Israeli Politics 101

All you need to know about the upcoming election.

Ballots are printed ahead of elections 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Ballots are printed ahead of elections 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
On January 22, Israelis will vote for which party they want to represent them in the next Knesset. How does the Israeli electoral system work and who are the most popular parties? D’’ash is thankfully here to help.
What is the Knesset? The Knesset is the legislative branch of Israel, and is made up of 120 Ministers (also called MK’s, or Members of the Knesset) that create and vote on Israeli national laws. Because Israel’s parliament is based off the British representational system, people vote for parties, not individuals.
How does the electoral process work? For example, if a party receives 25% of the votes, that party would be allowed to send 30 of its ministers to the 120-member Knesset.
However, if a party receives less than 2% of the total vote, its votes don’t count. That being said, Israeli elections always feature many parties. As they say, two Jews, three opinions.
Who becomes the Prime Minister? The leader of the party that receives the most votes is selected by the current President (who holds a symbolic title) to form a coalition government amongst several parties. The coalition needs to have more than 61 Members of the Knesset, or represent more than half of the Knesset. The coalition government leads the most important committees and votes on executive matters, such as national security and peace negotiations.
If that person is able to form a coalition government within 28 days, the leader is named the next Knesset’s Prime Minister. This has happened in virtually every Knesset election except for the 2009 Knesset election – we’ll talk about that more in the “Kadima” section. The main parties this election Here are descriptions of the six largest parties. Overall, the next Knesset will likely remain a majority right wing government.
Likud-Beytenu: Without a doubt, this right wing party will win the majority of seats in the 2013 legislative election.
This also means that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will likely stay in power. Polls guess that Likud- Beytenu will win around 35 seats in the upcoming Knesset, which is two times more than any other party.
The main reason this party is getting so many votes is because Likud- Beytenu is a combination of two existing parties that were already popular: Likud and Yisrael Beytenu (Our Home is Israel). Likud, which literally means “consolidation” in Hebrew, was created in 1973 as a consolidation of several right wing parties. In 1977, Menachem Begin was the first Likud prime minister elected. This was a significant moment in Israeli history, because it was first time that the left wing lost the prime minister seat since the state was created in 1948. Likud has been the main political party ever since.
Yisrael Beytenu is a nationalist political party that mostly represents secular Russian-speaking Israelis.
They believe everyone should serve in the IDF and take a harder stance towards the peace process than Likud. The party was created in 1999 by Avigdor Lieberman, who used to work under Netanyahu in the Likud.
There have been various theories about why Netanyahu and Lieberman decided to combine their parties. Some posit that it would create an image of a larger right wing bloc. Others speculate it was a way for Netanyahu to save Lieberman’s reputation. Recently, Lieberman resigned as foreign minister because of charges that have been brought against him of fraud and breach of trust.
HaAvodah (The Labor Party): Technically, the Labor party was created in 1968 as a consolidation of several left wing parties. It is a social-democratic party based on Labor Zionism ideals. In the country’s early days, the Labor Zionism movement led the Knesset.
All prime ministers were associated with the Labor movement until the Likud won in 1977.
Despite a brief resurgence under Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barack in the 1990s, the party has largely lost its popularity.
This election, it is expected to receive between 16 and 24 seats in the Knesset, which is more than it currently has (13 seats). The party is led by Shelley Yachimovich, a former journalist, and is running on a socio-economic agenda based on the 2011 social protests’ calls for reform.
Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home): Created in 2008, this rightwing national religious Zionist party is expected to pick up a number of seats.
Pollsters estimate that some religious former Likud supporters will move to Habayit Hayehudi because of Likud- Beytenu’s increasing secularism.
It is largely regarded as the settler movement’s party. It also is led by Naftali Bennett, a new, charismatic leader. The party could get anywhere between 7 and 16 Knesset seats.
Kadima (Forward): In 2005, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon created Kadima alongside other moderate members of Likud in order to advance the unilateral disengagement from Gaza, which was unpopular amongst more right wing Likud members.
Other left wing politicians soon joined Kadima, including current President Shimon Peres.
After Ariel Sharon’s stroke, Ehud Olmert led the party to victory in 2006. In 2009, the party won the majority of votes under Tzipi Livni’s leadership (28 seats), but could not form a coalition government. Because of this failure, Kadima was instead the head of the opposition. This election, Kadima is expected to have very few seats. Because of its diminishing popularity, two other center-leaning parties have been created.
Hatnua (Movement): Led by Tzipi Livni, who lost the leadership of Kadima to Shaul Mofaz in 2012, it is comprised of many former Kadima supporters. It also has several former Labor leaders on its list of potential Knesset members. Pollsters expect that it will win around 10 seats.
Yesh Atid (There’s a Future): This is a new centrist party founded by TV anchor Yair Lapid. It is supposed to be a fresh faced party that won’t abide by politics as usual. It advocates for the middle class and believes in military service for all, including ultra-Orthodox and Arabs. Similar to Hatnua, this party will probably get around 10 seats in the next Knesset.
Which party would you vote for? What are your feelings about the election? Let us know at!