BIN’s Guide to Israel’s 2019 Elections

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (The Israel Bible™)

By the Numbers

-21st Knesset

-Voting for the general public is on Tuesday, April 9

-10,720 polling stations opened 7AM-10PM

-39 Parties

-6,339,279 eligible voters

-Election day is an official holiday but public transportation operates as usual. Inter-city public transportation will be free on election day.

How It Works

Members of Knesset are not elected directly, but only as part of rosters of specific lists which participate in the general elections. To be represented in the Knesset, a party that takes part in the elections must pass the qualifying electoral threshold, which is currently 3.25%. Following elections to the Knesset, the lists of the parties, which passed the qualifying threshold receive a number of the 120 Knesset seats which is proportional to their electoral strength.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (Photo: GPO)

After the election, President Rivlin will consult with the elected party leaders, chooses the Knesset member most likely to have the ability to form a viable coalition representing at least a 61 seat majority. While this typically is the leader of the party receiving the most seats, it is not required to be so. In the event a party wins 61 or more seats in an election, it can form a viable government without having to form a coalition. However, no party has ever won more than 56 seats in an election; thus, a coalition has always been required. The leader of the party deemed the most likely to form a majority coalition has up to 42 days to negotiate with the different parties, and then present his or her government to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. If the Knesset approves the proposed government (by a vote of at least 61 members), he or she becomes Prime Minister.

 

Parties:

Likud:

Led by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, if reelected, will surpass David Ben-Gurion as the longest sitting prime minister in Israel’s history.

Other members are Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, Culture Minister Miri Regev, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Immigration Minister Yoav Gallant, former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.

Likud is anticipated to win 26-31 seats

Note:  Netanyahu, a native English speaker, is a strong ally of President Trump and has stated that he will consider the president’s yet-to-be-revealed Middle East Peace Plan. He has also stated in recent days that he supports annexing Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Biblical Heartland.

 

Blue and White

Formed in February by former IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, a newcomer to politics, joining with veteran Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF Chief of Staff who served as Israel’s Defense Minister under Netanyahu, and Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party. If the party wins, Gantz and Lapid will split the prime ministry with Gantz sitting for the first 30 months and Lapid serving for the remaining two years.

Though considered hawkish on security and settlements, Lapid passed several laws as finance minister in 2013 that angered the ultra-Orthodox sector.

The party also includes Gabi Ashkenazi, a former IDF Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Histadrut labor union chair Avi Nissenkorn, Yesh Atid MKs Meir Cohen and Ofer Shelah; former news anchor and IDF general Miki Haimovich. Haimovich is a prominent environmental activist.

Blue and White was ahead of Likud in the polls, expected to receive 27-32 seats, but Gantz, perceived as left-wing regarding security issues and Judea/Samaria, will have more difficulty forming a coalition than Netanyahu since most of the smaller parties are right-wing.

 

HaAvoda (Labor)

The oldest and largest left-wing party. Labor is led by Avi Gabbay, the former CEO of  telecommunications company Bezeq and Minister of Environmental Protection. The party was dominant in Israeli politics from when its formation in 1968 until the early 2000s when it declined sharply. The party claims, “Security above all” as its slogan while it supports creating an independent Palestinian state inside Israel’s borders.

Most polls anticipate the party will receive 10 seats, its lowest ever.


Zehut

The head of Zehut, Moshe Feiglin, is considered a quasi-libertarian and  is a strong advocate for increasing the availability of medical cannabis and approving its export.

The party’s manifesto includes canceling signed agreements with the Palestinians, making Arab-Israeli citizens pass a loyalty test and offering financial incentives to them to emigrate elsewhere if they refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty over the land. He has also called for Israel to annex Judea and Samaria as a solution to the conflict.

Feiglin stated that he does not have a preference between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election rival Benny Gantz. Since the prime minister is the candidate who can consolidate a majority coalition, this fluidity gives the Zehut party a powerful influence and Feiglin has been dubbed “kingmaker” by political pundits.

This willingness to align with either side of the political spectrum does not come from ambiguity, but rather from a strong adherence to his highest ideal. Feiglin has stated that he will not join a government that is willing to sell out the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, in the current atmosphere of Israeli politics, that limits his options for political partners.

His personal attachment to Jerusalem is undeniable, as he frequently ascends to the Temple Mount and has attended every Temple reenactment. In a rally last week, Feiglin called for building the Third Temple.

The polls predict Zehut will receive 4-7 seats.

 

New Right

Formed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked after they left Yisrael Beytenu (Jewish Home), the party is, as its name implies, strongly right-wing regarding security. They advocate annexing Judea and Samaria. Bennett, a former commando in the IDF, has stated that he will only join a Netanyahu-led coalition if he is given the plum Defense Minister role. Bennett advocates forgoing any attempts at ceasefires with Hamas and calls for obliterating Hamas through an extensive air campaign. Shaked, a secular Jew who is strongly right-wing, is considered the most prominent, up-and-coming female in Israeli politics.

The polls predict they will receive 4-7 seats.

Union of Right-Wing Parties

Headed by Jewish Home chairman Rafi Peretz, a former IDF Chief Rabbi, the party supports annexing Judea and Samaria and withholding the right to vote from non-Jews over the Green Line. They advocate demolishing terrorists’ homes, expelling families of terrorists, and targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders in Gaza.

The party is expected to garner 5-7 seats.

Shas

The party has a loyal following among the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi community. It is headed by convicted criminal Aryeh Deri, who is again currently under investigation. Several of the party’s leaders have been convicted of crimes and in 1999, Deri was convicted of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, for which he was given a three-year jail sentence. The party has a policy of not having any women on their party list.

Founded in 1984 by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the party won an all-time high of 17 seats in 1999. Polls estimate the party will win 5-7 seats in this election.

Meretz

The only party that claims in its platform to be left-wing, it is headed by Tamar Zandberg. Meretz supports the creation of a Palestinian state inside the borders of Israel. They call for immediate negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and the loosening of restrictions on both the Gaza Strip and Palestinians living in the West Bank.

They advocate same-sex marriages as well as full separation of church and state in the Israeli government.

Receiving 12 seats when it was founded in 1992, polls have placed the party at five seats in this election. Some polls have suggested that Meretz may fail to pass the threshold.



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