Biden should prepare for the return of Netanyahu


Israeli elections are sometimes decided weeks before the actual election. This year is no different, but it has a new twist. Polls have shown the likelihood of a deadlocked election, with no party able to form a coalition of 61 seats.

But something dramatic, and under the American radar, happened on Sept. 15 that significantly increased the chance that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to form the next coalition. This has significant implications for the Biden administration, which favors current Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Sept. 15 was the deadline for Israeli parties to submit their final Knesset lists, ranking their members and determining which of them will join the next Knesset. The actual election is Nov. 1, one week before the U.S. midterm elections.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.” Psalm 122:6 KJV

Unappreciated by Americans, who have a two-party system, the dysfunctional Israeli parliamentary system has never had one party receiving a majority, so it must form coalitions, which means that minor parties have disproportionate influence. The minimum threshold for a Knesset seat is 3.25 percent of the vote. Therefore, it is common in Israeli electoral season for small parties to join together, to cobble together enough votes to reach the threshold.

This is where Sept. 15 comes into play. In the weeks leading up to that deadline, Netanyahu, a master politician, helped facilitate the merger of two far-right parties that, on their own, may not have received enough votes to get any Knesset seats. As natural coalition allies, Netanyahu ensured he would get those seats, moving him closer to the magic number of 61.

Step two was pure luck — and incredibly significant in increasing the chances for Netanyahu’s Likud party to form the next government. Arab voters in Israel represent approximately 20 percent of the electorate and are part of the anti-Netanyahu block. The more seats they get, the less chance Likud will have to form the next government. The more unified the Arab parties are, the more energized Arabs are to vote and receive a higher number of mandates (Knesset seats).

On Sept. 15, for the first time in four elections, the Joint Arab list disintegrated into three parties, dramatically increasing the chance that one of those parties will not meet the minimum threshold for a Knesset seat. The big winner is the largest party — Netanyahu’s Likud party — which will get more mandates (seats).

This could directly affect American foreign policy in the Middle East, especially with a history of enmity toward Netanyahu among members of the Biden team who were also in the Obama administration, when the tensions ran high regarding Iran. The list includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Iran nuclear negotiator Robert Malley, and former Secretary of State John Kerry.

With the Biden administration likely to push for an Iran nuclear deal after the U.S. midterm elections, they may be dealing again with Netanyahu as prime minister.

Read More @ The Hill HERE