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  • Israeli elections main two contenders incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz (R) during election rallies.

    Israeli elections main two contenders incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz (R) during election rallies. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 April 2019

With Israel’s elections two days away, teleSUR looks at the main aspects of the elections.

Israeli elections are set to take place on April 9 with the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking a fifth term in office.

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Generally, the elections take place every four years and it was supposed to be held in November 2019; however,  Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) last December and called for a snap election on April 9. The likely reason for the preponed elections has to do with the corruption charges against the prime minister.

Here are the main things you need to know about the Israeli elections:

Electoral System:

Fourteen main parties are competing for 120 seats in the Knesset. Any party that would gain a majority of 61 seats will be eligible to form a government and choose any of its leaders for the prime minister post.

Around 5.88 million Israelis are set to vote Tuesday. The voters will cast their votes for their preferred party, not a candidate.

Israel follows a nationwide proportional representation system which means if a certain percentage of the electorate supports a party, then roughly a certain number of seats will be won by that party.

For any party to gain representation in the Knesset, it has to pass an electoral threshold of 3.25 percent i.e., four seats. Many parties have formed coalitions to pass this threshold. If any party fails to pass the threshold, their votes are eliminated and then divided between successful parties.

After results are announced, all parties that passed the threshold would submit their chosen prime ministerial candidate to President Reuven Rivlin.

The president then assigns the job of forming a coalition to a party leader he believes has the best chance of forming a coalition. The candidate does not need to be from the party that gained the most number of seats. It depends on the most likely person able to form a coalition.

The nominee has up to 42 days to form a government before the president asks another politician to try.

The outcome is unlikely to be decided on election day. No party has ever won an outright majority in the parliament, meaning days or even weeks of coalition negotiations will lie ahead.

Billboards depicting candidates for Israeli elections on April 9. | Photo: Reuters

Main Contenders:

Main names for the upcoming election are the right-wing incumbent prime minister Netanyahu, and another right-wing candidate Benjamin Gantz, the former chief of staff of the Israeli army.

Netanyahu’s Likud party was a frontrunner in the elections but recently fell behind his main opponent.

On Friday, the last day polling was allowed, Gantz's Blue and White party was projected to take 30 seats, more than the 26 forecast for Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, according to a poll in a local newspaper.

If Netanyahu secures victory in the election, he will be the longest-serving prime minister and the first serving prime minister to be accused of corruption in three cases.

He was charged with one case of bribery and two cases of fraud. Israel’s attorney general said that he wanted to indict Netanyahu.

On Saturday, the prime minister said that he would annex the illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank if he wins another term in office.

Netanyahu might use this prospect of annexation to gain support from lawmakers which will ensure that the three corruption charges against him will not stop him from continuing as the prime minister if he gets re-elected. This support will also ensure his protection from prosecution.

However, the Blue and White party leader Gantz said that Netanyahu’s announcement of annexations was a “political spin.”

“It is not real. He had 13 years to do it, and he didn’t do it. It is interesting that he decided to do it now out of all times,” Gantz said to local media.

When asked about his own plans for the occupied West Bank Gantz said,  “I support attempting to reach a peace agreement with security and diplomatic principles in which the Jordan Valley is our eastern security border, Jerusalem is our capital and the settlement blocs are in our hands.”

Kahol Lavan is the name of Gantz’ alliance comprised of  Hosen L’Yisrael, led by Gantz; Telem, another new party headed by another former chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon (a former Likud member who quit the Netanyahu government in 2016 after being dismissed as defense minister); and Yesh Atid, a party formed by TV personality Yair Lapid in 2013.

If the alliance wins, Lapid and Gantz will rotate the prime ministership. First two and half years Gantz will serve as the Prime Minister and then Lapid for the rest of the term.

Other main contending parties are Labor Party led by Avi Gabbay; Union of Right-Wing parties, an alliance of far-right extremists and religious Zionists. This union has been encouraged and supported by Netanyahu. Zehut, led by Moshe Feiglin is another pro-annexation party contesting this election.

Most of the right-wing party leaders have said that they will not join Gantz led coalition if he is called upon to form the government even though majority parties’ ideology is based on Zionism and repression of Palestinians fight for independence.

Palestinian citizens in Israel have been urging people to boycott elections. | Photo: Reuters

Palestinian Citizens in Israel Call for Boycotting Election:

Palestinian citizens in Israel calling for a boycott of Tuesday's parliamentary election to protest against a recent law that reduced them to a second-class citizen.  The 2018 law declared that only Jews have a right to self-determination in the "nation-state" of the Jewish people.

The "Popular Campaign to Boycott the Zionist Knesset Elections" has been campaigning to boycott the elections.

"This is an attempt to boycott the body that actively tries to erase our Palestinian identity," said Joul Elias, a student, and activist.

"The nation-state law was like a wake-up call for many people, making them realize this country will never be a country for all its citizens," said Muhannad Abu Ghosh, a pro-boycott activist.

Despite holding Israeli citizenship, Palestinians say that from the fertile Galilee in the north to the Negev desert in the south, they face discrimination in areas such as health, education, and housing.

According to figures released by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, there were 1.9 million Palestinians in Israel's roughly 9 million population at the start of 2019.  

Rula Nasr-Mazzawi, a former activist with the Arab party Balad, says she left the faction and joined the boycott out of frustration with Arab parties' divisions in the face of what she described as Israel's "racist policies".

"The parties stopped working for the people. They are just clinging onto their own seats and their own power," she said.


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