The real fluidity, and it is considerable, is in the movement of votes and seats within the major tribes, and especially the largest two -- the right and center. A note of caution is in order: Polls are only polls, and elections can surprise -- there are suggestions that up to one in five voters may be undecided, and that the polls may be overemphasizing calls to fixed landline telephones. But few observers expect the final results to change much.
The ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) and Palestinian Arab blocs show the least fluctuation. The Haredi parties -- both Shas, made up of Sephardim, or Jews of Middle Eastern origin, and United Torah Judaism, made up of Ashkenazim, or Jews hailing from Central and Eastern Europe -- have had to contend with uncharacteristic internal dissent and breakaway factions. Yet the polls show they are likely to retain their strength (around 10 to 12 and five to six seats respectively). Likewise, the largely Palestinian Arab parties -- the more Islamist United Arab List, nationalist Balad, and communist and coexistence-oriented Hadash -- are set to retain their almost equally divided share of 10 to 11 seats, although lower voter turnout among Palestinian Arabs could push this number down. The politics of this bloc continues to be shaped by their exclusion, including by the centrist Zionist parties, as potential legitimate coalition allies (or even opposition allies) and the right's efforts to ban their participation in elections. These efforts were recently squashed again by the Supreme Court. But if a more extreme Knesset continues to push a ban and succeeds in its judicial reforms, then Palestinian Arabs' non-participation cannot be ruled out. That would be a huge game-changer for Israeli democracy.
Much has been made of the center bloc's disarray. In the last elections, the Zionist center bloc was represented by two parties -- Kadima and Labor -- that secured a combined total of 41 seats (28 and 13 respectively). A side story in this election will be Kadima's (near?) disappearance, mainly due to defections as well as a poor performance in opposition and a brief period serving in Netanyahu's coalition last summer. Yet, in polling, the center bloc maintains almost the exact same number of seats, with Labor now in the mid to high teens, Livni's Hatnuah and Lapid's Yesh Atid both scoring around 10 seats, and Kadima perhaps scraping back in with two. The remaining margin is likely to go to Meretz, up one or two seats in polls from its existing three. As noted, the early promise of a dramatic Labor resurgence under Yachimovich and her socioeconomic platform has largely fizzled out. Nevertheless, the center bloc in parliament will now be less rightist. Kadima's dwindling faction included a number of settlers and their sympathizers, as well as initiators and supporters of harsh anti-democratic legislation. A strengthened Labor will include a more prominent core of progressives. Livni's new party list will also be characterized by a more consistently liberal-democratic orientation than the hodgepodge that was Kadima, while Yesh Atid is least predictable, defined by little more than its leader's attractive TV persona.
The most significant and potentially consequential shifts are taking place within the right-wing bloc. Netanyahu kicked off this election season by creating a unified list between his Likud Party and the Yisrael Beiteinu Party of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman -- the Likud-Beiteinu list. That combination had 42 seats (27 + 15) in the outgoing Knesset, but is predicted to drop to the low- to mid-thirties. Overall, the non-Haredi rightist bloc seems to be holding at about the 50-seat mark. Given the way the joint Likud-Beiteinu list is composed, Likud looks to become a rump faction of only about 22 members. Almost all those lost votes seem to have shifted one step rightwards to Bennett's Jewish Home -- overtly Jewish-chauvinist and territorially expansionist. A party even further to the right, Otzma LeYisrael ("Strength to Israel"), may also cross the threshold and receive two or more seats. (Elements of these two parties had seven seats combined in the last Knesset, a number that looks likely to more than double.) It should not go unmentioned that the Likud list is itself more hard-line, having upgraded a cohort of politicians who overtly advocate a greater Israel annexationist policy and having purged the handful of members considered defenders of Western-style democracy (notably, Dan Meridor, Michael Eitan, and Benny Begin).
In the Haredi bloc, the main story is a breakaway faction challenging Shas (with ex-MK Haim Amsalem having formed his own more integrationist party) and the apparent failure to receive any perceptible boost from the return of former leader Aryeh Deri from a prison-induced absence or from the weakening of the Sephardi appeal of the new Likud-Beiteinu joint list.
Overall, the center is shifting a little leftwards and the right is lurching toward its radical extremes. Netanyahu will almost certainly be back for another term. Given how little change there is among the four major tribes, and how few real issues are on the table, you might think these elections don't matter very much. You would be wrong.