Israeli Elections 2.0

Stand for Israel  |  May 31, 2019

This week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) moved to dissolve its current session, which will lead to the second set of elections held in Israel just this yearFellowship President Yael Eckstein discussed this unprecedented occurrence in what her father, Rabbi Eckstein, often called Israel’s “noisy democracy,” and now here is an informational brief about just what is going on in Israel, as far as elections are concerned.

Israel Elections 2.0

Two elections in one year? What?

Yep. It’s the first time this has happened in Israel’s history.

Israel’s system is very different from ours–we have two parties. Israel has 11, for right now.

When Israel has an election, it’s not as simple as the party with the highest number of votes winning. The winning party may only get about 30% of the vote, far from  a majority. To form a winning government, the winning party must form what’s called a bloc, or coalition, of ideologically-similar parties. This is usually done through negotiations, special appointments to cabinet positions, and the like.

The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) has 120 seats. So the winning party, in this case Bibi’s Likud Party, has to get 61 people to all join with him. And he failed to that.

Why couldn’t he form a coalition?

Great question! Even though most of Israel’s parties right now lean to the right, there is still enough dissent that forming a governing coalition was impossible.

It came down to one politician, Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. He refused to join Bibi’s coalition, over the issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the military.

In Israel, as we know, every Jew is drafted into some form of military service, but two more religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, advocate for the right of ultra-Orthodox young people to devote themselves to studying Torah instead of enlisting in military service. “We are part of a right-wing government, but we will not be part of a halachic government” (a government ruled by Jewish religious law), said Lieberman. This seems to be an issue of the clash between secular right wing and religious right wing parties in Israel.

The right wing parties could not compromise or find a solution to this issue before the deadline, thus the Knesset voted to dissolve and start over.

What will happen now?

On September 17 Israel will vote again for a new ruling party/Prime Minister, making it the first time in history Israel has held a national election twice in one year. There are no trends, polling, or precedent to suggest which direction this may swing. Netanyahu will be in power at least until then.

Does this effect the United States?

The only immediate effect could be the delay of the Trump administration’s peace plan (“The Deal of the Century”).

Further Learning:

If You Like Israeli Elections, It’s Your Lucky Day on Israel Policy Forum’s Koplow Column

Yael’s Facebook Live

What You Need to Know About Israel’s New Elections from the New York Times

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