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State of Tel Aviv

TelaVivian, Vol 8: Election Predictions are a Fool's Errand

In the weeks leading up to the 2015 Israeli election I was being pressed by one of my colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa to predict the outcome.

At the time, I was serving as the Canadian Ambassador to Israel.

A very senior public servant in the Department, who fancied himself something of a mid-east expert, pressed me on this prediction thing, relentlessly.

In recent decades, the Canadian foreign service has groomed “generalists” over specialists, meaning that it can be a challenge to find a true expert among the 12,000 plus work force in the Department. Those trained in the language or culture of a geopolitical area of interest are rare, indeed. And the deficit was painfully apparent when it came to Israel.

Anyone with the remotest understanding of Israeli politics would know better than to even ask. They would understand that every Israeli election really begins with the post-vote negotiations to form a governing coalition. Usually, the party with the greatest number of seats is granted that honor by the president of Israel, but not always.

That was six elections ago, and, for the record, I predicted 2015 with astonishing precision; down to the number of seats each party would take in the Knesset. And the results in that contest were not well-aligned with polling data.

The only thing I would dare to predict in Election #5, upon us today – and the fifth such contest in the last three years – is that it will happen. OK. I’ll go a wee bit further. I expect it to be inconclusive; meaning that no leader of any party will succeed in forming a governing coalition. We’ll have one or two attempts at negotiating the impossible, which will take two or three months.

And then we will be back at the polls for Election #6 sometime in the spring.

What will eventually break the deadlock?

Either a change in Likud leadership or a breakdown in the so-called ultra-Orthodox “Haredi bloc.

Something’s gotta give.

Author image
Tel Aviv, Israel
Originally from Toronto, now residing in Tel Aviv, Vivian has long been active in journalistic pursuits, practiced law for 24 years and served as the Canadian Ambassador to Israel from 2014-16.
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