Israel has the same political system as New Zealand (MMP) and has just had a general election (22nd Jan) to form the 19th Knesset. (Our prime minister’s mother was Jewish, which makes John key Jewish). Benjamin Netanyahu has returned to power but now has to craft a coalition government if he is to govern. The overall result, is that Netanyahu is now much more dependent on the Right, which he had wanted to avoid. There is also a very large ‘vote & hope’ block that annihilated a new party after one term, replacing them with a brand new party which now has the largest faction within the Knesset. The Religious Right drops 2 seats overall (from 63 to 61) depending on who you include in that group. Military votes will probably not affect any net change.
- Likud-Beiteinu (“Likud-Our Home,” merger of Likud &Yisrael Beiteinu).
- Habayit Hayehudi (“The Jewish Home,” merger of traditional National Religious Party and National Union).
- Shas and United Torah Judaism (ultra-orthodox parties).
- Oztma L’yisrael (“Strength For Israel” (ultra-rightist).
- Yesh Atid (“There Is A Future” brand new party) now largest faction in Knesset. NEW
- Kadima (“Forward”) (previous new centrist party) OUT
- Independence Party (Ehud Barak’s group) OUT
- Meretz (liberal Zionist)
- Hatnuah (Zionist)
- Hadash (Arab non-Zionist)
The machinations indicate Netanyahu will have to forge a narrow Right-Religious parties government or attract Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, the new party, into government.
Millman says, ” ‘centrist’ Israeli parties…are always very popular when they first appear, and they never last. They are popular when they first appear because they promise to square the circle that everybody wants squared. They are in favor of a negotiated peace—but on terms that are broadly popular among Israeli Jews and that are basically non-starters with the Palestinians. The same is true in domestic matters. They favor liberalization (in a European sense) of the economy—and they favor strengthening the social safety net. They are in favor of a renegotiation of relations between the state and the ultra-Orthodox—permitting civil marriage, opening up the rabbinate, drafting yeshivah students—but to be part of the government they have to agree to sit with religious parties who are resolutely opposed to these very things. And they have to join the government, or they can’t accomplish anything. And if they sit in opposition, then aren’t they just another left-wing party?”
A Religious-Right coalition means the pressure on Iran will continue regarding its nuclear development, and its most articulate critic, Netanyahu, remains at the top, for now.