Politics is unlikely to be static, or even stable. Things change. The causes can be pressures from the economy, international events, domestic tragedies, or the maneuvers of political rivals.
All this makes prediction risky, and usually foolish.
Yet a snapshot is also helpful. Assuming that the description is reasonable, it identifies the essence of the current structure, and what it is feasible to expect in the near future.
A snapshot described for any country should not only consider what's happening inside, but what is capable of impacting from near neighbors or other likely sources of international pressure.
For Israel, that means a sketch of domestic politics in the Jewish and Arab sectors, our Palestinian neighbors, as well as what looms from further afield among the Americans, Russians, and others who assert an interest in what Israelis might do.
Internally, we can begin with what appears to be Likud's lock on this government and most likely the next. It derives from its capacity to work with three religious parties (two ultra-Orthodox and one Orthodox-settler), and enough rightist/centrist small parties to provide a Knesset majority.
Likud's advantage derives in part from the hitherto inability of the leftist or center-left parties and key personalities to free themselves from campaigning to do a better job than Likud with respect to reaching an agreement with the Palestinians, and the inability of the Palestinian leadership to get close to something that any major Israeli party would accept.
There is no shortage of attractive individuals who promise a new approach to dealing with Israel's problems. Those currently at the heads of parties in the Knesset include Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon. Kahlon is a former Likudnik who fell out with Netanyahu, created his own party, and is currently Minister of Finance.
Lapid used to be Minister of Finance, positions himself a bit to the left of center, and is by far the most popular of the individuals offering to rescue Israel from its problems. However, he has distanced himself from the ultra-Orthodox parties, and finds that the most obvious major party that he could work with (Labor, currently called Zionist Camp) is polling too low to be of significant help.
In short, Lapid might "win" a national election insofar as his party might gain the most Knesset seats. But he is likely to be short of a Knesset majority, and unable to find enough other votes for a coalition led by him to reach a majority.
Likud's current problem is its leader. Benyamin Netanyahu, his wife, and one of his sons are currently being investigated by the police, and polls are showing that Israelis are inclined for a change. But Likud means united, and so far the ranking ministers of the party are shying away from any indication that they are competing for Bibi's job.
Part of the snapshot that makes Likud look good for the next few years, even if Bibi doesn't make it to the next election, is that the Palestinians are nowhere close to the point where they can fulfill the aspirations of the Israeli left for a partner in negotiations that can go anywhere.
Surveys done by Palestinian or Israeli Arab organizations, as well as commentators who know the language and the cultures indicate severe fractures with the Palestinian/Israeli Arab population. Among the causes are widespread distrust of a leadership that is viewed as corrupt and incompetent, as well as shocks produced by the crisis in Syria.
The principal losers in the Syrian civil war are Sunni Muslims, and the Palestinians are Sunnis. Chaos, death, and streams of refugees, including those from Palestinians who have been refugees in Syria since 1948 have produced disputes and animosities that have split families and friendships. Among those being favored by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are Assad, the Russians (supported, among others, by Israeli Arabs or Palestinians with a Communist background), and one or another of the 30 or so militias currently fighting against Assad or one another.
Extended families, or hamulas, are the traditional components of Palestinian society, with the Bedouin being distinct and tribal. Religion (Christian and Muslim) and degree of religiosity are also involved. However, reports are that all those divisions are currently split, with many families unable to discuss politics on account of heated disagreements about the present and future.
The ostensible leader of Palestine (West Bank), Mahmoud Abbas, is 81 years old, travels the world being feted by those who pay lip service to the Palestinian cause, and produces an idea a day. They all involve undoing history. Abbas has described for international audiences his generosity in being willing to turn back only to 1967. But he has also spoken of demanding an apology and compensation from Britain due to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and has reasserted the Palestinian posture of being the descendants of the Canaanites. It's doubtful that many Arabs can say where their ancestors were more than a couple of generations ago, but Abbas says they are Caananites, and assets that it gives him a better claim to the land than that of the Jews.
Palestinians are able identify several candidates maneuvering more or less openly as the successors of Abbas, including those who claim the support of the United States.
Should the US actually involve itself in Palestinian politics, one can hope that it does better than its record in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria.
The Palestinians, in short have split and argued themselves out of being a threat against the right of center Israelis, but not quite out of being an impossible burden for left of center Israelis.
Israeli Arabs have their own problems of leadership. The parties they elect to the Knesset can't get themselves around the strategy of opposition to just about everything done or proposed for the Zionist State. They've never gotten to the point of cooperating with the government in exchange for constituent benefits.
Given the losses that Hezbollah has suffered in Syria, the involvement of Iran against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and the overwhelming power of Israel against whoever is stirring the pot in Gaza, those theaters currently do not seem capable of causing a political upset in Israel.
Guesses are that the Russian leadership has reached an understanding with Israel about their mutual roles in Syria, and that the United States is too preoccupied with adjusting itself to Donald Trump at home, learned from Obama's failure with the Palestinians, and is unlikely to be a major source of pressure on any Israeli government.
A recent poll shows that a majority of Israelis have turned against the idea of a Palestinian state, and just about every element that has been proposed as part of an accord with the Palestinians. One can guess about the reason for a decline from 59 percent of the Israeli population supporting details of an accord in 2005, to 29 percent supporting it currently..
Prime Minister Netanyahu has middle or upper range problems with Moshe Kahlon and Naftali Bennett. One has to do with a seemingly minor issue of economic management that has somehow been blown into something that could cause Kahlon to pull his party out of the coalition, or to cause his dismissal by Netanyahu. The other has to do with settlements, with Bennett always pushing for more than Netanyahu is willing to provide. Speculation is that neither would be a problem if the police were not pressuring the Prime Minister.
So we're left with a snapshot that seems firm in seeing Likud in control for the near future, but lacking any clarity as to who will be at the top of Likud.
There are also maneuvers, seemingly with little chance of success, to take advantage of the prospect of crisis, to create a new government without elections.
One set of maneuvers might dump Kahlon and replace his small party with Labor-Zionist Union. Another possibility is for Labor-Zionist Union and enough middle size parties to create a government without Likud.
No political snapshot may remain useful for more than an instant or two. As noted above, politicians have a capacity to misread pressures and opportunities, and act in ways that surprise themselves and the rest of us.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)[email protected]
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem