Israel Snap Parliamentary Elections (Take 4): March 23, 2021

Voting in Jaffa during Israel’s 2013 elections. Photo credit: Flickr/Noam Moskovich/The Israel Project (CC BY-SA 2.0)

KEY FACTS
Freedom House Rating

Free
Government Type
Parliamentary Republic
Population
8.4 million
UPCOMING ELECTIONS
Snap Parliamentary Elections
March 23, 2021
Municipal Elections
October 2023 (due)
PAST ELECTIONS
Snap Parliamentary Elections
March 2, 2020
Snap Parliamentary Elections
September 17, 2019
Snap Parliamentary Elections
April 9, 2019
Municipal Elections
October 30, 2018

On March 23, 2021, Israel will hold its fourth general election in two years.

Political Context

A Series of Snap Elections in Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been in office since 2009 (and previously served from 1996-1999). The original April 2019 elections were themselves early as elections had originally been due in November. However, a dispute over military service for the ultra-Orthodox community and strain due to Netanyahu’s corruption charges caused the government to fall early, prompting snap elections.

The 2020 elections happened because Netanyahu’s center-right Likud was unable to form a coalition following the original April 2019 elections. Therefore, Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset and called for new elections rather than giving former IDF chief Benny Gantz and his newly-formed centrist coalition, Kahol Lavan (Blue and White), the chance to try to form a government. Following the collapse of the Labor Party – once the single most important party in the country – Blue and White became the main challenger to Likud.

Following the 2020 elections, Netanyahu and Gantz struck a deal to share power, and a unity government – with an unprecedented 36 ministers – was sworn in in May 2020. However, the coalition collapsed inDecember 2020 after failing to pass a budget. As a result, the country will hold new elections on March 23, 2021.

The 2021 Elections in Israel: Fourth Elections in Two Years

This year, Netanyahu faces a new challenge from Gideon Saar, a former Likud minister who has launched a new party, New Hope, that will contest the elections. Saar’s party is running on a platform of restoring honest, competent government while keeping the right in power.

The elections are taking place in the context of Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which he has sought to delay.Some argue that the upcoming elections are mostly a referendum on Netanyahu, and the usual right/left divide is not as relevant.

Geopolitical Context

Israel lives in a rough neighborhood, which makes its geopolitical situation complicated. For instance, rocket attacks from Gaza are frequent. Nonetheless, Israel has diplomatic relations with the majority of the world’s countries – including its neighbors Jordan and Egypt.

Netanyahu expanded Israel’s worldwide diplomatic presence. Most recently, several Arab states have normalized relations with Israel.

Curated News and Analysis

Alon Pinkas, Haaretz (February 17, 2021): The Idiot’s Guide to Israel’s Idiotic Election, Part II: The Seinfeld Factor

Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post (February 11, 2021): Israel Election 2021: Who is running and what do you need to know?

Barak Ravid, Axios (February 10, 2021): Netanyahu tries to delay corruption hearings until after Israel’s election

Michael Koplow, World Politics Review (January 19, 2021): In Upcoming Israeli Elections, Netanyahu Faces a New and Potent Threat

Daniel Estrin, NPR (December 22, 2020): Israel To Hold 4th Election In 2 Years As Coalition Fails To Pass Budget

Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post (November 10, 2020): Benny Gantz warns election to be initiated soon

i24 News (November 8, 2020): Gantz, Bennett hold talks on new Israeli elections: report

AP (May 15, 2020): After 3 elections, Israel finally has a government

The Economist (February 29, 2020): Will Israel’s third election in a year finally produce a government? The polls predict more deadlock

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