Intel: How the Israeli left’s implosion paves the way for Netanyahu’s re-election

al-monitor Avi Gabbay, the leader of Israel's center-left Labor Party, gestures as he delivers his victory speech after winning the Labor Party primary runoff, at an event in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 10, 2017.  Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen.

Topics covered

knesset, elections, benjamin netanyahu, tzipi livni, avi gabbay, hatnua party, labor party

Jan 2, 2019

By breaking up with his stunned political partner of four years on live television, Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay has left the Israeli opposition in shambles barely three months before the next elections. The split with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua Party — and the brutal way it was carried out — leaves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ideological rivals more consumed with bitter infighting than trying to develop a palatable alternative to the right wing.

The optics aren’t lost on Netanyahu, who struck a statesman-like pose at President Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration in Brazil while his rivals self-destructed. "I don't intervene in how the left splits its votes,” he said dismissively.

Why it matters: The now defunct Zionist Camp was the second biggest faction in the Knesset after the Likud, although recent polls showed it losing quite a few seats in the next elections. As for Livni, she is the only senior politician on the left with any international experience or credibility at a time when voters crave leadership that’s strong on national security (she served as foreign affairs minister in 2013-15 and led the negotiations with the Palestinians).

More generally, a divided left gives Netanyahu better odds of winning at a time when he faces the very real possibility of being indicted on bribery charges. Current polling shows his Likud leading other parties by a wide margin.

What's next: Livni's small party risks not getting enough votes to enter the Knesset, which is why she is negotiating with other parties on the left and center to run a joint campaign and combined electoral lists for the Knesset. But the two other leaders of main opposition parties, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid and former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the new star in Israeli politics, aren’t showing much interest.

Know more: Ben Caspit writes that by calling for early elections, Netanyahu is racing time ahead of a possible indictment. And Mazal Mualem reports that the upcoming elections will once again focus largely on security issues.

- Danny Zaken

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