Israeli elections: what kind of Israel will we be witnessing?

By Niclolai Santianello

In April 2019 Israel will be holding general elections for its legislative body, the Knesset. There are of course different parties and coalitions standing for a range of political views, but what is not immediately obvious is how the resulting winner might have an influence on EU-Israel relations and the occupation of the West Bank.

The incumbent is prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, running for his right-wing party Likud even though he is accused of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, and the country’s attorney general plans on charging him for these counts [1]. Regarding relations with European countries, Netanyahu has developed close relations to a number of populist, right-wing parties which have had success in legislative elections all over Europe. Some examples of this growing relation are Netanyahu’s political friendliness with Italy’s Deputy PM, the Austrian chancellor, the Hungarian PM, who are exponents of Europe’s Euro-skeptic far-right [2]. Even though Likud is currently behind the Blue & White coalition, Netanyahu’s re-election is far from ruled out, and this occurrence would mean growing support and closeness between the Israeli PM and European right-wing parties.

Even though Netanyahu is a very successful politician and statesman he now has to deal with a new force in Israeli politics, the Blue and White coalition headed by ex-army colonel Benny Gantz and the political figure Yair Lapid [3]. This center party is characterized by a liberal ideology both in social and economic terms and takes a softer stance on the occupation than their right-wing counterparts [4], but still consider the settlements in the West Bank as a part of the State of Israel. This political alliance has the potential to change the direction that Israeli politics has taken with Netanyahu’s four terms in office as PM, and could also establish closer ties with the moderate political forces in Europe which have so far been on opposing ideological sides to Netanyahu.

On the more left side of the political spectrum there are parties which currently have little chances at governing the country. Amongst these are the Labor party [5] which is a social democratic party and observer member of the Party of European Socialists and Meretz, pushing for secularism, egalitarianism, and environmental awareness. These parties are also focused on a two state solution for the Israeli Palestinian conflict and respectively control 19 and 5 seats in Knesset (out of 120). Other than these “Jewish” parties, there is also Hadash which is headed by an Arab Israeli and follows a borderline communist ideology, and currently holding 6 seats in coalition with Ta’al.

After mentioning relatively smaller parties on the left of the spectrum we should also take a look at the right-wing (or far right) parties, who could potentially shift the election results because of their coalition potential. There are for example Shas and United Torah Judaism which are both right-wing ultra-orthodox parties and currently control respectively 6 and 7 seats. There are then the New Right party and Yisrael Beitenu which are both nationalist parties, with the first opposing judicial activism and supporting a one-state solution, and the second supporting secularism and widely appealing to the Russian population. They respectively control 3 and 5 seats in Knesset possess some coalition potential with other right-wing parties [6].

Depending on the elections which are scheduled for April 9th 2019 Israel could have a very different political leadership. The main competitors for this are Likud and Blue & White coalition, neither of whom will probably be able to win a majority at these elections and might have to rely on parties which have potential to form a coalition, of which there are likely to be a few on each side of the political spectrum. If Netanyahu wins again he will in all likelihood increase his friendship with the rising European populist right. In case of a victory of the center coalition White & Blue we would probably see a shift in Israel’s international ties away from the European right, even though it is not sure who they would befriend in Europe’s political context.


Sources used in this article

  1. Yolande Knell, “Is Netanyahu in More Trouble Now Than Ever Before?,” BBC News, last modified March 1, 2019
  2. Anshel Pfeffer, “Netanyahu is Risking Israel’s Interests by Riding the European Nationalist Tiger,” Haaretz.com, last modified December 12, 2018
  3. “Gap Between Gantz and Netanyahu Narrows As Polls Show Right-wing Bloc,” The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com, last modified March 10, 2019
  4. “Neither Right nor Left, Gantz Offers ‘hope’ to a Crowd Calling for ‘change’,” The Times of Israel | News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World, last modified January 30, 2019
  5. “Labor, Bound for Collapse in National Elections, Holds Primaries,” The Times of Israel, last modified February 11, 2019
  6. “These Seven Parties’ Fates Will Decide Israel’s Election,” Haaretz.com, last modified March 11, 2019

 

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