On June 30, 2022, the Knesset voted to dissolve the Parliament and hold the country’s fifth election in three years. As per the coalition agreement, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will serve as interim prime minister until a new government is formed. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced he would not run in the election scheduled for November 1, 2022.
The government collapsed just over one year after forming the unprecedented alliance of parties from the center, right, left, and the Islamist Ra’am Party. It had been teetering at the brink as disgruntled lawmakers refused to maintain party discipline. The final straw was the inability to renew regulations needed to apply Israeli civil law to Jewish settlers in the West Bank when Arab lawmakers opposed the legislation. Despite its support for the policy, it was also sabotaged by the opposition due to its commitment to vote against any government-sponsored bills. This, combined with pressuring right-wing members of the coalition to defect, was part of a strategy by Benjamin Netanyahu to regain power.
In the immediate aftermath of the government’s fall, the future of Yamina came into question as Bennett’s decision left Ayelet Shaked at the head of a party that was splintering. Two Yamina defectors, Amichai Chikli and Idit Silman, joined Likud. Shaked recruited two former members of New Hope, Yoaz Hendel and Tzvi Hauser, to form a new Zionist Spirit Party, but the partnership collapsed three days before party lists were submitted because of a disagreement over whether to join a government led by Netanyahu. Shaked was willing, but the others weren’t. With her chance of passing the electoral threshold imperiled, Shaked rejoined HaBayit HaYehudi as its leader and apologized to supporters for joining the Bennett coalition, reassuring them that she was committed to the right wing.
In another development, Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar announced the merger of Kahol Lavan and New Hope and their intention to run jointly in the next election, with Gantz at the top of the ticket and Sa’ar second. Their new party, HaMahane HaMamlachti, also picked up the much sought-after former IDF chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, and two members of Yamina, making Gantz a legitimate contender for prime minister.
In August, Netanyahu brokered a deal for Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism Party to run together with Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit to assure they would win seats in the Knesset. Individually, they were less likely to succeed and would deprive Netanyahu of the votes he needs if he hopes to be prime minister. The anti-LGBT Noam Party’s MK Avi Maoz reportedly would be given the 11th spot on the far right list, headed by Smotrich, with Ben Gvir getting the second spot.
Netanyahu also put out a fire that might have led him to lose support. The leaders of United Torah Judaism were considering splitting into two rival factions, which could have left one or both below the electoral threshold. Netanyahu convinced the non-Hasidic “Lithuanian” faction of Degel Hatorah, headed by Moshe Gafni, and the Hasidic Agudat Israel, led by Yitzhak Goldenkopf, to remain united. In exchange, he agreed to increase their schools’ budgets and exempt them from teaching secular studies.
Lapid had a similar challenge with the parties on the left, who he feared would fall below the threshold if they didn’t merge, thereby weakening his chances of remaining prime minister. However, he was unsuccessful in convincing Labor to unite with Meretz.
Hadash and Balad decided to run together. After some disagreements over places on the list, Ta’al joined the coalition. The three agreed that whoever would become the candidate for prime minister following the election would only get their support if they decided to engage in negotiations with the PLO to establish a Palestinian state, change policies that discriminate against Israeli Arabs, and annul any laws that facilitate such discrimination, such as the Nation-State Law. Balad was subsequently ruled ineligible to compete in the election by the Central Election Committee (CEC). The party appealed the decision and the Supreme Court ruled it could participate in the election.
The Supreme Court also overruled the CEC decision to prevent MK Amichai Chikli from running on the Likud slate after being declared a defector by Yamina.
Israeli polls have consistently found that the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu is likely to win 59-61 seats. He needs 61 for a majority and the chance to form the next government.
1. Gideon Sa’ar
1 Yair Lapid
National Unity Party
2. Yaakov Margi
3. Yoav Ben Tzur
4. Michael Malkieli
5. Chaim Bitton
6. Moshe Arbel
7. Yinon Azoulay
8. Moshe Abutbul
9. Uriel Busso
10. Yosef Taieb
1. Zehava Galon
1. Itamar Ben-Gvir
1. Merav Michaeli
1. Mansour Abbas
1. Sami Abu Shehadeh
|Party||Seats||Total Vote||% of Total|
|National Union Party||12||432,376||9.08%|
|United Torah Judaism||7||280,125||5.88%|
|United Arab List||5||193,916||4.07%|
|Hadash - Ta’al||5||178,661||3.75%|
|TOTAL VALID VOTES||4,763,694|
Israel’s election laws mandate that the vote counts must be completed within eight days of the election, including any recounts or discrepancies. On November 9, the chairman of the Central Election Committee, Justice Yitzhak Amit, announced the final results.
Polls prior to the election forecast a tight race with Netanyahu and parties supporting him likely eking out a victory with perhaps 61 seats. Instead, they won 64 seats with the existing coalition taking just 51 and Hadash-Ta’al the other five. Lapid’s party picked up 24 seats – seven more than in 2021. Netanyahu’s Likud picked up only two.
The big winner was the Religious Zionism Party which won 14 seats. The possibility of the party’s far-right leaders being rewarded with cabinet positions alarmed many inside and outside of Israel.
The big losers were the parties on the left. Labor had eschewed an alliance with Meretz and the result was a disaster for both. Meretz failed to reach the threshold of 3.25% to win a seat, falling just 3,800 votes short. Labor, which had dominated Israeli politics until 1977, won three fewer seats than in 2021.
Balad, which decided not to join the Arab list, also failed to win a seat. Overall, the Arab parties still took 10 seats but this was a significant loss of power after the Joint list had become the third largest party in 2015.
On the right, Shaked’s Habayit Hayehudi failed as well to pass the threshold.
Seth Frantzman observed that the results were a repudiation of the coalition for change that Lapid and Naftali Bennett had patched together. “Part of this repudiation came about because voters who went to the polls in March 2021 felt their votes were ignored by party leaders,” he said, “and in November 2022 they voted for openly right-wing parties that could be counted on to stay on the Right.”
President Isaac Herzog invited the leaders of each party for consultations on who should get the first opportunity to form a coalition. He has seven days to decide. The president typically chooses the leader of the party that received the most votes, which would be Netanyahu. That is what transpired. Netanyahu was given 28 days to form a government. Ultimately, he cobbled together a coalition of the religious and right-wing parties, which include the controversial far-right politicians Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.
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Michael Hauser Tov, “PM Bennett Announces He Will Not Run in Israel’s Next Election,” Haaretz, (June 29, 2022).
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Chen Maanit, “In Reversal, Top Court Clears Arab Balad Party to Run,” Haaretz, (October 9, 2022).
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“Israel Election: Meet the Extremist Lawmakers About to Join the Government,” Haaretz, (