Israel’s Elections: Winners and Losers – Attempts at Government Formation

20.09.2019 - Pressenza Athens

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Israel’s Elections: Winners and Losers – Attempts at Government Formation

By Christina Christoforou – Livani

Israel’s national elections were held for the second time this year on September 17, as Prime Minister Netanyahu was unable to form a government last April.
Turnout was 63.7%, 2.4 points higher than in the April elections, according to the Central Election Commission. These elections determine the Knesset (Parliament).

According to the results, Benny Gandz’s blue and white liberal party will occupy 33 seats in the Knesset, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right party, Likud, will have 32 seats. The Joint List party, an alliance of Arab parties, achieved an important result with 12 seats, being the third force in the Knesset.

Likud, along with its allies from religious and supranational parties, won only 56 seats, five fewer than the required majority.

Blue and White and its center-left allies gathered 55 seats, placing Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu in the center with nine seats, being key to forming government.

The only time a unity government was formed in Israel was after the 1984 elections, with a prime minister rotating between the leaders of the two largest parties.

Attempts to form government.
Prime Minister Netanyahu may seem like the big loser of the elections, but neither is Gandz the winner. Efforts to form a unity government have already begun.
Negotiations to form a government have intensified with Netanyahu arguing that “in the coming days, we will begin negotiations to establish a strong Zionist government and avoid a dangerous anti-Zionist one. The “anti-Zionist” reference is directed at the Israeli Arab parties, which appear to be the third largest power in the Knesset.

In statements to his followers Wednesday morning, Benny Gandz, leader of the Blue and White party, said he would try to form a unity government with his political opponents and asked them to come together to form a better government for all citizens. “It seems that for the second time, the people of Israel have shown that they trust us.

Avigor Lieberman, who rejected an agreement led by Netanyahu last April forcing the prime minister to run for a second term in five months, doubled his party’s support and can play a key role in his re-election. Israel has said it would support a Netanyahu-Gandhi alliance, excluding the government of the ultra-orthodox Jewish parties that Netanyahu has so far supported.

Pre-election Statements
Netanyahu fights not only for his political life but also for his freedom. Trial hearings in three corruption cases against him are only weeks away and a majority in the 120-seat parliament could help grant him immunity and not be prosecuted. In these elections, he made increasingly desperate appeals to other right-wing parties, saying that his election would annex the occupied Jordan Valley, where Palestinians seek statehood, and further consolidate Israeli sovereignty in the occupied territory. In his pre-election statements, he did not fail to warn that Israel would likely go to war against Gaza.

Gandz, on the other hand, called for peace with the Palestinians while maintaining Israel’s security interests. He said that while he would make territorial concessions to the Palestinians, he would avoid the issue of Palestinian state sovereignty and that he would reinforce Jewish settlements in the West Bank, in the Jordan Valley, as “the eastern security border.

Success for the alliance of Arab parties
As coalition efforts increase, no one seems willing to work with the Joint List party that has never been involved with the Israeli government.

But the fact that it scored 12 points and was the third force in the Knesset is a success for the four Arab parties that decided to participate in these elections as an alliance.

Despite the efforts of Netanyahu supporters to prevent the elections by intimidating Palestinian voters last April, this time there was the highest voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel. Of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens, 61% voted in these elections, while in April 49%, the majority of whom supported the alliance.


Translation Pressenza London

Categories: Middle East, Politics
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