The results are in, and pending the soldiers votes, and calculating the excess vote sharing agreements between the parties (all of which will move one or two seats) the seat counts are known.
Yisrael Beteynu 15
UTJ (Agudah) 5
National Union 4
UAL (Raam-Taal) 4
Jewish Home (3)
1. The biggest loser in the election was the Zionist "left." Labour (which is barely "left" in any case) sank to an all time low – despite Barak’s technically competent performance as Defense Minister. Meretz lost over half its strength.
2. The biggest winner was Kadima – which survived, and did much better than anyone expected. It is now the de-facto leader of the “peace camp” (sic!) – the party of choice for people who think of themselves as nice liberal middle of the roaders (i.e. those who want their cake and to eat it too.)
3. Other winners where the Hadash (mixed Arab Jewish Communist lead coalition) and the two Arab parties – UAL. and Balad. Together they control 11 seats, up from 8 in the last Knesset. This seems to indicate a stronger vote turnout among the Arabs – despite a call to boycott the elections. Perhaps a reaction to the predicted strong showing of Y.B. and its open anti-Arab campaign. In the case of Hadash it may also mean that they succeeded in drawing Jewish votes from Meretz – which vacillated in its support/opposition to the recent war in Gaza.
4. Mixed results can be ascribed to the right wing Y.B. and Likud parties Objectively both made significant gains. But both also fell short of expectations and of the late poll numbers. Apparently enough Israelis still don’t trust Netanyahu (they know him too well), and enough people where scared of Leiberman, that they came out in higher than expected numbers to vote for other parties, thus diluting the Y.B. vote.
5. There is no realistic way that Kadima can form a 61 seat coalition without including Y.B. and Shas: a difficult task since both have expressed a preference for a Likud lead government and in any case these parties hate each other.
6. There is not much point, from a progressive perspective, in having a Kadima lead government with Y.B and Shas since it would mostly be paralyzed from making any meaningful moves re peace with the Palestinians, better Jewish-Arab relations, government reform, or any other "progressive" issues. Kadima's positions alone are not far reaching enough to reach any kind of deal with the Palestineans, and Shas and Y.B. would make them even less likely to do so. If Kadima could do so much damage in the past two years (two wars, no progress on peace negotiations, continued growth of the settlement project,) there is no reason to believe that they will be better with the addition of Y.B., and its racist and hyper agressive policies, to their coalition.
7 . Better to hope for a "narrow right wing" gov't without Kadima and Labour. Let them try their "tough"/"no compromise" positions, and fail. At least the choices made and their consequences will be clear.
8. Despite the fact that a narrow Likud or narrow Kadima lead government appear unstable - don't count on either to fall soon. The self interest of governing parties usually dictates that all Israeli coalitions - whether narrow or broad - last longer than anyone expects.
9. The worst option would be a "National Unity Government". It would squabble internally, screw up externally, and the blame would completely diffuse. Each participant would blame the other for its failures - "If only we had been allowed to carry out our platform as we wished ..." Thus when it failed, the public would learn no lessons whatsoever.