Home International Why Israel is holding its national election again; the fifth in three years

Why Israel is holding its national election again; the fifth in three years

Benjamin Netanyahu, who is Israel's longest-serving leader, and is on trial on corruption charges which he has denied, is a polarising figure in Israeli politics, which has made it difficult for him in the past to put together coalitions that actually hold.

by News Desk
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On Tuesday (November 1), Israel will go to the polls again, for the fifth time in a span of three years to elect a new Knesset or the country’s parliament. These elections are important, experts say, because there are indications that the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party could emerge as the largest in the Knesset.

Why is Israel going to polls again?

Earlier this year in April, lawmaker Idit Silman resigned from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s religious-nationalist Yamina party, essentially leaving the party without a majority. Back then, Bennett had claimed that Silman had been “persecuted for months” by supporters of Netanyahu “at the most horrific level”, the Jerusalem Post reported. The persecution, the report said, “broke” Silman, causing her to leave the coalition.

But Silman had a different story: she said her resignation had more to do with the country’s health minister Nitzan Horowitz’s instructions to hospitals to allow visitors to enter the premises with leavened bread during the festival of Passover, an act that is forbidden under Jewish religious laws. Horowitz’s directions came following a decision by Israel’s Supreme Court.

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Silman’s resignation upset the eight-party coalition throwing everything into disarray. The problem lies in the fact that Israel has a parliamentary system with several different parties of varying sizes. But none of these parties have ever single-handedly secured an outright majority of seats in the Knesset, forcing parties to make coalitions to reach the 61 seats required to form the government.

These coalitions are not entirely reliable because of their dependence on every party and every member to keep the alliance and the subsequent majority intact. The loss of one member’s support, as witnessed in Silman’s case, can result in this kind of political instability.

What is the domestic context?

It wasn’t just one issue involving Silman’s disagreement with policies and decisions. Observers have been marking a wide range of internal clashes that occurred within the coalition this past year, signalling deepening cracks caused by opposing ideologies and beliefs.

What is Israel voting for?

According to the Jerusalem Post, there have been a handful of issues that have been at the forefront of these elections. Among them, the primary has been the high cost of living and soaring prices with an overall inflation rate of 5.2 per cent. The government has been accused by the opposition of not doing enough to soften the impact of Covid-19, and the Russia-Ukraine war, among other domestic policy decisions.

Another issue is what the Jerusalem Post calls “Israel’s Jewish character”, focusing on the government’s proposal for kashrut reform and other aspects especially integral to haredi communities. Kashrut is a set of Jewish dietary laws, reforms of which the government claimed would lower food prices, among other aspects.

But the country’s haredi community claimed that the government was attempting to alter the long-established status quo on matters of religion and state, the Jerusalem Post said. Domestic security and long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and issues such as Israel’s maritime border deal with Lebanon have also been at the forefront of these elections.

What do experts think will happen?

According to a Reuters report on Friday (October 28), polls predicted Netanyahu would come within a single seat of an outright majority in his attempt to return to power. But Netanyahu, who is Israel’s longest-serving leader, and is on trial on corruption charges which he has denied, is a polarising figure in Israeli politics, which has made it difficult for him in the past to put together coalitions that actually hold.

Experts believe that the extent of right-wing polarisation will be a game-changer for Netanyahu in these elections.

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