affairs or Justice. The other three Likud Ministers – Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom are also looking for promotions. Shalom will most likely become the only cabinet member to serve in all four Netanyahu governments.

Three veteran MKs who are now back in Knesset after a hiatus are expecting to be added to the cabinet table before other Likud MKs are considered for promotion. Although they have had their share of disagreements, Former Minister Benny Begin, who was first elected to Knesset in 1988, was brought out of retirement twice by Netanyahu and served as a Minister in Netanyahu’s first and second governments. Former Kadima Minister and security figure Avi Dichter is also expecting a ministry despite placing 26th on the Likud’s list. Another back bencher #24, former Deputy Minister and Druze MK Ayoub Kara, who was first elected to Knesset in 1999, is expecting a ministry because he is the only non-Jewish candidate vying for a cabinet position.

The next three ministerial candidates include three veteran MKs who have not taken a hiatus and played active roles in Netanyahu’s previous governments. They expect Netanyahu to follow his previous behavior of favoring seniority over the Likud primary results. Former Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, also a member of the 1988 class that included Netanyahu and Begin, is one of just four current Likud MKs to have served in Netanyahu’s first cabinet (the others are Begin, Shalom and Edelstein, then of the Yisrael B’Aliyah party). Former Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel, the only current Likud member of the 2003 class that is not a minister, expects to be appointed as the senior female Likud member. Committee Chairman Chaim Katz who has been passed up many times for a portfolio since he was first elected to Knesset in 1999 is expecting to finally join the cabinet.

That leaves six right-wing members of the Likud 2009 class: Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin, Ofir Akunis, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovelly and Miri Regev. All of them expect to be ministers. Some of them have scored very high in the last two Likud primaries and others expect to be rewarded for performing the more difficult tasks of Netanyahu’s second and third governments. Judging by Netanyahu’s previous preferences his next government might not include these six right-wing Likud members.

It is not just the 2009 class who might be disappointed. Others such as Kara and Chaim Katz could also see themselves disappointed as well. With so much focus on his coalition partners and 17 of the 30 Likud MKs expecting a ministry, Prime Minister Netanyahu might have bigger headaches during his fourth government from his own party members who are not happy with their appointments.

Likud 2015 List:

Number-Name (previous ranking in 2013 &2009)

1 – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (#1 in 2013 & 2009)

2 – Minister Gilad Erdan (#3 in 2013 & 2009)

3 – Speaker Yuli Edelstein (#12 in 2013 & 2009)

4 – Minister Yisrael Katz (#5 in 2013, #11 in 2009)

5 – MK Miri Regev (#14 in 2013, #27 in 2009)

6 – Minister Silvan Shalom (#4 in 2013, #7 in 2009)

7 – Minister Moshe Yaalon (#8 in 2013 & 2009)

8 – Former Deputy Minister Zeev Elkin (#9 in 2013, #20 in 2009)

9 – Former Deputy Minister Danny Danon (#6 in 2013, #24 in 2009)

10 – MK Yariv Levin (#11 in 2013, #21 in 2009)

11 – Netanyahu Reserved Spot

12 – Deputy Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (#17 in 2013, Kadima MK in 2009)

13 – Minister Yuval Steinitz (#16 in 2013, #9 in 2009)

14 – Former Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel (#20 in 2013, #19 in 2009)

15 – Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (#19 in 2013, #26 in 2009)

16 – New District Position

17 – MK Haim Katz (#13 in 2013, #14 in 2009)

18 – New District Position

19 – New District Position

20 – Former Minister Avi Dichter (#59 in 2013, Kadima MK in 2009)

Other notables

24 – Former Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara (#39 in 2013, #23 in 2009) – Spot reserved for non-Jew.

26 – Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely (#10 in 2013, #18 in 2009)

36 – MK Moshe Feiglin (#15 in 2013, #36 in 2009)

37 – Former Deputy Minister Michael Ratzon (sat out 2013, #37 in 2009)



Name – 2014 Votes (2012 votes)

Erdan – 38,517 (44,875)

Edelstein – 35,893 (29,138)

Y Katz – 35,510 (41,662)

Regev – 33,385 (27,999)

Shalom – 29,808 (41,957)

Ya’alon – 27,973 (34,458)

Elkin – 25,879 (31,060)

Danon – 24,797 (36,881)

Levin – 24,258 (29,381)

Hanegbi – 24,146 (23,561)

Steinitz – 23,525 (26,109)

Gamliel –23,093 (21,843)

Akunis – 22,856 (22,898)

C Katz – 22,575 (29,035)

Dichter – 20,892 (21,455)

Hotovely – 20,837 (28,133)

Feiglin – 14,581 (26,472)

Kara – 13,963 (12,858)

Ratzon – 10,731

Note: 38 candidates ran for Likud ‘national list’. I am only providing results for the top 19 candidates.



The Likud moved to the center in the 2015 primaries. Former Kadima MK Avi Dichter bumps right-wing MKs Moshe Feiglin & Tzipi Hotoveli off the list and MKs Danny Danon was bumped down the list. The Likud’s Top 20 will only have 2 female candidates and no one under the age of 40. Likud lost members over the last two years and turnout was lower this time as well. The only candidates in realistic spots who improved in terms of actual votes were Speaker Edelstein, MK Hanegbi and female MKs Regev and Gamliel.

The winner of the primary is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is very happy with the results. The new Electoral Reform Bill will go into effect and limit the next government to 18 ministers and 4 deputy ministers.  Just like last time, expect Netanyahu to ignore the actual order of the list and to appoint whoever he wants for Likud’s top positions in the next government. This time there will be less to go around.

* Updated to reflect changes in voting after recount of Jan 4 2015.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid?

Yesh Atid 19 + Labor 15 + Yisrael Beitenu 13 + Livni Party 6 + Meretz 6 + Kadima 2 = 61 of 120 MKs (a majority).

That is the coalition on the table that is supposedly being used as a threat to get in line.

On October 28th Channel 10 journalist Raviv Drucker suggested the above coalition in a blog post.

Lapid’s supposed threat is allowing Livni to speak more freely.

Herzog wants everyone to know that everyone from Meretz to Yisrael Beitenu is ok with him.

For now, it seems far fetched that a coalition with Zahava Gal-On and Avigdor Liberman could work.

However, this scenario has gained traction since it was first mentioned over 2 weeks ago.

This “Lapid as Prime Minister” scenario is a great example of proving the “traditional bloc polling” is as relevant now as it was when it went mainstream in 2006.

What is the point of polling blocs of coalition vs opposition if the senior coalition partner (also the largest party in the Knesset) is threatening to topple the Prime Minister and form a new government with the current set up or seats?

The President nominates a candidate for Prime Minister based on his or her ability to get to a minimum of 61 seats. The President meets with the leaders of each party and asks them who they will nominate for PM.

It is clear that the leaders of the parties in the “center-left-Arab” bloc (Lapid, Herzog, Livni, etc) will not nominate Netanyahu for another term. The leaders of the “right-religious” block might not nominate Netanyahu (Kachlon, Deri, etc), however it remains the most effective way of examining the possibility of a 4th Netanyahu term.

In my opinion Yair Lapid will most likely not be Prime Minister, however the supposed threat highlights the importance of the “bloc polling” which I include at the bottom of every poll.

Analysts, pundits, experts, commentators, journalists and critics can decide to grade the winners and losers but polling is the best way to take a snapshot at public opinion. Polling is not an exact science, and margins of error are involved, however it is a better indicator than looking into a crystal ball or making predictions from your gut.

Five of the nine premier polling agencies Panels, Dialog, Smith, Geocartography & Maagar Mochot conducted polls mid-week following the end of Operation Protective Edge and this is what they found:

Likud (G-32, S-28, P-27, D&M-26) – Winner

Prime Minister Netanyahu might have performed badly in most ‘additional questions’ sections, but he remains on top in terms of who is most fit to be Prime Minister and Likud remains the largest party. The Geocartography poll of 32 seats is most likely wishful thinking. Likud might be tied for largest party in the current Knesset with 19 seats, but Likud is the largest party by a safe margin in the four realistic sounding polls of 28-26 seats. The public still supports the Prime Minister. His main problem is the Likud membership who is looking at options of replacing the 3-term Prime Minister. Will he survive the infighting?

Bayit Yehudi (P-19, G-18, D&M-17, S-14) – Winner

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi Party polled in second place in five of the six polls conducted during Operation Protective Edge. The Smith poll during the operation placed Bayit Yehudi third & Labor second.  He remained in second place in the five polls taken after the operation, although in the latest Smith poll he tied for second place with Labor. As far as polls go, Bennett emerged as the clear winner of this operation. He jumped from being the fourth largest party to second place in the polls. In many polls he also finished second in the question of ‘Who is most fit to be Prime Minister?’ Many pundits doubt a nationalist politician with a yarmulke can maintain the success and polling status as the #2 party. In the meantime the polls keep proving those pundits wrong. Can the freshman MK maintain his success and actually lead his party to achieve second place in the election?

Labor (P-15, D,S&M-14, G-12) – Loser

Opposition Leader Herzog has failed to gain momentum. It is difficult being the leader of the left during a war. Labor is the third largest party with 15 seats, but the Geocartography poll has Labor in fourth place. Although he was statesmanlike during most of the campaign, towards the end he called for elections at the end of the operation. Calling for elections in the middle of a war might go down as one of his major gaffes and could be used by Likud in future campaign videos. Herzog will be Labor’s ‘Prime Ministerial candidate’ for the next elections. For now he can’t improve on Shelly Yachmovich’s 2013 showing of 15 seats which makes him the clear loser of the operation. Will he be able to turn it around?

Yisrael Beitenu (G-17, S&M-12, D-11, P-9) – Loser

Foreign Minister Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu is polling at third-fifth place. The 17 seats from the Geocartography poll seem a bit too high. The other four polls of 9-12 seats seem more likely. These numbers are not good for Liberman who currently has 12 seats. He won 15 seats in 2009 and 12 seats in 2006. Liberman chose to split off from the joint Likud Beitenu Faction days before the war. This is a losing situation for a veteran right-wing leader who is polling lower than his election results of the last decade during the longest operation in the last 40 years. The other leaders of the right (Netanyahu & Bennett) both enjoyed a bump but Liberman has not found the magic formula. If a right-wing leader doesn’t peak during wartime, when will he peak?

Yesh Atid (P&D-12, S&G-9, M-8) – Loser

Finance Minister Yair Lapid has been in trouble in the polls for a long time. His financial policy has angered most Israelis. His irresponsible quotes during the war did not help him, such as saying the war would not have an impact on the budget and promising not to raise taxes before he knew when the war would end and what the overall cost would be. The Geocartography & Maagar Mochot polls have the freshman Yesh Atid dropping from the second largest party to the sixth largest party. In the Geocartography poll Lapid is behind the UTJ party that he loathes. This is the guy who was polling around 30 seats over a year ago. If he fails to pass his 0% VAT housing reform program, will anyone remember his Charedi draft law?

Shas (M-10, S-9, P-8, D&G-7) – Winner

Before the war it looked like Shas was about to split into two. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is gone. Aryeh Deri & Eli Yishai infighting was becoming too difficult for either side to hide anymore. Popular #3 Ariel Attias decided to resign from Knesset, rumors started to link Attias to Kahlon. Shas was dropping in the polls and one would expect that in war time most of their voters would move over to Likud. Instead Deri & Yishai stopped fighting publicly and both took a lower profile. With the internal chaos going on before the war, a loss of up to four seats is a win for an opposition party focused on religion & economics during war time. Now that Operation Protective Edge is over, will Operation Split Shas continue?

United Torah Judaism (G-10, D-8, S,P&M-7) – Winner

Israel just went through 50 days of war and UTJ remained steady and that is a win for them. The Geocartography poll showing of 10 seats is wishful thinking. Maintaining their position in the polls of 7-8 seats is impressive considering this a party that prioritizes Torah learning in Yeshiva over serving in the army. Their arch nemesis Lapid chose to threaten Hamas political leaders instead of turning public debate towards a large sector of society that was not putting on army uniforms. Party activists pride themselves that in two polls the Ashkenazi UTJ finished higher than the Sephardi Shas. Can the Lithuanians and Hassidic sects remain united for another election?

Meretz (P-9, D&S-7, G&M-6) – Loser

Remember when Meretz was consistently polling in the double digits two months ago? Well those days are over. The party that is to the left of Labor has lost their momentum and possibly their direction. Many people support Meretz’s domestic politics but find it hard to vote for the party during a time when diplomatic & national defense issues are in the headlines. The MKs did not speak in a single voice and it was not clear to many where the party stood on many issues related to the operation. Meretz won 6 seats in the last election with a 4.55% showing that included 14% of the Tel Aviv vote. Will Meretz be able to repeat double digit numbers in Tel Aviv following the sirens of Protective Edge?

Hadash (D-6, S-5, P&G-4,M-?) – Winner

The future of the smaller parties has been cast in doubt with the raising of the new threshold to 3.25%/4 seats. The ability of Hadash, a joint Arab-Jewish Party to remain above the threshold in all polls makes them a winner. Polling at 5 or 6 seats is highly unusual for the party. It is possible they were able to take away votes from Meretz.

Balad (G-5, D-4, S&P-3,M-?) – Winner

The Balad MKs went to Qatar to meet with former leader MK Bishara who is wanted on charges of treason in Israel for terrorist actions during the Second Lebanon War. They are winners considering they were able to go on the trip, come back and remain MKs, while enjoying a slight bump in the polls. On the other hand, 3 seats will not cut it anymore under the new threshold.

Livni/Movement (S,D,P&M-4, G-0) – Loser

Justice Minister Livni is barely able to pass the threshold in four polls and in the other poll she is not able to. Rumors of her MKs making preparations for the next elections in different parties does not help her either. Few people think this party will make it to the next elections and the public seems to agree.

Ra’am-Ta’al (D4, S&P-3, G-0,M-?) – Loser

Ra’am-Ta’al received more votes than Hadash, Balad and Kadima in Jan 2013. Yet, they fail to pass the threshold in 3 of the 4 polls, and barely escape it in the fourth. Lucky for them there will be attempts to merge with Balad and maybe Hadash.

Kadima 1 seat in Maagar Mochot poll, 0 seats in all other polls – Loser

Remember when Shaul Mofaz was Defense Minister and a member of the Security Cabinet? I’m not sure many do.

Kahlon (Maagar Mochot Poll 8 seats, Smith Poll 5 seats) – Loser

Kahlon is an economic guy. He can’t announce a new party when security and defense issues are at the top of the news.

  • I’d like to see New Wave, Midgam, Teleseker & Dahaf polls to get a clearer picture but five out of nine is not that bad. It is rare to see a majority of the ‘Top 9’ polling agencies poll at the same time in the middle of a term.

* A non-polls related post.

Links to 6 VOI interviews:

1) Panel with Daniel Seaman, Gil Hoffman and Ari Abramowitz (Aug 13): 

Cairo talks collapsing as midnight deadline nears and more.

2) Discussion with Josh Hasten on what is like coming home after 26 days of IDF reserve duty (Aug 13):

3) Discussion with Josh Hasten from reserve duty on feelings of IDF redeployment outside of Gaza (Aug 5):

4) Discussion with Yishai Fleisher from reserve duty on what seems to be end of ground operation (Aug 4):

5) Discussion with Yishai Fleisher from reserve duty on feelings from south (July 22)

6) Undated July interview with Josh Hasten from reserve duty.


Presidential Elections

Israel’s President is elected by the 120 MKs but many polling companies have polled the public’s opinion anyways.

These are the results of the latest Panels Poll:

Reuven Rivlin 35%

Dan Shechtman 30%

Dalia Dorner 9%

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer 5%

Meir Sheetrit 4%

Dalia Itzik 4%

* Nominations:

The largest group was the 49 MKs that didn’t sign for anyone, that included coalition leaders Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett & Liberman.

Rivlin received 16 signatures: 7 Likud, 5 BY, 2 YA, 1 Shas, 1 UTJ.
Ben-Eliezer’s 13 signatures: All of them from Labor.
Sheetrit’s 11 signatures: Livni 6, 4 YA, 1 Shas.
Itzik’s 11 signatures: 4 Arabs, 2 Meretz, 2 YA, 2 YB, 1 Shas.
Dorner’s 10: 5 YA, 2 Arabs, 2 Meretz, 1 Shas.
Shechtman’s 10: 2 Meretz, 2 YA, 2 BY, Likud 1, Shas 1, Kadima 1, Arabs 1.

KnessetJeremy Take:

* The race in my eyes is who will meet Rivlin in the second round. There have never been six candidates on the ballot before, it is possible that some will drop out. It seem certain that there will be a second round. The new law states that a simple majority of votes will win, previously you needed to go through as many rounds as possible until a candidate won 61 votes.

* I’ll note that most MKs don’t take Shechtman or Dorner seriously, in order to obtain the 10 signatures necessary to make the ballot they had MKs who are supporting other candidates sign their registration forms. If they remain in the race they will receive single digits.

* I think it is too early to determine who will end up going head-to-head with Rivlin. It will be either Ben-Eliezer, Sheetrit or Itzik.

Many people think it will be Ben-Eliezer, but I don’t see anti-Rivlin YB or YA MKs voting for him, he couldn’t even get 1 signature from any other non-Labor opposition MK.

Others think it will be Itzick, but the only way she got on the ballot was with the support of 4 Arab MKs, not exactly the largest Knesset power base.

The key will be the 19 Yesh Atid MKs. In the nomination process they gave their signatures for 5 candidates (Rivlin, Shitrit, Itzick, Schectman, Dorner). No YA MK signed for Fuad. Lapid didn’t sign for anyone.

Jeremy Saltan on Galay Yisrael Radio: Breakdown of Peace Talks and Racism near Jerusalem in Mevasseret Tzion.



Knesset insider Jeremy Man Saltan discusses the breakdown of negotiations between Israel and Arab leadership and the root causes behind the end of the negotiations. He moves on to talk about how American Secretary of State John Kerry’s idea of ending the conflict in nine months has been an absolute failure and ends with a discussion about how racist Purim costumes near Jerusalem in Mevasseret Tzion, have caused the issue of racism to be brought to the forefront.

Galay Yisrael Radio Interview from last night:

Knesset insider Jeremy Man talks about the three main bills that were presented in the Knesset right before the begin of their recess. Listen as Yishai and Man Saltan discuss the specifics of these bills and how everything shook out after votes in the Knesset. Additionally, some notes on housing.


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