With only one week left before Israel finalises its party lists ahead of a parliamentary race set for 23 March, Prime Minister Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu is making frantic efforts to unite the conservative bloc, a key to his re-election.
For him to remain in office, his bloc will need to secure at least 61 seats in the 120-seat unicameral parliament, and a recent Israeli media survey suggests that that scenario is still unlikely.
According to the poll, Netanyahu's Likud party remains Israel's biggest, with 29 seats. The premier's so-called "natural" partners -- the Ultra-Orthodox parties -- are projected to get 16 spots in total; and this means he falls 16 seats short of securing the magic number of 61.
Netanyahu is unlikely to reach a deal with Gideon Saar, who defected from Likud in December, forming his own party that's projected to get 15 seats at the Knesset.
Netanyahu, therefore, will need to look for partners elsewhere, primarily to his former defence minister Naftali Bennett's Yamina party, that's currently set to obtain 14 seats. The problem is that the premier will need to soothe Bennett, and that won't be an easy task.
And two years later, Netanyahu preferred to join forces with the Blue and White party, giving them key ministerial posts and letting Yamina pick up some leftovers, a move that was interpreted by Bennett as a stab in the back.
Now as elections are looming, Bennett is calculating his moves. Although his party has been critical of Netanyahu's government and the way it handled the still-raging coronavirus pandemic, it has also said that "they won't refrain from one million voters of Likud" and this means that Bennett will not be against forming a government with the premier. The question is - at what cost.
If that is the case, Bennett will secure 14 more seats for the PM, and the practical meaning of this is that Netanyahu will only need two more seats to remain in his position.
For that to happen, the PM will need to unite two religious parties - Batzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir -- whose views have been considered too radical - bordering on extreme.
The way it stands now, both parties fail to reach the threshold of 3.25 percent, getting 2.2 and 2.1 percent respectively. But if a merger of the two materialises, that could be a game changer. Not only will Netanyahu get re-elected but he will also be able to establish a stable and a coherent government that will rely on religious parties.
That government will surely cater to the needs of the religious and the settlers. Will that care for the country's seculars and for the neighbouring Palestinians? Probably not that much.