Professor Eytan Gilboa is Director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University and a Senior Research Associate at its Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA). A specialist on U.S.-Israeli relations, international communication and public diplomacy, he briefed the Middle East Forum about the upcoming Israeli elections in a conference call on December 17, 2014.
Three months ahead of the early elections called by PM Benjamin Netanyahu, polls find a third of Israelis undecided: they view Netanyahu as holding onto power for too long and yet they are unable to identify a worthy successor. With the call for "ABN" (Anyone but Netanyahu) becoming the campaign's foremost slogan, the opposition parties are already blaming the incumbent premier for Israel's social, economic and foreign policy woes. Even on security issues, his traditional forte, Netanyahu seems vulnerable after the inconclusive Gaza war.
Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog (left) and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni .
The alignment of political parties is a major factor in Israeli elections since the candidate who garners the support of the greatest number of Knesset members is asked by the president to form a government. A left-of-center alignment will possibly yield more seats than it currently holds but will still be seen as weak in light of the Herzog-Livni power-sharing agreement. Alignments between right-leaning and centrist parties are speculative at best; and while Netanyahu may be planning to form a coalition with the ultraorthodox parties, he will still need a centrist party to assemble a governing coalition.
Some Israeli commentators expect President Obama to try to influence the outcome of the elections as payback for Netanyahu's support for Romney in the 2012 presidential elections. Any such attempt, however, is likely to be viewed by Israelis as blatant interference in their country's internal affairs, driving many of them to vote for right-leaning parties.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Associate Fellow with the Middle East Forum.