Sports-talk radio is replete with predictions ranging from the team which will win the Super Bowl to who will be the new Yankees shortstop. In that tradition, I will now offer my official predictions for what will happen in next week’s Knesset elections. (Please note that if my predictions are completely wrong I will have no problem explaining what happened and why I am still an expert! After all, doesn’t that happen all the time??) OK, here goes:
Likud will win the elections with 26 seats. Current polls show them at 23 but I feel they will do better than that. Yes, many people are tired of Netanyahu as Prime Minister (7 years already, not counting his 3 year run from ’96-’99) but the alternative is weak and unimpressive. His speech before the US Congress sealed his fate as Israel’s next Prime Minister as people realized that – like it or not – this guy is strong, tough, articulate and focused. The thought of that speech being given by Labor leader Boojie Herzog is enough to make you laugh and then sick, and Israelis across the spectrum will decide that Herzog is simply not a viable alternative. Bibi has his issues and people blame every problem on him (which is common in politics) but he is simply the strongest contender and will emerge victorious.
Labor will receive 22 seats which is not as many as they want but is a great improvement over their existing representation of 15 seats. They will receive their increase of seats on the back of Yesh Atid and Meretz who will lose many of their existing Knesset members. As stated above, Labor is not a viable alternative to lead the nation but they provide a comfortable home for the “anti-Bibi” vote. As you know, on Election Day – across the world – many people vote AGAINST someone rather that FOR someone and Labor will receive a lot of these votes. This anti vote helped Obama defeat McCain in 2008 since millions of people voted for Obama as a protest against Bush (who wasn’t even running!!). The voters saw McCain as a continuation of the Bush presidency and voted against him for that reason. This same logic worked against Obama in the recent mid-term elections as people showed their great displeasure in him by voting Republican in both the Congress and Senate. The “anti” vote is a very strong factor in world politics and Labor will receive an enormous amount of those votes. This will increase their current Knesset representation by 50% but will not be enough to topple Netanyahu.
Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, will take a big hit in these elections but will remain a factor in Israeli politics. Currently, Lapid has a whopping 19 seats (from his first election campaign – very impressive!) but he will not be able to hold on to that many. In my opinion, he will drop to 9 seats. His two years as Finance Minister was filled with much controversy and people blame him for many of the economic problems. To be honest, this is of course ridiculous, since he was Finance Minister for less than two years. By the time he learned the job and put together a budget, new elections were declared and he was busy running a campaign to save his political life. Many of his financial ideas were good and innovative but he simply had no time to bring them to fruition. Most people don’t realize this and are simply fed up with him. He still has a following – and 9 seats are strong in Israeli politics – but he will not come close to what he had before.
Bayit Yehudi, led by Naftali Bennett is really surprising me. When the campaign started I thought they would do very well and finish with 18-20 seats but as the campaign progressed the polls kept showing them slipping further down the line. I am not sure why this has happened except for the possibility that he lost many seats to Eli Yishai’s “Yachad” party and also that he is not saying anything new. When he ran for the Knesset the first time, in 2013, he was new on the scene, brought life to the dead and boring “Mafdal/NRP” party and was a refreshing force on the political map but now – two years later – he is saying the same thing and simply no longer exciting. On one hand, Bennett’s campaign is very good with a strong message and well-targeted to his audience but he has not succeeded in breaking out of his comfort zone and due to the reasons stated above it looks as though he will not gain even one additional seat and will remain at 12. This is what the polls are showing, although I give him one more and my official prediction for Bayit Yehudi is 13.
This year’s two big newcomers are Moshe Kahlon and Eli Yishai. While they are both well experienced politicians – and even former Ministers in various governments – this is the first time they are running as leaders of their own parties. Kahlon broke away from Likud while Yishai broke away from Shas. Kahlon’s party is called “Kulanu” and he is trying to accomplish in 2015 what Lapid did in 2013 but that won’t happen. People like Kahlon but his dry and boring personality can put a clown to sleep and he will not get more than 8 seats. Yishai is a very interesting guy who has tremendous potential. His “Yachad” party is desperately trying to swing away votes from Shas and Bennett but his goal of 10 seats will not be achieved. I was very happy when he agreed to a deal with Baruch Marzel but even that has not produced what he was looking for. I do however feel that he will do better than the polls are showing and will end up winning 6 seats.
The big losers of this election will be Lieberman’s “Yisrael Beytenu” party and the extreme, fanatical leftist party known as “Meretz”. Lieberman currently has 11 seats in the Knesset while Meretz, led by Zahava Gal-on, has 6. Both of these parties will be very close to the minimum of 4 seats. I predict that Meretz will have just 4 and Lieberman, because of the many Russian voters who support him, will sneak in with 5.
The Haredi parties are called United Torah Judaism and Shas. Both of these parties have tremendous potential but fail to get even close to it because of immature and selfish issues that I would rather not discuss in this article. They could be doing so much more for their constituents and for the nation but they refuse to do so. My prediction is that UTJ will end up with 7 (the same number they have now) and Shas will get 7 as well.
The last party is the United Arab list which is gaining strength and should end up with 13. We all need to realize what is happening with this party and how they are gaining in strength, motivation and legitimacy. This is not a good sign for the State of Israel and it must be addressed in the first opportunity possible.
There you have it, people, the official 2015 Knesset election predictions by Shmuel Sackett. I wouldn’t run to Vegas to put money on any of this but I strongly believe that this is how it will begin. It is funny that I wrote “begin” and not “end” because in Israeli politics, Election Day is the BEGINNING of the circus, not the end! Once the seats are figured out, the coalition building starts and – as they say in the Olympics- Let the games begin!