Category: Opinion Pieces

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.

Do you want to learn more about each of the Big 3?

Two-part KnessetJeremy FM interview on Big 3 (Electoral Reform, Shaked, National Referendum) Bills.

Part 1 (from 4:30 on):
Part 2 (from 4:25 on)

Interview aired on Galey Yisrael on Tuesday March 11 2014.
The interview was conducted the day before.

The Shaked Bill is really two bills in one.
Both of the bills are very long, here is a quick summary of major points.
The National Service Bill 

Three different types of National Service:

Civilian-Security-Service (police, prison service, firefighting, protecting witnesses, green & beach police, magen david adom/ambulances, zaka, hatzala, other lifesaving organizations). 36 hours a week for two years.

Civilian-Social-Service (health, welfare, education, environment, absorbing immigration, assisting senior citizens, road safety, government hasbara, national archives work, overseas government work). Choice between 20 hours a week for three years or 30 hours a week for two years, either way it will be a 5-day work-week. 20 paid vacation days a year and 20 paid sick days a year.

Civilian-National Service (the type that we are familiar with today).

Amendment to the Security Service Bill


* Men service goes down from 36 to 32 months (2 years 8 months).
* Learning Torah will be recognized as a service to the State of Israel.


  • Hesder track will now serve a minimum of 17 months (1 year 5 months)
  • Shiluv, Mechina and other program track adjustments and additions.
  • Non-Hesder/Shiluv/Mechina Zionist Yeshiva deferments until age 23 or 26, depending on criteria.
  • Zionist Yeshiva students required to learn Torah 40-45 hours a week depending on criteria and not allowed to work.
  • Criteria to be included in law.
  • Reports Zionist Yeshivas must submit to government.


  • Becomes law on March 20 2014.
  • Adjustment period for Haredim ends July 1st 2017.
  • Defense Minister can allow each Haredi in age brackets 18-21 to defer their army service for up to 12 months each year.
  • Defense Minister can grant each Haredi at age 22 a two-year deferment until age 24 or two one-year deferments depending on criteria.
  • Defense Minister can allow each Haredi aged 24 and older to enter workforce.
  • After age 21 the various national service tracks can be opened up depending on criteria.
  • Haredim aged 24 and older can enter employment tracks.
  • Haredim can receive up to 15 hours of employment training a week.
  • A lot of executive power and room given to Minister of the Economy to integrate Haredim into workforce.
  • Defense Minister can release 26 year old Haredim from service if the Haredim meet their target goals after the five year adjustment period.
  • Even if Haredim don’t meet target goals, Haredim under 21 will be able to defer service until 21.
  • Each year 1,800 additional Haredim will be exempt from serving in military or national service.
  • Yeshiva students required to learn Torah 40-45 hours a week depending on criteria and not allowed to work.
  • Haredi Yeshiva students aged 22 and older who are married are allowed to work but still must put in the 40-45 hours learning.
  • Criteria for who is on list of Haredi Yeshiviot.
  • Government reports to Knesset on implementation of the law.
  • Criteria for hiring supervisors for this law.
  • There will be target numbers for military, and different target numbers for national
  • Bottom Line: The bill really gives the Defense Minister a lot of power on how it will be implemented.

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