Why the third Israeli election in a year can be different - analysis

This election may not be as vanilla boring as Ben and Jerry's fear.

A voter in Jerusalem in the last Knesset election on April 9 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A voter in Jerusalem in the last Knesset election on April 9
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Ben & Jerry’s Israel had a great scoop this week when the company posted on its Instagram account: “We thought that in honor of the elections, we would create a new flavor called ‘Third Time Ice Cream,’ but we can’t decide what to put in it. Any ideas?”
The post made reference to the Hebrew expression, “Third time, ice cream” – which means that the third time you run into a friend, you should treat him to an ice cream. After cold politicians forced this third election in a year on the public, those who responded to the post wrote that it would be fitting for the new flavor to be a boring vanilla with too many nuts and a strong shot of alcohol to help Israelis through it.
But even though the politicians’ inability to form a government is a reason for I scream and you scream, it is no reason for a meltdown.
This election may actually end up getting interesting, and it is not necessarily a third cone of the same exact flavor.
After two elections, Israelis are looking more than ever for stability. The parties will need to tell voters what they will do to prevent elections four and five.
Theoretically, both of the two largest parties can make a case that voting for them would bring about stability more than smaller parties. But assuming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wins the Likud leadership primary next Thursday, he will have plenty to explain to the voters.
Could he last four years in the Prime Minister’s Office while on trial for corruption charges? Or will he try to leave early and force another leadership race in Likud to elect his successor? After he offered Blue and White a rotation in which he would serve only six more months, will that offer still be on the table after March 2?
There are plenty of Likud voters who respect Netanyahu and agree with his policies but will question voting for him if it would keep the current political situation chaotic. In such a case, who could attract such voters who put stability first?
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman also has questions to ask regarding political stability. The satire show Gav Ha’uma suggested this week that he woo undecided voters by telling them that he is undecided, too.
The show poked fun at his zigzagging between supporting a unity government and giving hope for coalitions on the Right and Left. Liberman’s right-wing voters in particular could avenge his indecision in the ballot box.
Liberman’s unsuccessful attempt to woo MK Ayelet Shaked could indicate that he will bring in a heavy hitter at the last minute who could make the election a lot more interesting.
Netanyahu also has room for a new candidate, with former finance minister Moshe Kahlon expected to vacate the fifth slot on the list. Netanyahu has already showed that his strategy for this election is different than in April and September.
In those races, he did most of his campaigning on social media. This time, he is spending time in the field, visiting three cities a day and getting his Likud activists energized. While the official reason for his campaigning was the Likud leadership race, he is expected to keep that strategy ahead of his March 2 race against Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
In his campaign stops this week, Gantz gave the impression that he feels liberated after his number two, MK Yair Lapid, gave up the proposed rotation between them in the Prime Minister’s Office that was seen as a political albatross weighing Gantz down.
The former IDF chief of staff flying solo instead of relying on a four-man cockpit makes this race different than the first two as well.
So maybe this election will not end up being as vanilla as it seemed.