Israel Votes 2019
To the polls, again!
On Sep. 17th Israel Votes, Again. Here's Why
In the spring of 2015, Israelis went to the polls and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party won the most seats and the right to form the new government. The coalition they assembled included just a bare majority of 61 Knesset members out of 120 and included four coalition partners.
In June 2016, the government was bolstered with an additional 5 seats when Yisrael Beiteinu’s leader Avigdor Lieberman was named Defense Minister and his party joined the coalition. Two-and-a-half-years later, Lieberman pulled his party out leaving the same 61 seat coalition that Likud started with back in 2015. With a bare majority in the Knesset, it was clear the government would fall soon. So, in December 2018, the government decided that early elections should be called and established April 9, 2019 as the date.
The results of the April 2019 elections -- 35 Knesset seats for Likud and 35 for Blue White -- nevertheless leaned heavily in Likud's favor in terms of actually forming a coalition. It was not to be. Netanyahu's long-time political nemesis Avigdor Lieberman once again held the power that King Bibi needed to govern. Yet Lieberman, citing electoral promises to ensure the passage of a law to draft ultra-orthodox Israeli into the army, rejected Netanyahu's proposed compromises that he felt would leave the status quo intact. The Likud was thus unable to form a governing coalition and, as a result, the nation was thrust into another national election just five months after the previous.
About the Israeli Parliament & Electoral System
The hallmark of Israel’s democracy – the Knesset – is the unicameral national legislature with 120 seats. Located in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the Knesset is made up of officials elected as members of political lists who run as parties. Each of the nearly 6 million eligible voting citizens of Israel can cast a vote for one of the parties running and no one votes directly for individual candidates. After the election, the seats of the Knesset are divided proportionately according to the number of votes received by each party as long as it garnered the minimum 3.25% of the votes cast, corresponding to 4 Knesset seats. More.
Candidates You Need to Know
Even though Israelis vote for a political party with a pre-defined list of candidates, individual candidates still play a critical part in elections. Each party is usually led by the most dynamic person in the party, the one with the most name recognition, business, political and/or military experience, personal clout – or all of these assets – to draw voters to his or her party. They are not only the face of the party, but also embody the party’s ideals. Below are some of the key players in the September 2019 elections.
Parties Running for Knesset
As a parliamentary democracy, Israelis vote for one party from among those running rather than for specific candidates. Each party can have up to 120 candidates -- the total number of seats in the Knesset. However, since no party has ever won even a simple majority of 61 seats needed to govern, most have far fewer candidates. Under normal circumstances, the party that wins the most seats is tasked to form a governing coalition. If they are unable to do so, another large party can be tapped to form the government instead. Those parties not in the ruling coalition form the parliamentary opposition.
For upcoming election, 31 parties are slated to run. Touch the logos below to learn about each party and their platform. Small parties with little chance entering the Knesset are listed on this page.
Background Information & Analysis
Well before the advent of the 24/7 news cycle brought about by the internet, Israel was broadcasting the news every hour, on the hour, day and night since the state's establishment in 1948. The issues impacting Israel are very real and very immediate, so it's no wonder that discussing politics and "the situation" in Israel is a non-stop national sport. Below are backgrounders on some of the key issues that Israelis discuss, even when elections are not imminent.