Israel Snap Parliamentary Elections (Take 3): March 2, 2020

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

Freedom House Rating

Government Type
Parliamentary Republic
8.4 million
Snap Parliamentary Elections
March 2, 2020
Snap Parliamentary Elections
September 17, 2019
Snap Parliamentary Elections
April 9, 2019
Municipal Elections
October 30, 2018

Political Context

On March 2, Israel goes to the polls for the third time in a year, on the heels of September 2019’s unprecedented do-over of parliamentary elections. These happened because Prime Minister Benjamin 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 coaliiton, Kahol Lavan (Blue and White), the chance to try to form a government.

Netanyahu has been in office since 2009 (and previosuly 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.

Following the collapse of the Labor Party – once the single most important party in the country – Likud and Blue and White have become the two political poles. Smaller parties play the role of kingmaker. Avigdor Lieberman and his secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu are a huge variable. A former aide to Netanyahu, Lieberman now appears to hold a personal grudge and could back Gantz. However, Lieberman’s presence could deter other potential Blue and White coalition partners, particularly the primarily-Arab Joint List – although cooperation with the Joint List is far from certain for a number of reasons, including the fact that the Blue and White coalition includes a hard-right faction led by Moshe Yaalon, who served as Defense Minister under Netanyahu.

However, September’s recent election produced an equally inconclusive result. Some fear that these elections could once again fail to produce a government – the country’s election commission is already preparing for a fourth election.

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 and made progress toward normalizing relations with various Arab states. However, the Arab-Israeli conflict continues to fester. In January 2020, the Trump administration released a controversial peace plan.

Curated News and Analysis

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

Barak Ravid and Dave Lawler, Axios (February 27, 2020): “Israeli election: Netanyahu has momentum despite corruption case”

Isabel Kershner, New York Times (February 27, 2020): “Trump’s Plan Backs Israeli Settlements. So Why Are Settlers Unhappy? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expected the U.S. peace plan would gain him votes in Monday’s election. It might not work out that way.”

Updated February 28, 2020

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