(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Threats, tensions, decision reversals and incendiary rhetoric have all beset the current coalition over the last few days, leading to speculation that an early election may well be on the horizon.
But there are several parties with a lot to lose, if the polls are to be believed, should the nation be forced to go to the ballot box again, and one scenario floated in the last 48 hours has been to oust the prime minister and form a new government through a vote of no confidence.
Opposition and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog tweeted on Saturday night that his party would collaborate with a “moderate, Zionist” bloc to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that he would conduct talks with other parties to try an bring about such an event.
And Herzog did indeed speak about such an option with Kulanu chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is butting heads with Netanyahu over the slated opening of the Israel Broadcasting Cooperation, something the prime minister desperately wants to stop.
So how could Netanyahu be deposed without going to an election? Under the terms of the current law, the passage of what is known as a “constructive vote of no confidence” would need to be approved in Knesset.
This motion would need to have a suggested candidate to take up the role of prime minister, as well as a full complement of alternative cabinet ministers ready to take up the reins of government.
Moreover, the no-confidence vote would also require the support of 61 MKs.
But, in the current political circumstances it would seem unlikely that such a coalition could be brought together, because while some have a lot to lose, others have a lot to gain, namely Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.
Yesh Atid has been consistently polling around the 25- or 26-MK mark should an election be called, and in several polls the centrist party has been placed ahead of Likud, giving the party a shot at being given the first option to form a coalition.
The party currently has a scant 11 seats, compared to Zionist Union’s 24, giving Lapid little reason to crown his rival, Herzog, with the prime ministership when an election could give rise to his own coronation.
Even if Herzog did manage to convince Lapid to join with him and Kulanu in a new coalition, it would still be all but impossible to cobble together a coalition of 61 MKs.
Yisrael Beytenu would need to be brought on board along with Meretz, who would be two very strange bedfellows indeed, as well as the two haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties, both of which have categorically ruled out sitting with Lapid in the same government.
So if a new coalition without the Likud is impossible, can the prime minister insist on shuttering the IBC, then dispense with Kahlon, and find new a coalition partner to replace him? It is theoretically possible for Netanyahu to fire Kahlon, and then convince enough Kulanu MKs to join the Likud to prevent an election.
It has been speculated that several Kulanu MKs and ministers might be willing to jump ship, but with a de facto majority of 65 MKs and Kulanu holding 10 Knesset seats, the prime minister would need to persuade at least six Kulanu MKs to split in order to have a viable coalition.
Efforts could also be made to foster a rebellion within Zionist Union, but at least one-third of a party’s MKs must agree to join another party before being able to splinter off, meaning the prime minister would need at least eight Zionist Union MKs to desert.
But in spite of these various possibilities, it would seem unlikely that any new political realignment will be reached at present.
Kahlon has the most to lose, and without being able to point to any concrete achievements as yet, along with the likelihood of more competition for the Center and Center- Right of the political map in the next election in the form of former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and others, sticking it out in the current government might be his best bet.