ISRAEL VOTES 2013: What Israel’s next government might look like

TEL AVIV (JTA) — One day after the election, all of the Israeli news sites show an even pie chart: 60 Knesset seats for the left and 60 for the right.

But the Knesset isn’t actually divided 60-60. It’s split four ways — 42 for the right, 48 for the center-left, 18 for haredi Orthodox and 12 for the Arab parties.

Haredim have been called the “natural partners” of the right, though they’re really free agents. And Arab parties have never been asked to join a coalition, which makes them all but irrelevant to the process of forming the next government.

That leaves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bind. His right-wing faction, Likud-Beiteinu, is the biggest at 31 seats, and will probably be asked to form the coalition. Will it opt for the same government it has now – a narrow, uncompromising alliance of the right-wing and haredi parties? Or will it tack toward the center?

Here are some possible coalition scenarios:

Status quo: right wing-haredi

Parties: Likud-Beiteinu (31), Jewish Home (11), Shas (11), United Torah Judaism (7)
Size: 60 MKs

This government would be just big enough for Netanyahu to survive a no-confidence vote in the Knesset (which requires a majority), but it would be hard to get much else done. The parties agree on a broad right-wing agenda, but dissatisfaction from one party could doom the government.

Most important, Shas and UTJ, the haredi parties, would stridently oppose including haredi yeshiva students in Israel’s mandatory conscription, a stated goal of Netanyahu and Jewish Home. And Netanyahu would be on the ideological left of this coalition rather than in the center.


Parties: Likud-Beiteinu (31), Yesh Atid (19), Jewish Home (11). Possibly: Hatnua (6), Kadima (2)
Size: 61 to 69 MKs

According to analysts, this is Netanyahu’s top choice. It includes three of the four biggest parties, and puts Likud and Netanyahu squarely in its center – with Jewish Home on the right and Yesh Atid, Hatnua and Kadima on the left.

Every party agrees on the need to draft haredi yeshiva students, and Yesh Atid and Jewish Home agree on some aspects of economic reform. But it’s hard to imagine Hatnua, founded to advance the peace process, sitting in the same government as Jewish Home, which strongly opposes Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That would leave the coalition at a weak 61 to 63 MKs.


Parties: Likud-Beiteinu (31), Yesh Atid (19), Labor (15), Hatnua (6), Kadima (2)
Size: 73 MKs

This option is unlikely because it includes Labor, which vowed not to join a Netanyahu-led coalition. If the party changes its mind, though, this coalition would allow Netanyahu to leave out Jewish Home, which he attacked in the campaign. And if Netanyahu changes tack and decides to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace, he’ll have the support.

But such a change is a long shot, mostly because Netanyahu is right wing and his party shifted even further to the right in this year’s primaries.


Yesh Atid (19), Labor (15), Shas (11), UTJ (7), Hatnua (6), Meretz (6), Kadima (2)
Size: 66 MKs

Here are a few reasons why this coalition, suggested by some analysts, probably won’t happen:

* Netanyahu leads the biggest party, so he’ll almost definitely get to form the coalition.
* Yesh Atid has said expressly that it would join Netanyahu’s government.
* Haredi parties fit more naturally on the right, which shares their traditionalist values.
* In return for joining a center-left coalition, the haredim probably would demand continued draft exemption for yeshiva students, which would drive away Yesh Atid.