Election Day for the 19th Knesset has arrived, bringing the campaign season (which was both routine and bizarre, quiet and stormy, predictable and surprising) to an end.
All of the basic assumptions that were considered to be axiomatic were examined thoroughly. Even if a number of these assumptions prove to be correct, this wasn't necessarily evident at various points throughout the campaign.
The one assumption that held throughout the entire campaign, even if it weakened slightly toward the end, was that Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government. But on the basis of polls published by the media, there has been a growing consensus on both the Right and the Left that Netanyahu will have a tougher time steering the next coalition than he did the current one.
The feeling that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister has created a fictitious reality, as if Israel has returned to having separate ballots for the prime minister and the Knesset. Under that system, one could vote for Netanyahu as prime minister, but also for a smaller party that would serve in his coalition (which in fact weakened the prime minister). People feel that they can do this in 2013, even though this is not the case. There is only one ballot. Voting for smaller parties could complicate the formation of the next coalition and make it harder for the prime minister to lead that coalition.
What will the next coalition look like? It all depends on the election results. The closer the results are to a tie between the Right and Center-Left blocs, the more likely it is that the head of the next government will have to reach across the dividing line. It would be logical for Netanyahu to wink at Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party, but Lapid has also made commitments that would make it difficult for him to join a Netanyahu-led coalition.
The main complication in predicting the election results is that when the voting booths opened on Tuesday morning, there were still around 500,000 undecided voters (mostly women), according to pollsters' estimates. These voters have narrowed their choices down to a range of parties. Some of the voting dilemmas are surprising. For example, there is at least one Knesset seat's worth (if not more) of secular voters who are deliberating between Habayit Hayehudi and Yesh Atid.
All in all, the puzzle is fascinating and it will start to be assembled when voting ends at 10 p.m. on Tuesday night. In any case, the rightist bloc will be larger than the Center-Left bloc to some extent. The size of the gap between the two blocs will influence coalition negotiations and also the duration of the next government.
On Tuesday, political operatives and activists will be running around the streets in pursuit of indifferent or recalcitrant voters. In this atmosphere, there will be only faint memories of distant times, when elections were celebrations of Israeli democracy, which has survived and functioned properly since January 1949, when citizens were called to vote for the Constituent Assembly, the name of the first Knesset. So despite the ordinary atmosphere in Israel on Tuesday, happy holiday!