**This post is an update to our June 20 blog about the upcoming September 17 snap elections in Israel.
Israel will hold a historically unprecedented election for Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on September 17. Whichever party manages to secure the plurality of seats will have the opportunity to build a majority coalition and, subsequently, nominate the next Prime Minister of Israel. This election follows the incredibly close April 2019 election that saw current Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party fail to secure that plurality in the Knesset. The newly formed opposition party on the political center-left, Kachol Lavan (Blue and White), was able to secure 35 seats, which matched Likud’s 35. Kachol Lavan, an amalgamation of the Israeli Resilience party led by General Benny Gantz (former Chief of Staff of the IDF), and the Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid, shocked Israel and the Jewish world when they gave Likud a meaningful challenge from the left that still offered a strong message on security/foreign policy and the economy. A tie between the two parties was a stunning political surprise, and the upcoming snap elections were initiated to break that tie.
The campaigns have been fascinating to watch unfold. In recent days, Likud and other parties on Israel’s right wing have pushed for the Otzma Yehudit party to drop out from the race. This is an extremist, hard-right political party that, among other things, supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and forcibly expelling any Palestinian or Ara inb living in Israel who will not declare loyalty. The right wing Likud feels that any vote for these extremists is simply a gift for the left. Much in the same way that American politicians and political analysts have suggested that voting for a third party is essentially a vote gifted to the opposition party, Likud (as the main body of the Right Wing Coalition) feels that a vote for this extreme party simply reduces their chances at achieving plurality and controlling the Knesset.
Meanwhile, Kachol Lavan made headlines just a few days ago when it announced that, should it attain a plurality of seats in the Knesset, it will pursue a fully secular majority coalition. This would mean that the Ultra-Orthodox political parties — United Torah Judaism (UTJ, the Ashkenazi Ultra-Orthodox party) and Shas (the Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox party) — would have no place in a majority government for the first time since Netanyahu’s election.
JCJ is committed to keeping this community informed about changes in the political landscape of the world’s only Jewish State. More than anything, JCJ hopes for (and will help the Jewish community pursue) peace and prosperity in Israel. To add your voice to the conversation, you need to stay informed. As the election nears, here are a few places to go for up-to-date information:
- In-depth analysis from Haaretz, a leading newspaper in Israel.
- Jerusalem Post is another important source for good journalism on the Elections.
- The official website of the Knesset has good background on Israel’s election system.
- The Institute for Democracy in Israel is a non-partisan think tank in Israel which offers important analysis on the coming elections.
- This interactive website breaks down current political parties and their platforms.
- Times of Israel, like Haaretz and JPost, is an important news source to help stay up to date, and is the source linked in the text above.
- New York Times op-ed on “The One Thing No Israeli Wants to Discuss”
Noah Diamondstein is the Manager of Jewish Engagement and Advocacy for JCJ; he is a fifth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.