Armstrong Williams (26543)
Armstrong Williams

As the sun sets over the Holy Land, the citizens of Israel will take a much-needed rest for the holidays as they head towards their latest election. This election, the 5th in 3 years, comes after the fragile coalition formed by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid fell apart after roughly a year together. Now the nation heads to another election where former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have a chance at regaining power.

Netanyahu has served as the opposition leader since the current government was formed, speaking out regularly over what he perceived to be deficiencies in leadership on issues such as security, education, and religion. Bibi, as he is known in Israel and abroad, is no stranger to the government in Israel. He is the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history and has served Israel in some capacity for most of his professional life. Now 72, his political career hangs on a thread as this will likely be his last chance at the premiership.

Israeli polls are historically accurate when it comes to determining who will win the most seats and have the mandate to form a government. Unlike the United States, Israel has a parliamentary system, which means that political parties are elected as opposed to individual leaders. How this plays out is that each party elects a slate of candidates who will represent the party in government if they are successful in winning enough seats in the election. Netanyahu is the leader of the Likud party, and therefore the first to join the government if they win enough seats. Today, Likud is leading with the most anticipated seats.

To make matters more difficult, the reason why there have been so many elections in Israel over the last three years, is that political parties in parliamentary systems must negotiate cabinet positions in order to form a government. As there are 120 seats in Israel’s parliament, known as the Knesset, a coalition must be formed with at least 61 seats. Creating a coalition requires much political skill and can often make relatively small and unknown politicians “kingmakers” who hold the entire government in place. This becomes very tricky because as we saw in the last election, the current coalition barely formed, and it took only a handful of small yet powerful politicians to make the entire government collapse.

Bibi’s biggest competitor to form a government is former Ramatkal, akin to America’s joint chief of staff, and current Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Gantz previously joined forces with Bibi a few years ago only to see the government he joined collapse due to disagreements over the budget. As such, Gantz has come out and said unequivocally that he will not serve in a government with Netanyahu. Gantz for his credit has done well building relationships across the ideological spectrum with both religious and secular parties. He has been able to do this because of his background in the military, which is without question the backbone and most trusted institution in Israel.

A return to power for Bibi would likely mean that his pending corruption charges would at least be temporarily put on hold. Netanyahu has been under investigation for alleged gift-taking from wealthy Jewish businessmen domestically and abroad. This investigation is the reason for many in Israel refusing to support the former premier. In any case, though, Bibi remains wildly popular throughout the country as evidenced by his party currently leading in polling.

The election is slated for Nov. 1, roughly two weeks after the conclusion of the annual fall-time Jewish holidays. Of course, this poses a challenge, especially for more unknown politicians, as it will be much more difficult to campaign during the holiday season. Either way, the energy has been tight throughout Israel due to the elections. This is because there exists a rift between the secular and religious sectors of society, each of whom has a completely different vision of where the country should be directed.

It should be interesting to see how the election ultimately unfolds. As one of America’s greatest allies, and indeed a powerhouse in the Middle East, the results of an election in Israel are always of utmost importance to the nation. Personally, I look forward to seeing what the outcome will be.

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