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.
After the deadline to submit party lists passed, the Joint List broke up, with Balad deciding to run independently. Divisions among the Arabs and dissatisfaction with Ra’am’s participation in the government led analysts to predict a low turnout from the Arab community.
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.
Patrick Kingsley, “Israel’s Government Collapses, Setting Up 5th Election in 3 Years,” New York Times, (June 20, 2022).
Michael Hauser Tov, “PM Bennett Announces He Will Not Run in Israel’s Next Election,” Haaretz, (June 29, 2022).
“Gantz and Saar agree to merge parties for elections,” BICOM, (July 11, 2022).
“Blue and White, New Hope announce union, will run as joint slate in November vote,” Times of Israel, (July 10, 2022).
Eliav Breuer and Roman Meitav, “Gantz and Sa’ar sign political merger in bid to take votes from Lapid,” Jerusalem Post, (July 11, 2022).
Ben Caspit, “Israeli premiership with party merger,” Al-Monitor, (July 12, 2022).
Carrie Keller-Lynn, “Ex-IDF chief Eisenkot, former Yamina minister Kahana join Gantz-led’ National Unity,’” Times of Israel, (August 14, 2022).
“Netanyahu brokers deal for far-right’s Smotrich, Ben Gvir to join forces in election,” Times of Israel, (August 26, 2022).
“Political jockeying before the election lists close,” BICOM, (September 12, 2022)
Eliav Breuer, “Is the Shaked-Bennett era over?” Jerusalem Post, (September 12, 2022).
Jack Khoury, “Three Arab Parties Reach Tentative Deal to Run on Unified Slate in Knesset Election,” Haaretz, (September 14, 2022).
Aaron Rabinowitz, “United Torah Judaism Factions Set to Settle Dispute, Unite for Election,” Haaretz, (September 12, 2022).
Amir Tibon, Netanyahu Is a Serial Promise Breaker, but This One He’ll Have to Keep,” Haaretz, (September 15, 2022).
Alex Grobman, “Arab Joint List Splinters as Parties Submit Final Lists, Haaretz, (September 15, 2022).
Yossi Verter, “Israel Election: Arab Party May Have Granted Netanyahu His Dream of a Knesset Majority,” Haaretz, (September 16, 2022).