Election predictions are stupid. It’s impossible to know who’s going to win because the polls are not to be trusted (obviously) and until voting day, you can’t ask every single voter who they want.
What you can do, after the elections, is make coalition predictions. The Knesset has 120 seats, and they have all been divvied up, based on Tuesday’s outcome. The prime minister (presumably Olmert, but actually anyone who is able to pull it off) is the leader of the party that can put together a 61 seat government.
Possibility number one: Kadima, Labor, Meretz, and Gil for 61 seats.
This is the one we were all scared of before the election. Kadima goes left for support for its disengagement agenda. Labor gets onboard in exchange for the Treasury, Gil gets on board in exchange for a new ministry, “Old People rights,” or whatever. Meretz probably takes Justice.
The problem with this is threefold; Olmert wants a center coalition, without being the rightmost party. He probably doesn’t want Meretz anywhere near him, for fear of driving away the base he stole from the Likud. He really doesn’t want Peretz at the helm of the Treasury. Also, this is the weakest coalition possible. Any one of the three partners could topple it. He’ll only fall back on this option if all else fails.
Possibility number two: Kadima, Shas, Israel Beitenu, UTJ, and Gil for 65 seats.
This one is tempered a bit to the right. Olmert appeals to the right-leaning parties that have shown possibilities for compromise. Gil’s votes are available for hire, as they’ve made clear, and Shas and UTJ are open to bribes in the form of child allowances and yeshiva budgets (I know it doesn’t sound so sinister, but it is). Leiberman at Israel Beitenu is the wild card here. Olmert would have to significantly change his plans for disengagements to appease him, but it would still take place. Leiberman would benefit greatly by being in the government, establishing his party as a force to be reckoned with, and possibly taking the place of the Likud in the next election. Shas gets education, Israel Beitenu gets foreign ministry or finance, UTJ gets justice. Gil gets their social service agenda. I would very much like to see this happen, but I don’t give it much hope.
Possibility number three: Likud, Shas, Israel Beitenu, UTJ, NRP/NU, Gil, and three defectors from Kadima for 61 seats.
Not going to happen. Stop praying.
Possibility number four: Kadima, Labor, Shas, UTJ and Gil for 74 seats.
This is most likely to happen. Olmert gets his way in disengagements, but has to compromise on social and economic issues. He increases taxes to support the unemployed (for Labor), the old (for Gil), the kollels (for UTJ), and the superstitious (for Shas). The great benefit of this is that aside from the major partner (Labor), Olmert can piss off any one of the three minor partners, watch them leave the government, and still keep things stable.
My prediction: new elections in 18 months.