Moshe Kahlon is not a household name in the United States, but as a former minister of communications, Kahlon has as his claim to fame a successful reform of the cell-phone industry credited with reducing service rates in the country by 90 percent—making the then-minister an instant political superhero and boosting his popularity above that of Netanyahu. In an election where socio-economic issues have dominated the conversation, the importance of this kind of measurable social reform cannot be overstated.
When Kahlon announced that he would be entering these elections, some centrist Israelis viewed him as a savior. Polls from back in December already projected that Kahlon—who had yet to even form a party—would come in with the fourth-highest number of seats, and his star hasn’t diminished much since then. Kahlon’s party, Kulanu, is expected to gain enough Knesset seats to be a significant member of any prime minister’s coalition, and Kahlon has made a point of not committing himself to either the right or the left.
Joint Arab List
For the first time in Israeli history, the country’s Arab parties have decided to unite and run as a single group for Tuesday’s elections. The parties on the list range from Hadash, a communist party, to Balad, an Arab-nationalist party that rejects both Zionism and a two-state solution. (Instead, it advocates a binational state that would, by virtue of demographics, not be Jewish.) The parties originally united for the sake of survival; a new law, which some see as designed to squeeze out smaller parties and disenfranchise Arab Israelis, raised the threshold of votes needed to get any seats in parliament. If the intent of the law was to reduce Arab Israelis’ voting power, it has definitively backfired—Arab Israeli voter turnout is expected to increase this election, and the joint Arab list is consistently ranking as one of the top parties in the polls.
While the Arab parties will certainly have more representation in the Knesset after this election, it is less certain how the unified list will affect who gets the premiership. Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the joint list, has declared, “The ultimate goal is to get out Netanyahu. That is the most important thing.” Odeh’s intentions, combined with his electoral power, would seem to mean that Herzog’s Zionist Union stands a better chance than not of gaining the premiership. However, the picture is complicated by the fact that, according to multiple reports, the Arab parties have no intention of joining a hypothetical coalition under Herzog. Given the possibility of a national unity government between Herzog and Netanyahu, the Arab list has one other enticing option before it: to be the leader of the opposition. This would provide the Arab parties with an unprecedented opportunity to promote their legislative agenda within the Knesset and on the international stage.