Israel Matters! – October 2022

Split Decision – The 2022 Israeli Election

If it seems like you’ve seen an Israeli election column before in Israel Matters, there’s a reason for that: the May 2021 issue covered last year’s Israeli Knesset election. That election, which took place on March 23, 2021, took almost three months to resolve as the new government was not established and sworn in until June 13. Uh, that was June 13th of last year; the government lasted just over a year until the Knesset was dissolved on June 20 of this year. So, once again Israelis get to experience the highs and lows of their nearly-impossible-to-comprehend electoral system where parties (and party leaders) come and go amidst the horse trading that takes place as one or the other “bloc” attempts to secure enough seats to establish a majority in the 120 seat Knesset.

There are two main blocs in the running: Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s Likud-led bloc of right wing and Jewish ultra-orthodox (or Haredi) parties, and the Center-Left bloc of current caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, though former IDF Chief of Staff and leader of the newly formed National Unity party Benny Gantz is also positioning himself to be Prime Minister depending upon how the final votes shake out. There is a third smaller but consequential bloc of Israeli Arab parties that together run as the Joint List. Though they are expected to claim at most six seats, that is sufficient to prevent either of the other two blocs from reaching the 61 Knesset seats required to form a majority.
So, now that the backdrop is perfectly clear, what do the polls have to say about the upcoming vote? Let’s start with the most current “official” poll available as of the date of this writing, which comes courtesy of The Times of Israel and Number 10 Strategies. Remember Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows? Below we present the Poll of Polls! And, it suggests we are heading for…a mess. First, look at all those parties. Lots of them. And, these are only those parties that based on the Poll of Polls are expected to cross the minimum 3.5% popular vote threshold required to enter the Knesset. Left off are such venerable parties as Ale Yarok (or Green Leaf, whose major platform revolves around legalizing marijuana), Bayit Yehudi (or the Jewish Home, which used to be much more popular and even had a former math professor from the Technion, Daniel Hershkovitz, serve as Minister of Science and Technology), and

Economic Freedom which, I kid you not, was just formed the week before the Poll of Polls above appeared. Returning to the polling results, the chart above shows the number of Knesset seats that would be expected across those parties that actually get in. And, once again, it looks like nobody wins. Let’s first tally the Bibi Bloc – we have Likud (31.8 seats), Religious Zionism (itself a merger of two right-wing religious parties with 11.8 seats), Shas (the ultra-orthodox Sephardi party with 8.5 seats), and UTJ (for United Torah Judaism, which at the moment has 6.8 seats but is having its own internal schism between the Hasidim of Agudat Yisroel and the non-Hasidic “Lithuanian” Haredim of Degel Hatorah), for a total of 58.9 seats, or say 59. Then we have Yair Lapid’s Center-Left bloc consisting of Yesh Atid (there’s a future there somewhere with 23.6 seats), Benny Gantz’s Blue & White and Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope (which merged to form the National Unity party with 12.3 seats), Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Our Home, a party led by Avigdor “Yvette” Lieberman that largely represents Russian and other Eastern European immigrants with 5.4 seats), Meretz (the leftiest of the Zionist parties with 5.1 seats), Labor (once the grand party of Ben Gurion, now down to 4.9 seats), and Ra’am (an Arab Muslim religious party that was part of the outgoing government with 4.1 seats), for a total of 55.4 seats, or say 55. And, then there’s the Joint List amalgam of the remaining Israeli Arab parties with 5.6 seats, so say 6. The Poll of Polls thus suggests another split decision with 59 for Bibi’s Bloc, 55 for Lapid’s Bloc, and 6 for the Joint List, which nicely adds to 120. As of now then, it looks like the winner is nobody.
And, it does not seem that there is any real movement in one direction or the other. Looking into the X’s and O’s of this election, our data scientists at Israel Matters have, in Poll of Polls fashion, produced the plot below that shows the number of seats predicted for the Bibi (X’s) and Lapid (O’s) blocs as deduced from polls reported since the Knesset was dissolved back in June. The Bloc of the Right consistently outperforms the Center-Left coalition, but as of now, a majority of votes is not forthcoming for Bloc Bibi. And, there really does not appear to be any significant trend that suggests that something decisive will occur soon. With such a bleak forecast, we decided to conduct our own random
sample of experts, namely, current and former participants of the famed TBS Morning Minyan. After all, the Minyanaires talk about Israel every day (Shema Yisrael, Shomer Yisrael, Kol Yisrael…), and to get a significant sample, well, you need at least 10 responses − it’s the Minyan, get it? The Minyanaires were asked one question: do you think that Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next Prime Minister of Israel? The results: almost twice as many respondents answered “no” as “yes.” This very careful random sample suggests that Minyanaires believe it is nearly twice as likely that someone other than Netanyahu will be Israel’s next Prime Minister (remember, this is a survey of beliefs, not personal preference). These results are not inconsistent with Israeli polling which, as discussed earlier, indicates that neither the Bibi nor Lapid blocs have sufficient support to claim victory. If indeed the election does turn out as the polls suggest, then the next Prime Minister could be decided by non-electoral moves (e.g. Netanyahu decides to vacate his role as Leader of the Likud enabling a Right Wing bloc led by someone else), or as has happened before, yet another election is required. Our May 2021 Israel Matters column suggested that this could be due to Israel being too democratic when it comes to elections. By the time you read this article, maybe we’ll know what happened.

Ma Yesh b’Telivisia?
The Baker and The Beauty (Amazon Prime)

Are you tired of flipping through the channels and finding only violent and stressful movies and TV series? Are you in the mood for something light and fun? Do you love pita bread?

If you answered yes to those questions, then The Baker and The Beauty is just the show for you. This romantic-comedy is actually a kind of Cinderella story, but in this case, ‘Cinderella’ is Amos the sweet-as-can-be pita baker and ‘The Prince’ is a selfish but beautiful superstar named Noa. The fun of this series is not just watching Noa and Amos’s budding romance and challenges, but perhaps moreso, the craziness in the day-to-day lives of their families and friends. In The Baker and The Beauty, every bit of the dialogue is clever and funny, and you’ll come to know and love (or despise) the quirky characters by the end of the first episode.

On the surface, The Baker and The Beauty may seem superficial, but in reality, delves into important current social and moral issues like cultural stereotypes and prejudices, sexual identity, family expectations and acceptance, and much, much more. Watching this show gives the viewer a view into modern Israel and will just plain make you smile (most of the time). It’ll be tough for you not to binge watch this series.

Warning: There is an American version of this show that is NOT THE SAME. Be sure to find the one in Hebrew (on Amazon prime) and turn on the subtitles… you’ll be glad you did!