20/20 vision for avoiding additional elections in 2020

The ability to look into what can happen in the year 2020 from just a few days away requires extra special glasses.

CAN ONE of these scenarios actualize to prevent another round of elections? (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
CAN ONE of these scenarios actualize to prevent another round of elections?
The ability to see clearly from a distance of 20 feet is called 20/20 vision.
But the ability to look into what can happen in the year 2020 from just a few days away requires extra special glasses.
After all, who could have guessed that in 2019, a second election would take place and a third would be initiated? Any list of predictions from the year ending now did not come anywhere close to hitting the mark.
That is why there will be no attempt here to look into a crystal ball for the year ahead.
There of course will be the prophets of doom who predict that 2020 will be just like 2019, with endless political turmoil and no government in sight. Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi already asked the Knesset Arrangements Committee to set a date in August for a fourth election in a row.
But optimists can look ahead to 2020 with rose-colored glasses and see a year in which the political stalemate will finally end and a government will be formed that will work for the good of the people, no matter who wins the March 2 election.
So what are the scenarios (again, not predictions, but scenarios) that could enable 2020 to be a year with only one general election in Israel? The following are six possibilities for 2020, and since this is Israel, where Hebrew is the lingua franca, they are presented from Right to Left, from the ideal situation for Likud, to the best for Blue and White.
Left lapses and lets Netanyahu win
Lost amid the news about the Likud primary was this week’s breakdown on the Left end of the political map. Democratic Union MK Stav Shaffir flexed her political muscles by convening her Green Party in Tel Aviv and announcing that it could run on its own on March 2.
“What is happening on the Left is not a political camp but the Titanic,” Shaffir warned in her speech. “We don’t intend to stay on a sinking ship in the current situation.”
Shaffir’s speech was seen as an effort to improve her position on the Democratic Union list, where she was second in the September 17 election and is only being offered the fifth slot now. Shaffir is resented in Meretz and seen as a traitor in Labor, and her threat to run alone could turn into an irreversible reality.
Labor also had a convention on Wednesday, where the party decided to run again with only Gesher and not seek to unite with Meretz or Shaffir. Such decisions could result in three parties running to the Left of Blue and White and only one – or perhaps even none – crossing the 3.25% electoral threshold, wasting hundreds of thousands of left-wing votes.
If that happens, the Likud and its satellite parties (not counting Yisrael Beytenu) could win 61 seats and enable him to form a government that could grant him immunity from prosecution and pass bills limiting the powers of the judiciary branch and allowing him to stay in power as long as he lives.
Liberman repents and rejoins Right
The above scenario could become much more realistic if Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman would give up his recent secularist line, return to the nationalist camp and enable the Likud to form a government.
There has been no indication of this happening. Since the March election was initiated, Liberman has tried to be more Catholic than the pope in criticizing Blue and White for giving into the haredim (ultra-Orthodox).
But Liberman remains the most unpredictable politician in Israeli politics, and with him, anything is possible.
Unity against all odds
The battle between Blue and White and Likud will only really begin after the votes are counted in Thursday’s Likud primary between prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Gideon Sa’ar. From that moment onward, Likud and Blue and White will attack each other mercilessly.
That will hardly create the proper atmosphere for building a national unity government of the two largest parties. But it remains a possibility.
It would obviously be easier if Sa’ar won the primary, because Blue and White has ruled out sitting with Netanyahu but not with the rest of Likud. But Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz could still join forces, especially if Blue and White broke up.
That scenario was predicted throughout 2019 and never took place but it cannot be ruled out.
The courts come and coerce
The Supreme Court will be ruling as early as next week about whether Netanyahu can form a government despite his indictment. The courts have asked for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s opinion, but there is no guarantee that he will give one.
The courts could try to force Netanyahu to stop running now, or leave open the possibility that they could prevent him from receiving a mandate from President Reuven Rivlin in March, even if he gets together 61 MKs. This could create a constitutional crisis, or a potential solution to the political stalemate.
A defection decides
All Gantz needs to come to power easily is one party among Netanyahu’s allies to defect. It could be Shas, United Torah Judaism or the New Right. Yisrael Beytenu deciding to join a minority coalition backed from outside by the Joint List also fits this category.
None of these parties has given any indication that this could happen. But if Likud is weak after the election, they might have to face reality and join a government led by Blue and White.
Success for the Center-Left
Whoever wins Thursday’s Likud primary will immediately be pounced on by Blue and White, which has been holding back its ammunition. Maybe the attack will work, weaken the Likud significantly and shift votes to Gantz.
In the September election, Blue and White, Labor-Gesher, Meretz and the Joint List won 57 mandates, just four away from a blocking majority. Arab turnout is expected to be higher in March, and Tibi has guaranteed 15 seats for his party.
Tibi said at Wednesday’s Maariv conference in Herzliya that even though “Gantz is not his cup of tea,” the Joint List will do everything possible to enable him to form a government and end Netanyahu’s political career. He criticized Sa’ar as well.
The best-case scenario for Blue and White is that they achieve a majority of 61 MKs without Yisrael Beytenu to prevent Likud from forming a government. It is their hope that if they achieve that majority, that is what ironically would force the Likud to compromise and allow a unity government to be formed.
While that currently does not appear to be in sight, looking back on 2019 proves that anything is possible.