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)

KEY FACTS
Freedom House Rating

Free
Government Type
Parliamentary Republic
Population
8.4 million
UPCOMING ELECTIONS
Parliamentary Elections
By May 17, 2023 (snap elections possible)
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

Political Context

On March 2, Israel went to the polls for the third time in a year, on the heels of September 2019’s unprecedented do-over of parliamentary elections. In May 2020, the country finally formed a government. However, it is unclear how long it will last, and there are rumors of yet another election.

Parliamentary Elections Take 3: The 2020 Elections in Israel

For background: The 2020 elections 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 coalition, Kahol Lavan (Blue and White), the chance to try to form a government.

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.

A Series of Snap Elections in Israel

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.

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, the September 2019 election produced an equally inconclusive result.

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

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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