The early polls for the third Israeli election in the span of a year, scheduled for March 2, 2020, predict another inconclusive result: that is, neither the Center-Left-Arab bloc (to the extent that such a thing actually exists) nor the Right-Religious bloc, minus Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, are expected to win a majority in the Knesset. Likud and Kachol Lavan are still in a horse race with the latter having a slight edge. There will be nearly three months of campaigning, which can always make a difference, but if the election were held today the needle would barely move.

Israeli politics should not be where it is today. The second election was an unnecessary embarrassment, brought on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to play by the same rules applied to his immediate predecessor, Ehud Olmert, and the prospect of a third vote is out-and-out shameful for the very same reason: think what you will of Kachol Lavan’s inconsistent and muddled negotiating strategy, it is Netanyahu’s insistence on serving as prime minister through at least the early stages of an indictment, while requesting the Knesset grant him immunity, that has prevented a new coalition from being formed. Gantz has a slight advantage in the blame game, but the anger that may erupt with the dissolution of the twenty-second Knesset (perhaps exacerbated by President Reuven Rivlin’s intervention, in which he blamed both sides equally) can turn on anyone in a volatile news cycle.

With this in mind, here are five things, in no particular order, to pay close attention to in the early days of the campaign.

1. Will the Zionist Left merge?

At this point, there should be no doubt that Amir Peretz’s decision to run with Orly Levy and her Gesher party was a major miscalculation. At the time, I speculated that it might be a way for the duo to join Kachol Lavan, but it turned out to be an ordinary bust instead of a daring experiment. It should not be repeated.

That said, the Democratic Union – the list containing Meretz, Stav Shaffir, and Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party – was arguably a much bigger disaster. It only managed to win one more mandate in September’s vote than Meretz did in April (five and four, respectively). Labor repeated its historically low performance in April, winning six seats.

The case for a merger between Labor and Democratic Union is not ironclad. It’s possible such a “united” Zionist Left would win fewer seats together than their current 11 cumulative mandates. But this risk must be compared to the risk of one of these lists falling beneath the electoral threshold. If a united list wins less than 11 seats, at least they can sleep comfortably knowing it went to Kachol Lavan instead of the ether. Barak demonstrated remarkable humility and leadership by accepting an unrealistic placement on his party’s slate in order to secure an agreement with Meretz. It may be time for Peretz to compromise as well.

2. Will Netanyahu be allowed to stand as a candidate for prime minister?

This week, 70 academics, businesspeople, and former members of Israel’s security establishment submitted a petition to the High Court in which they urged a ruling on Netanyahu’s eligibility – now that he’s been formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust – to form a government. Ultimately, this is a decision that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit must make, and the court gave him a soft deadline of December 18 to respond.

Mandelblit’s position is officially apolitical, and he’s demonstrated integrity in the face of overwhelming political pressure, so it’s always possible he will come to an earnest conclusion that Netanyahu can’t form a government while facing serious indictments; after all, precedent requires any other cabinet member to resign under such circumstances. Nevertheless, I would not bet on Mandelblit potentially compromising his office’s most important case(s) if he does not absolutely have to.

Gideon Saar and the Likud Primary

Yesterday, Netanyahu and the Likud Central Committee agreed to hold a leadership primary on December 26. Former Interior Minister and popular Likud MK Gideon Saar has already announced he will challenge Netanyahu. If Saar is somehow able to win, it could prove potentially devastating for Kachol Lavan, whose raison dêtre is to move the country beyond Netanyahu.

Saar, however, is unlikely to succeed unless Netanyahu is rendered legally unable to lead a government during the course of his criminal cases. If Netanyahu is deemed ineligible and steps away from the Likud leadership, Saar will have the advantage of being the only declared alternative to Netanyahu, but also the burden of being viewed in the party as someone who kicked Netanyahu while he was down. But if the Likud faithful loath anything more than a backstabber, it’s losing power – and so Saar stands a chance if he can convince the party that he is their best option.

Is a plea deal in the works?

On Sunday, the former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas and businessman Avi Tiomkin wrote an op-ed suggesting that Netanyahu’s main objective is to negotiate a plea deal – presumably to avoid jail time – from his position in the prime minister’s office. This makes some sense: the chances of Netanyahu securing 61 mandates to form a coalition after the next election are not high. If he’s retained his senses, he must understand that his political life is at its end. The pertinent question is for the state prosecutors: do they want to set a precedent of giving into a prime minister who is holding up the government as leverage?

Whatever the answer, it appears Netanyahu is not going to give up his office for nothing as long he does not have to.

Will the Trump administration release its “peace plan?”

Laugh if you will, but Trump’s evident frustration with Netanyahu after his first failure to form a government may repeat itself in the coming weeks. He is probably tired of offering futile assistance to Netanyahu by delaying the release of what is mocked in the region as “the deal of the century.” No one is under any illusion that the Trump administration has an actionable plan, but election year is the season of the photo opportunity.

That said, elections are also a time to consolidate one’s base. If the 2016 results are any indication, Trump can’t afford to even lose votes at the margin. The votes of a few thousand religious conservatives in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will weigh heavily on whether he wants to release a plan that will, naturally, require some concessions from Israel, however minimal.