Israel Holds an Election in 3 Weeks. Here’s What You Need to Know.
In slightly under three weeks, Israel will be holding its 20th parliamentary election, which was declared after a long period of internal power struggles within the ruling coalition. Eventually, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to dissolve the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) after less than two years out of a four-year term. The initial public response to the election was outrage, with the common opinion being that the election is a waste of public funds caused by ego-driven quarrels rather than legitimate policy disagreements. However, that sentiment seems to have withered down as the election became more competitive and surprising.
Political parties in Israel can be categorized into five groups: Right, center, left, ultra-orthodox (“Haredi”) and Arabs. The right consists of Likud, the Jewish Home, and Yisrael Beiteinu. In the center we can find two parties: Yesh Atid and Kulanu. The left parties are the Zionist Camp (a union of Labor and Ha’tnua) and Meretz. In a historic move, the Arab parties decided to unite in the coming election and to run together as one united party. The Haredi (ultra-orthodox) parties also considered the idea of unity briefly but eventually decided to stay as separate parties: United Torah Judaism party (UTJ) for the Ashkenazi Haredis, Shas party for the Sephardic Haredis and Yachad for the hard-right wing Haredis.
The current government was formed by a coalition of center-right parties, in contrast to the right-Haredi coalition who ruled before. However, the coming election might put an end to the Netanyahu regime, which has been in power since 2009. The alternative to Netanyahu is the political couple Issac Hertzog and Tzipi Livni. Together, they lead the Zionist Camp alliance and aim to bring the Labor party back to power for the first time since 2001. Do they have a chance? The polls suggests a complicated answer.
Here are the numbers from the most recent polls (there are 120 members of Knesset):
(Babushka ranks the parties in brackets, not the WP)
Likud 24 [Right]
Zionist Camp 23 [Center-Left]
Jewish Home 13 [Hard Right]
United Arab Party 13 [Left]
Yesh Atid 8 [Center-Right]
Shas 8 [Religious Grifters]
Kulanu 8 [Center Right]
UTJ 8 [Religious Grifters]
Yisrael Beiteinu 6 [Hard Right]
Meretz 5 [Hard Left]
Yachad 4 [Religious Convicted Felons]
The first thing that pops up is just how close the leading parties are, with just one seat separating them. However, what bothers the Zionist Camp is not so much the number of votes it will receive but rather the number of votes that will be cast in favor of the political center.