Israel, the plot thickens

With Gantz’s declaration that he is unable to form a government, another election is the most probable outcome – but there are still other options on the table. Although a national-unity government seems utterly unlikely, a military tension could persuade Kahol Lavan to compromise with Likud. More importantly, a lot depends on the decision of the Attorney General whether to file indictments against Netanyahu. Charges being brought could incapacitate him to form a government – and in this scenario much more can happen.

When Lieberman announced on Wednesday afternoon that he will not be supporting any minority government, it became almost certain that the nomination would pass to the Knesset floor. His decision was not surprising. If Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu were to enter Gantz’s government, it would have to be either with the Joint List’s Arab lawmakers or the Haredi part of the right-wing block, two groups that Lieberman opposed in order to build his political capital.

There is no apparent reason why either the right-wing block or Kahol Lavan would now make concessions to form a national-unity government they rejected before; Netanyahu does not want to resign from a central position in the new government, nor to form a coalition without the religious-Messianic members of his block. This, on the other hand, is not acceptable, even if not to Gantz himself, then certainly to Yair Lapid.

There could be another game-changer in the current circumstances, however. The Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, should soon decide on whether to file indictments against Netanyahu. Even if this does not necessarily mean that a Netanyahu-led government cannot be formally established, it could cause all actors to reconsider their positions. Lieberman would then be able to enter a minority government with Gantz and still save his face, claiming that it is a necessary evil to keep a politician facing corruption charges from coming to power again. This would be extremely likely, especially if Netanyahu is indicted of bribery, in addition to fraud and breach of trust. Gantz and Lieberman could then avoid a coalition with the Joint List’s lawmakers, since Netanyahu indictments would probably persuade several MKs to defect from Likud.

Even if Netanyahu is indicted and a minority government with Lieberman is formed, it will probably only mean a change of personnel, and not of policy. The vision of a governing coalition with Kahol Lavan and Arabs in it, however brief and unlikely, sparked hope for change. Now, no matter what happens next, things will most likely stay the same in Israel. At least until the next election.

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