Israeli Elections

A Need for Consensus

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Milène Klein

Luca Musk ’21 strongly believes that bringing in fresh political voices would be good for Israel. “While Netanyahu’s right-wing policy has boosted Israel’s economic gains, his social conservatism has heightened ethnic tensions within the nation and conflicts with surrounding nations,” Musk said.

One of the most powerful and influential nations in the Middle East, Israel is in the midst of making a potentially historic decision. Long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of Likud, Israel’s right-wing conservative party, who is currently facing serious corruption charges among a slew of others. He is running against Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White, Israel’s centrist party, in a bid for control over the Israeli government. Gantz, who has long been one of Netanyahu’s prominent adversaries, won thirty-three seats to Netanyahu’s thirty-one, a surprising victory given Netanyahu’s history of election manipulation and forged results.

However, this did not ensure Blue and White’s victory. In the Israeli system, one party must band with several of the country’s many parties to win a majority of seats in Parliament to successfully enact legislation. One of the most prominent questions in Israel pertaining to these elections has been how to guarantee whether winning a majority will actually mean something if the winning party cannot make a coalition. This is the second round of elections in recent months, as Netanyahu has thus far been unable to assemble a coalition government.

Nonetheless, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin decided that instead of handing the responsibility off to Gantz, he would once again permit Netanyahu to attempt to form a coalition. This upset many of Gantz’s supporters, as Netanyahu has not been successful in garnering enough support to form a coalition and has lost significant credibility in recent months. His popularity is sinking due to his political failures and association with right-wing extremist groups. As Luca Musk ’21 pointed out, “While Netanyahu’s right-wing policy has boosted Israel’s economic gains, his social conservatism has heightened ethnic tensions within the nation and conflicts with surrounding nations.”

“Right now it seems that we’re going to face a third round of elections, but I’m not a prophet. Everything is possible,” said Marik Shtern, an expert on Israeli politics at Ben Gurion University.

Many Israelis hope that with a different leader in place, perhaps relations with Arab groups could be improved. “His removal could potentially pave the way for future negotiations,” added Musk. This declining popularity combined with Netanyahu’s tenuous legal position has further convinced Israelis that the president is biased in favor of Likud.

Moreover, many people believe that despite besting Gantz for the opportunity, Netanyahu will not necessarily be able to succeed this time around. When asked whether he believed Netanyahu would ultimately emerge triumphant, Dr. Marik Shtern, an expert on Israeli politics at Ben Gurion University, was doubtful. “Probably not,” he said. “Right now it seems that we’re going to face a third round of elections, but I’m not a prophet. Everything is possible.”

This most recent round of elections was seen by many as an outlier in recent Israeli politics, not only due to Gantz’s victory, but also because of increased Arab turnout. For many years, Palestinian turnout to Israeli elections has been dismally low and prominent Palestianian leaders have refused to endorse Israeli candidates. However, in this round of voting, leading figures in Arab parties urged voters to support Gantz, which resulted in notably higher turnout in the polls. When asked whether this heightened turnout would continue, Dr. Shtern said, “It’s hard to tell. It has been fluctuating drastically from elections to elections. It depends on whether the united Arab list will stay united, and if  Palestinian citizens of Israel will again be at the center of the pre-elections political public discourse.” 

As of right now, it is still unclear what the election’s end result will be. Corruption charges still loom over Netanyahu, and no one has been able to create a successful coalition yet. However, one thing is clear, however: no matter the outcome, there are serious changes in Israel’s future. 

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