Who won Israel’s elections? Sorry, but for at least a bit longer, we don’t know
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AnalysisTo Bibi or not to Bibi? That is still the question

Who won Israel’s elections? Sorry, but for at least a bit longer, we don’t know

Three ostensibly super-sophisticated TV exit polls give rather different takes on what the electorate had to say. A little patience is in order

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

Likud supporters react to the first voting results in the Israeli general elections, at the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud supporters react to the first voting results in the Israeli general elections, at the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 9, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Here’s an article that will become redundant almost as soon as you read it — but less redundant than at least one, two or maybe all three of the hugely heralded Israeli TV exit polls that, as voting ended at 10 p.m., purported to tell us who had won Tuesday’s Israeli elections.

Both the Benjamins — Likud Prime Minister Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Gantz — claimed victory on the basis of their selective reading of those polls. Both of them were getting ahead of themselves, though each could yet be vindicated.

Two of the polls appeared to give Netanyahu a fairly straightforward path to a majority coalition. The third made things harder to call. The fact that the three differed fairly wildly in some of their predictions for the various parties only serves to underline their unreliability. When 39 parties are running for election, with a 3.25% Knesset threshold, polling is a difficult business — even super-sophisticated exit polling.

The fact is that, as of this writing, and despite all that expert poll taking, we don’t know who has won the elections. We might think we do. (Things seem to look pretty good for Netanyahu on the basis of the Channel 13 and Kan Channel 11 polls.) The most deeply interested parties may claim we do. We might look back very soon and say we did. But we don’t.

Within a few hours, however, we might know which parties have won how many seats in the 120-member Knesset. I say “might,” because if the counts are borderline, even that might take more than a few hours. A few parties are hovering around the 3.25% threshold. They could win four seats or no seats, remaking the potential coalition arithmetic one way or the other. According to the polls. Which we can’t depend upon.

And when we do know which parties have won how many seats in the Knesset, we might know who has won the election. Or, again, if the coalition-building arithmetic is not straightforward, that could take a while longer, too. How much longer? We don’t know.

Here’s what we do know: The great exercise in democracy that was Israeli election day, April 9, 2019, has been completed. The people have had their say.

We’re just going to have wait a little longer to find out exactly what it is that they said. And a little longer after that to see how their newly elected representatives are going to deal with it.

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