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  • Writer's pictureThe Pendulum

Examining the Israeli Elections

Tyler McDougald

On April 9th, 2019, Israel held an election for their twenty-first Knesset, the country’s parliament. On September 17th, Israel will vote for their twenty-first Knesset... again. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government by the deadline of Wednesday, May 29th, forcing the newly-elected Knesset to dissolve itself and hold another snap election on September 17th.

Israel votes for a new parliament every four years. The Knesset consists of 120 Members of Parliament (MPs) that represent the entirety of Israel, meaning that there is only representation at the national level and none at the local. Israeli citizens vote on lists, or parties, which are then allocated seats in parliament based on the proportion of votes they received. Over 40 parties competed in the April election, with eleven surpassing the electoral threshold of 3.25% that Israel requires in order to qualify for seats in parliament. Within the parliamentary system, the party that obtains a majority of the votes controls the majority of government based on seats allocated to them, and they are therefore able to elect a prime minister. However, due to the massive number of Israeli political parties, no single party has ever held a majority of seats in parliament. To obtain a majority, different parties create coalitions governments, wherein they combine their numbers of seats in order to reach a majority.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his party, the Likud, obtained 35 seats in parliament; their major opposition, Military Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and the Blue and White party, also reached 35 seats. At the time of the election, many analysts believed Netanyahu had secured a safe win.

According to the BBC:

‘It's a comfortable win for [Netanyahu],’ says Anshel Pfeffer, a journalist with Israel's Haaretz newspaper who has written a biography of the Israeli leader. ‘There's no other way to put it today.’

In reality, forming a coalition proved more difficult than anticipated.To reach a majority, Netanyahu and the Likud party needed to form a coalition with the Yisrael Beiteinu party and multiple ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Conflict arose between the two sectors, as the Yisrael Beiteinu party and its leader, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, required that the ultra-Orthodox parties relinquish their policy of military draft exemptions. Their refusal to do so prevented Mr. Netanyahu from reaching a majority. Worried that he may lose the prime ministership, Netanyahu called for a new election. By a vote of 74-45, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself on May 29th, resolving to hold new elections on September 17th. The repercussions of these elections are still unfolding. With both parties contesting the results, the situation is constantly changing and will continue to develop in the coming weeks.

Netanyahu’s road to victory will not be easy. Facing corruption charges, he has gone so far as to attempt to pass a bill that would insulate him from indictment as long as he is in office. Furthermore, failing to win a campaign could prove detrimental to the success of future elections.

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