• Workers prepare ballot boxes for the upcoming Israeli election at a warehouse in Shoham, before they are shipped to polling stations. March 7, 2019. Photo by Flash90

Israel Goes to the Polls

Johannes Gerloff - 3 April 2019

The people of Israel will vote on 9 April to elect the 21st Knesset (Parliament) of the State of Israel since its establishment in May 1948.

About six million Israelis are eligible to vote. Israel has a proportional representation system. Inevitably it will be necessary to form a coalition government, so all the main contending parties are preparing for possible partnerships.

According to the website of the Central Electoral Committee of the Knesset 43 political parties are standing for election. For the first time, Labor is no longer a serious contender, and may not even meet the threshold of 3.25% of the votes required to have a seat in the Knesset.

Two new parties have recently been established challenging Likud’s dominance of the political scene.

The first is the New Right Party (HaYamin HeHadash), a right-wing political party established in December 2018 by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The party has recently been joined by Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, author of the book ‘The Israel Solution’, who advocates Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

The other main rival to Likud is the new ‘Blue-White’ party led by former Chiefs of Staff Benny Gantz, Gabi Ashkenazi and Moshe Ya’alon. ‘Blue-White’ has been joined by former journalist, former finance minister and leader of the centrist-party Yesh Atid, Ya’ir Lapid.

Israelis may also vote for parties with names such as ‘New Horizon with Dignity’, ‘Responsibility for Founders’, ‘Social Security’, ‘Social Justice’, ‘Real Democracy’, ‘Hope for Change’, ‘Unity of the Sons of the Covenant’, ‘Eternal Covenant’, ‘the Pirates’, ‘Bridge’, ‘Identity’, ‘Education’, ‘Reform’, ‘Human Dignity’, ‘Protective Shield’, ‘Simply Love’ and ‘You and I’.

Relationship with the Palestinians and the two-state solution – not really an issue in this election campaign.

For months the main media platforms in Israel have been occupied primarily with one question: who can oust Benjamin Netanyahu? At 69 years of age, Benjamin Netanyahu is vying for his fifth term as Prime Minister. He is the longest-serving prime minister in the history of the modern state of Israel, and the most popular head of government Israel has ever had. Allegations of corruption and breach of trust threatened to topple Netanyahu but are barely an issue any more. Although the Attorney-General has announced that Netanyahu will be charged, a final decision on indictment has been postponed until after the elections. To the chagrin of all Netanyahu-doom- prophets, all coalition partners of the Likud have announced that they would be ready to continue the coalition even if Netanyahu were charged. Under Israeli law, a Prime Minister who is charged is not obliged to resign.

Interestingly, the issue that Europeans, in particular, find so important – the relationship with the Palestinians and the two-state solution – is not really an issue in this election campaign. The positions of those parties likely to be part of a coalition government are virtually indistinguishable in this regard.

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