Just so everyone knows, if they care, there are three parties that are facing elimination in the elections that have consistently polled awfully. There are only 11 political factions with a realistic shot of getting into the Knesset with this week’s Israeli elections. If all three of these brink parties are eliminated, it would completely change the dynamics of Israeli politics.
In the previous Knesset, you only needed 2% of the general vote to qualify for the Knesset. Now, you need 3.25%. As a result, the minimum number of seats a party would have has in the Knesset of 2 has changed to 4. Three parties have polled this number several times. A fourth party polled it one time – Shas.
The three parties are Yachad, Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz.
Undecided Voters Could Kill these Parties
What these polls often neglect to include in its distribution of seats based on surveys is the high number of undecided votes.
Since those undecideds, who might be as high as 16% of those polled in recent weeks, were to not evenly distribute across the political spectrum, that means they could push down the percentage of the vote other parties get.
In the last election, undecideds overwhelmingly picked Yesh Atid at the ballot box. Many people see undecided voters usually being in the middle of the spectrum – this is the case in the US, where it is more often called the “swing vote” because it swings either left toward the Democrats or right to the Republicans. In Israel, there are more options. In the last Knesset there was a definitive centrist party. In this Knesset, there are two: Yesh Atid and Kulanu.
In all likelihood, considering this has still been characterized as a battle between the left and the right (Zionist Camp and Likud), these undecideds will land between Yesh Atid and Kulanu. Yisrael Beytenu has tried to position itself as centrist, but its positions on Arabs and security make most people see it as right-wing.
Although Yisrael Beytenu and Meretz have polled 5 seats many more times than they have polled 4, there is a strong chance that the inclusion of centrist undecided votes will push Meretz toward elimination. If Yisrael Beytenu cannot convince enough people it is in the political center, it will also fight to be in the next Knesset.
What Next for the Losing Parties?
If these parties are eliminated, each faction will probably face a different fate. Meretz will survive as a party (it has been in the game for decades). They will likely (or if I were in charge of them, should) reach out to other fringe left-wing movements that push things like environmentalist platforms or legalizing marijuana. When the next election comes around, they will hope to get a blip on the polls and then try to join Labor for a joint list.
Yisrael Beytenu might be doomed. If the Russian constituency could not save Beytenu, that indicates there might no longer be a “constituency” and that Russians are more distributed among the electorate and would no longer be interested in running as a bloc (much like Anglos don’t).
Yachad as an initiative will split. Otzmah will probably continue to fight (and lose) another day as an independent movement like it did in 2013. Eli Yishai will try to return later, but Yoni Chetboun – his main political partner – is probably done absent a rejoining of Jewish Home. Yishai might wait for Shas to open up its leadership race again if it chooses to, then make an effort. This is possible, but not likely.
Shas itself needs to consider a number of things though if it takes a hit on election day. The split between Yishai and Deri, which amplified the loss of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, really risks the party’s viability in the future. It might benefit from reassessing its leadership.
Enough with Line Charts. Look at this Trends Chart.
This chart squeezes all the election polls from Israeli media since the election was announced on December 8th. Dark green boxes represent the high points for a party in the polls (subsequently lighter shades represent its 2nd highest and 3rd highest totals). The orange spots represent the low points for parties IF those low points are higher than 5 seats. Any time a party polled 5 seats is shaded pink; any time that party polled 4 seats (the minimum), it is shaded red. Maroon is 0.
The Arab List is consistently green because it has always polled between 10 and 13 seats (as a joint list). But notice that the Zionist Camp and Yesh Atid reached their peaks late in the race – they are on an upward swing. Jewish Home is nowhere near elimination, but its orange blocks indicate it has bottomed out (11 in the polls). Likud has fizzled and is below their peak but higher than their low point. Kulanu has been balanced the entire time around 8 or 9 (though they were polling as high as 13 and one point, explaining the lack of color altogether in their row.
Shas has recovered from the initial shock of Eli Yishai forming a new party, bouncing back from the three times it polled 4 seats and is now around 7, 8 or 9. UTJ has bottomed out, but it has polled consistently 6, 7 or 8 the entire time.
The pinkish-reddish columns are the three big losers: Meretz, Beytenu and Yachad. Meretz has been weakening the entire election. They are consistently polling 5. Beytenu has also been decaying, finally hitting 4 seats in the absolute last poll published.
If I had to predict what is going to happen, here is what I think will go down.
Yachad and Beytenu will be eliminated. Yachad is definitely finished. Beytenu has a chance. Meretz will be on the cusp between 4 seats and being eliminated. How Meretz does will likely decide the election. If Meretz survives, Yitzhak Herzog will be Prime Minister. If they are eliminated, Binyamin Netanyahu will be Prime Minister. Only if the Arab List decides to end its stubborn refusal to sit in government will Herzog win.
Wildcard: Eli Yishai’s Last Chance
Eli Yishai claims he has a tape of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef giving him permission to form a new political party in the wake of Aryeh Deri’s return. IF that tape exists and he releases it, it’s tough to tell if Shas voters will move to Yachad and help Yachad survive. It also is a question if enough voters move away from Shas to eliminate Shas but too few end up voting for Yishai and then both go out. That would be a much bigger event than Meretz being eliminated.