The Knesset – or parliament – of Israel has 120 seats, and 61 seats are needed for a party to form the government. Historically, no party has gained a majority, and the government has always been based on a coalition of parties. Polls for today’s elections indicate that this will be the case once again, because Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union is estimated to win around 26 seats and Netanyahu’s Likud Party no more than 22 seats.
However, the rule is that the party with the largest number of votes doesn’t automatically get to form the government, which instead is formed by the party who manages to create a majority coalition. This is why it is important to pay attention to how the other political parties fare at this election. Twenty-five parties are enrolled in the competition.
Aside from the recently formed Zionist Union (created in December by Herzog’s Labor Party and Hatenuah, the party of the ex-Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni) and from the Likud Party (Netanyahu’s political organization, which is strongly against yielding territories to the Palestinians), other important political players include: Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”), a party led by journalist Yair Lapid, which took 19 seats in the 2013 election, promoting middle-class interests and supporting peace efforts; Meterz, or the Energy party (with labor-class interests); the Joint Arab list (a union of four parties representing the 20% Arab minority); Jewish Home (a party traditionally tributary to Jewish Orthodoxy, but whose leader, Naftali Bennett, has tried to attract secular citizens as well, discoursing against a Palestinian state and for Israeli entrepreneurship); Yisrael Beytenu (led by Avigor Liberman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who promotes the redrawing of borders to include West Bank settlements and exclude Arab-dominated areas); Kulanu (led by the ex-Minister for Communications Moshe Kahlon, who left Netanyahu’s party, this political organization stresses on economic wellbeing and reducing the costs of living). There are several other parties, including Ultra-Orthodox Jewish organizations like United Torah Judaism, Shas and Yachad.
The media has given much attention to Isaac Herzog, the 54-year old son of the former President of Israel, Haim Herzog, and the grandson of a former Chief Rabbi of Israel. Herzog, who was a member of cabinet in Ariel Sharon’s government in 2005, in Ehud Olmert’s government from 2006 to 2009, then in Netanyahu’s government from 2009 to 2011, became the leader of the opposition in 2013, when he was elected head of the Labor Party. If he succeeds in forming the government after these elections, he is expected to reconsolidate the connections between Israel and the United States, after Netanyahu’s attempt to hinder negotiations between Obama and the Iranian leaders concerning nuclear non-proliferation. According to Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s politics has been perceived by Western countries as an impediment to peace, which means the leaders of these countries would be glad to deal with Herzog instead of Netanyahu.
image source: Zirve Haber Ajansi