Israel Elections: Benjamin Netanyahu is poised for a 2022 victory - opinion

This time it seems that the conditions for obtaining a majority in the Knesset of 61 MKs, and even more, are more favorable than ever.

 BENJAMIN NETANYAHU attends a conference in Jerusalem, last week.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU attends a conference in Jerusalem, last week.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The 2022 elections are getting closer, and again, as was the case in all recent election campaigns, the main conundrum is whether the bloc supporting Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud, Religious Zionism, Shas and United Torah Judaism) will succeed in winning 61 seats. Since the 2019 elections, Netanyahu has failed in this task – although in the 2021 elections Netanyahu was closer than ever to obtaining a majority, when the bloc led by him won 59 seats, compared to 58 in the 2020 elections. 

This time it seems that the conditions for obtaining a majority in the Knesset of 61 MKs, and even more, are more favorable than ever. In fact, even though everyone is talking about how Netanyahu’s victory depends on a low turnout among the Arab sector, his victory depends just as much on a high turnout among right-wing voters.

In practice, Netanyahu’s victory can be realized when two conditions are met at the same time: the first is a low turnout among the Arab sector, and the second, and no less important, is a high turnout among right-wing voters, a figure that can be measured when checking the voting percentage in cities where there is a clear majority for the right-wing bloc.

In the 2020 elections, in which the right-wing bloc won 58 mandates, only one of these two conditions was fulfilled. Although the turnout among right-wing cities was relatively high, the turnout in the Arab sector was the highest since the 1999 elections and stood at 64.8%. 

In the 2021 elections, on the other hand, while the turnout among the Arab sector was the lowest ever and stood at 44.6%, there was a significant decrease in the turnout in right-wing cities compared to center-left cities. 

 Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister has diminished in influence, but it isn't extinguished. (credit: AMIR LEVY) Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister has diminished in influence, but it isn't extinguished. (credit: AMIR LEVY)

Thus, while in the cities identified with the center-left there was a decrease in the turnout at an average rate of 1.5% (for example Tel Aviv 1.7%, Herzliya 1%, Givatayim 0.7%, Ramat Hasharon 0.8% and Kiryat Tivon 2.2%), the turnout among cities identified with the right was at a rate more than three times higher, and stood at 5% (for example Jerusalem 4.1%, Ashdod 4.4%, Beersheba 5.1%, Ofakim 6.8% and Beit She’an 5.6%).

A simple calculation shows that in the 2020 elections, if the turnout among the Arab sector was the same as in the 2021 elections, the right-wing bloc would have won 61 seats (the Arab Joint List would have decreased from 15 to 10 seats; in contrast, the Likud would have increased from 36 to 38, Blue and White from 33 to 35, while Shas would have increased from nine to 10), which would have guaranteed Netanyahu the prime ministership with clear certainty.

In the 2021 elections, the lowest-ever turnout among the Arab sector was not enough for Netanyahu to obtain a majority The main reason for this was the decline in the turnout among right-wing voters, which ultimately resulted in Netanyahu winning only 59 seats and subsequently losing power to the Bennett-Lapid government. This data clearly illustrates that a high turnout in the right-wing cities is a crucial element of Netanyahu’s victory in the elections, no less than a low turnout in the Arab sector.

Netanyahu's chances are rising

THIS TIME, ahead of the 2022 elections that will take place in six weeks, it seems that these two conditions have matured and that Netanyahu’s chances of obtaining a majority of 61 seats are higher than ever. First, past experience teaches us that when the Arab parties are united, the percentage of voting in the Arab sector increases significantly, as was the case in the 2015 (63.5%), September 2019 (59.2%) and 2020 (64.8%) elections. 

On the other hand, when the Arab parties run in a split, the Arab sector votes with their feet, as was the case in the April 2019 (49.2%) and 2021 (44.6%) elections. 

In the 2022 elections, not only is there no unity between the Arab Joint List and Ra’am, but the former also split, so that Hadash-Ta’al on the one hand, and Balad on the other, will run separately. In a situation of low turnout among the Arab sector, the chance of Balad passing the threshold is very low, and the expectation is that Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am will cumulatively win less than 10 seats, which serves the Netanyahu bloc very well.

In addition, it seems that in the upcoming elections, right-wing voters will vote at higher rates than in the 2021 elections, especially in light of the motivation and desire to return to power, and the understanding that the way there depends on a high turnout of right-wing voters, as was the case in the 2015 and 2020 elections.

Netanyahu is in an excellent starting point for the 2022 elections, with the Arab parties divided and right-wing voters motivated to return to power. It seems that this time Netanyahu depends on himself and his ability to energize his right-wing voters on the way to a clear victory in the elections. Any other result, other than at least 61 seats for the Netanyahu bloc, will be a clear failure for the right-wing camp and its leader.

The writer is a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University and a research fellow at the University of South Wales, UK.