There is a good chance that Benjamin Netanyahu will retain Israel’s premiership after the March Knesset election—whether by forming a government, or, more probably, because no other candidate manages to assemble one. He owes the relative strength of his position and his rivals’ weakness in large part to events set in motion last year.

Going into the spring 2020 Knesset elections, Kachol Lavan, headed by Benny Gantz, mounted what appeared to be the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s tenure in a decade. Six months prior, Kachol Lavan had won 33 seats to Likud’s 32, making it the largest political party in the Knesset. Gantz was never able to form a coalition—but neither was Netanyahu, who merely continued on as acting prime minister at the head of a caretaker government. This electoral war of attrition might have continued through the remainder of 2020 had Gantz not decided to form a unity government with the prime minister.

Given the dysfunctional nature of the outgoing Israeli government, Gantz’s repeated political foibles, and the succession of mass protests against the prime minister, it is worth recalling that the unity deal was nominally struck as a response to the nascent coronavirus crisis. Whether Gantz joining Netanyahu was the right thing to do under the circumstances is a topic for another piece. But justified or not, the decision had the effect of imploding the already fractious Israeli opposition. This was a consequence Netanyahu was surely aware of, and one with far-reaching ramifications for Israel’s political landscape.

Ideology always played second fiddle to Kachol Lavan’s anyone-but-Netanyahu platform, so joining up with Netanyahu undermined the faction’s raison d’etre, prompting the split between Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi on one side, and Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon on the other. That breakup didn’t just neutralize the threat posed by Kachol Lavan. Other opposition parties began to break down as well.

The Labor Party, already on the decline, had run in an alliance with the left-wing Meretz and center-right Gesher. Like Benny Gantz, Labor leader Amir Peretz had pledged not to join Netanyahu in government (even shaving his signature mustache so voters could “read his lips”). Kachol Lavan’s split revealed just how tenuous the Labor-Gesher-Meretz compact really was. When Gantz went over to Netanyahu’s side, Peretz soon followed, along with Labor member of Knesset Itzik Shmuli, while the party’s third deputy, Merav Michaeli, stayed in the opposition. Gesher’s Orly Levy-Abekasis entered the government as well. Labor is poised to fall below the electoral threshold in March and Netanyahu is courting Levy-Abekasis to join Likud. Most polls show Meretz just treading water. New center-left contenders like Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s HaYisraelim may replace the erstwhile Labor Party or rump Kachol Lavan, but they are unlikely to surpass it in terms of peak electoral performance. The pending entrance of former Mossad chief and ex-Labor parliamentarian Danny Yatom’s new pensioners’ party means a more crowded center-left field, but not necessarily a more competitive one.

The Joint List was also hurt by Gantz’s reversal of his anti-Netanyahu position. The alliance of four Arab parties occupies an awkward space in Israeli politics. It was the third largest party in the Knesset after three of the last four elections (and would have been in all four had it run united in April 2019). Yet the Joint List consistently vowed not to join any government, and most of Netanyahu’s challengers, including Kachol Lavan, promised not to work with the Arab list. The Joint List deviated from this traditionally rigid stance when it recommended Benny Gantz as prime minister after the September and March elections, marking only the second and third time that an independent Arab list has ever supported a Jewish-Zionist candidate’s bid for the premiership. From the Joint List’s perspective, Gantz rewarded their historic decision with betrayal, and they will not be eager to get burned again. This means the anti-Netanyahu coalition suffers a built-in deficit in trying to unseat the prime minister. The Joint List also voted against ratifying the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, a decision that proved highly unpopular among Arab voters. Then there are the problems stemming from the tortured relationships between the Joint List’s constituent parties, including discord over United Arab List leader Mansour Abbas’s budding relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, prompting fears that the union could dissolve again. The result of all of this is that the Joint List is a far less formidable presence now than it was just a year ago.

Of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not completely in the clear. He faces a new kind of challenger this time around: with the center-left increasingly non-existent, the prime ministr’s leading rivals are coming from the hard-right, represented by Likud defector Gideon Saar’s Tikvah Hadasha and Naftali Bennett’s Yamina.

Yet even if Saar or Bennett are able to block Netanyahu’s path back to Balfour Street, they will come to head an ideologically disunited coalition that could come apart once the coronavirus crisis recedes, if not before then. On top of this, if Saar and Bennett do not work together, Netanyahu will be keen to pit them against one another, as Yamina and Tikvah Hadasha are competing for many of the same votes. It is not a given that either or both of these men will still oppose the prime minister after election day. Saar’s entry into the race has already stunted Bennett’s meteoric rise in the polls. Thus, the potential mergers that could take place between now and February 4, the deadline to register party lists, will be critical in determining the outcome of the race.

While Benjamin Netanyahu remains under pressure from his ongoing corruption trial and persistent protests, he is facing the March elections in a uniquely advantageous position, with no other party matching Likud’s size and national brand. The next Knesset is also likely to be less ideologically diverse, with the right and further-right continuing to edge out what remains of a discredited center and left. With just two-and-a-half months to go before the election, the prime minister’s challengers have yet to recover from a series of decisions made in the aftermath of the 2020 Knesset election that have rendered the Israeli opposition a far less cohesive and less viable political force than ever before.