Elections in Israel: Possible Scenarios and Outcomes

With the outbreak of the war on Gaza, there was a consensus in Israel that war was an exceptional emergency in which politics was neutralized, that unity was a national need for victory, and that political differences must be ignored until the battle ended. Therefore, in the beginning, the opposition parties, especially those that formed the government prior to Netanyahu’s, opposed holding elections and began discussions to form a national unity cabinet. Negotiations ultimately led to the formation of an emergency government with Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party, and demands for early elections remained marginal because of the war and the dangerous security situation. Even Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition, opposed elections at the beginning of the war; but he quickly changed his position a month later, demanding that Netanyahu step down in favor of an alternative government, but without elections.

However, a series of failures and missteps helped generate a social and political protest movement that demanded the holding of early elections to choose a new leadership for the next phase. The war in Gaza was dragging on, with no indication that it was achieving its aims. The government’s economic failure was becoming evident in the reduction of Israel’s credit rating along with that of five Israeli banks, the high cost of living, and the passing of the 2023 state budget that showed that the government’s factional approach continues. Additionally, the proposed 2024 budget did not address the economic crisis but was skewed toward funding the social sectors that support the government, such as religious communities and settlers, at the expense of other social and service priorities.

The Israel Democracy Institute conducted a poll that showed that 71 percent of Israelis support holding early elections; 38 percent want them after the war ends and 33 percent prefer having them immediately following the dissolution of the Knesset and allowing for the three months stipulated by law.1 Netanyahu came out against the idea of early ​​elections, considered that demanding them served Israel’s enemies, and declared that there would be no elections before April 2025.2 This confirms that Netanyahu will not call for elections even after the end of the war, and bets on the loyalty of his partners to him and their preference for the survival of the government. Even if Gantz’s National Unity Party leaves the emergency cabinet, Netanyahu will cling to power and face internal pressures to hold the elections. Neither will his partners topple the government because they realize that if elections are held, a new government will be formed in Israel that will keep them in the opposition.

The Expected Party Scene after the Elections

Many surveys of Israeli public opinion were conducted to gauge voters’ electoral preferences if elections were held. Most polls consistently show that Gantz’s National Unity would receive parliamentary representation of up to 40 seats. This is an unprecedented result for an electoral list since the 1992 elections. On the other hand, the Likud Party headed by Benjamin Netanyahu will shrink electorally to only 17 seats. In general, the results of the polls indicate that the current government’s coalition will win 45 seats, while the partners of the previous government that was headed by Yair Lapid will obtain 71 seats. It should be noted that in the 2022 Knesset elections, Netanyahu’s current government won 64 seats while Lapid’s had 56 seats (see Table 1).

Table 1: Election Poll Results Compared to the 2022 Elections

Oct. 13 Poll3 Oct. 27 Poll4 Nov. 3 Poll5 Feb. 9, ‘24 Poll6 2022 Elections
Current Govt
Likud 19 19 18 18 32
Shas 7 8 8 11 11
United Torah Judaism 7 7 7 7 7
Religious Zionism 5 5 5 0 14
Jewish Power 5 4 4 9
Totals 43 43 42 45 64
National Unity 41 36 39 37 12
There is a Future 15 17 15 15 24
Israel is Our Home 6 8 8 9 6
Arab Front for Change 5 5 5 5 5
United Arab Front 5 5 5 5 5
Labor Party 0 0 0 0 4
Totals 78 77 78 75 56


Table (1) shows that the current government coalition partners would not be able to form a government in the event of early elections, as they are expected to win 45 seats; i.e., about 19 seats less than the results they obtained in the 2022 elections. In contrast, Lapid’s coalition government partners (with the exception of the Arab Front for Change and the United Arab List) will garner about 70 seats, which would give it the ability to easily form a government headed by Benny Gantz. Even if Gantz decides not to include the United Arab List headed by Mansour Abbas, he would be able to form a government with 65 representatives in the Knesset. This eliminates the political-electoral importance of the Abbas list that allowed Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid to form the “government of change in 2021.”

Polls indicate that the Religious Zionism Party, headed by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, will not pass the electoral threshold, while the Jewish Power Party (Otzma Yehudit), headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir, will be the only party among the current government coalition partners to succeed in strengthening its electoral presence. This stems primarily from Ben-Gvir’s campaign to distribute weapons during the war and his rhetoric and behavior against the government as if he were in the opposition where he claims successes for himself and blames others for failures under the pretext that they do not listen to him.

The results of the polls also indicate the collapse of the Labor Party and its failure to exceed the electoral threshold necessary to enter the Knesset. Thus, the party that founded the State of Israel would disappear from the Israeli political scene. In addition, Lapid’s There is a Future Party (Yesh Atid), which was the largest party in the opposition, will not be able to form a government.

The following are factors that contributed to the rise of Gantz’s party:

  1. Gantz appeared as a statesman who cared about the interests of the state before his electoral or personal interests. He has joined an emergency government headed by Netanyahu despite the personal hostility between them. Netanyahu had deceived Gantz in 2020 when they formed a coalition government on a rotating basis. When Gantz’s turn came to head the government, Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset.
  2. The National Unity Party (HaMahane HaMamlakhti) carries the militarism that society needs at this stage. Its president is a former chief of staff, as is Gadi Eisenkot, a member of the War Cabinet, whose son was killed in Gaza. Unlike Netanyahu’s Likud, National Unity includes security and military figures.
  3. National Unity proposes political positions that are characterized as right-wing, and this makes it attractive to the conservative and liberal right, especially in the wake of Likud’s shift toward the extreme right and its adoption of constitutional changes these segments oppose.

Netanyahu’s Political Future

Netanyahu was the most prominent political figure in Israel in the past two decades. He served as prime minister for the longest period in the history of the political system, exceeding that of the founder of the state, David Ben-Gurion. Netanyahu was able to overcome all obstacles that stood in his way and to remain in power despite three sets of indictments against him in cases of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. He remained determined to return to the premiership even after the formation of the change government headed by Bennett-Lapid, and succeeded in forming the most extreme rightwing government because of the refusal of the opposition to participate in a government headed by him due to his legal troubles.

Criticism of Netanyahu is not limited to his failure as prime minister, the failure of the various ministries, and the mismanagement of the state since he formed the current government, but rather to his strategy of dealing with the Gaza Strip and Hamas. Netanyahu led the strategy of containing Hamas in the Strip without resolving the conflict with it while aiming to weaken the Palestinian Authority and perpetuate Palestinian division in order to scuttle the two-state solution. Indeed, everyone believes that the one responsible for this failed strategy was Netanyahu himself.7 However, he refuses to bear responsibility for the failure on October 7. All the leaders of the security services took responsibility for the failure (the head of the Mossad, the Shin Bet, and the army), while Netanyahu has so far refrained from doing so as he accuses the security services of the failure. This increased the public’s resentment and anger toward him.

A series of polls conducted by Maariv newspaper revealed Netanyahu’s declining political status among Israelis. A poll conducted on October 13 found that 48 percent of Israelis prefer Benny Gantz as prime minister, that only 29 percent prefer Netanyahu, and that only 21 percent want Netanyahu as prime minister after the war.8 In a poll conducted on October 27, 49 percent indicated that they preferred Gantz, compared to 28 percent for Netanyahu. These percentages did not change in the poll conducted on November 3.9

This data shows that Netanyahu did not succeed in improving his standing after the failure on October 7, and after four months of military operations, he has not been able to improve his standing. Indeed, the demands for his resignation are increasing, and have turned into large demonstrations in Israeli cities. Of specific importance is the public’s impression that he is busy maintaining his position during the war. In addition, there is a lack of trust between him and the military establishment that has also begun to appear in public, and a palpable confusion among his ministers, especially the Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, in formulating an economic plan that helps those affected by the war.


Poll results indicate that if early elections are held in Israel, Netanyahu will not be able to form a new government, and it may also be the end of his political career. Therefore, Netanyahu clings to his current government and refuses to resign, and this explains, to a large extent, his insistence on prolonging the war or achieving an overwhelming victory in it in order to restore his popularity or give himself the necessary legitimacy for the elections.

During the war, Netanyahu strengthened his government by giving the religious parties budgets for religious education and refusing to reduce their other allotments. He also rejected any political settlement such as the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip or choosing a political path that leads to a two-state solution, as suggested by the US administration, in order to satisfy his partners on the right. This is why he is unlikely to agree to early elections even if the war ends. This in turn will generate a large protest movement that demands that he resign or dissolve the Knesset in order to organize new elections.

The views expressed in this publication are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab Center Washington DC, its staff, or its Board of Directors.

1 Tamar Hermann and Or Anabi, “January 2024 Poll: 71% support holding early elections,” Israel Democracy Institute, February 6, 2024.
2 Mati Tuchfeld, “Following pressure from Likud MKs, Netanyahu: No elections before 2025,” Yisrael Hayom, January 31m 2024.
3 Moshe Cohen, “Maariv Poll: The coalition collapses, Likud with 19 seats, Gantz rises,” Maariv, October 13, 2023.
4 Moshe Cohen, “Maariv Poll: National Unity bolsters its strength, party headed by Bennett will get 9 seats,” Maariv, November 3, 2023.
5 Moshe Cohen, “Maariv Poll: How many support a ground invasion? What do seats look like in the shadow of war?Maariv, October 27, 2023.
6Negative Slide: The bad news for Bezalel Smotrich,Maariv, February 11, 2024.
7 Adam Raz, “A Brief History of the Netanyahu-Hamas Alliance,” Haaretz, October 20, 2023.
8 Cohen, “The coalition collapses…,” op. cit.
9 Cohen, “National Unity…,” op. cit.
*Featured image credit: Flickr/PROHeinrich-Böll-Stiftung