Israel Coalition Wrangling Could Take Months

Lots of Possibilities, None of Them Seem Likely

The next Israeli government could take awhile.

The final results of the election will be certified on February 18, and Israeli President Shimon Peres will then have 10 additional days to charge either Tzipi Livni or Benjamin Netanyahu with attempting to form a coalition government. Whoever it is will have 42 days to do so, and if they fail the other one will get a crack at it. A deal could end this wrangling tomorrow: the lack of a deal could mean it would take months.

It’s normally relatively straightforward for one party or another to piece together enough of a majority to have a coalition, but this election has left a fractured bunch of parties and enough animosity that while there are plenty of potential coalitions, none of them seem particularly likely.

The Likud Party originally had designs on a grand coalition encompassing all the Zionist parties (roughly 90% of the Knesset). That may have been a pipe dream to begin with, but finishing second in the election has made the case for them leading such a coalition really unlikely. Likud’s declaration of victory then seems to be predicated on its claim to a right-far-right bloc.

But that seems no more likely… Shas is reportedly averse to a right-wing government, fearing it won’t last. They’re also trying to form a bloc with fellow Ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, apparently to undercut secularist right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu. If those two blocs cannot coexist in a coalition, it will be even more difficult for anything to happen.

But Kadima isn’t giving up either. Livni is courting Avigdor Lieberman, but reports suggest that if she succeeds, she may lose her left-wing partners and still not have enough seats to form a coalition.

In the end, whatever coalition happens will be very unlikely, and very unusual. Will it be a left-center-religious right coalition fighting against a right, far-right opposition? Will it be a right, far-right, left wing secular coalition with the center and the religious right in opposition? Can any of these coalitions come together? If they do, will they last more than a few months?

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of