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Israeli Parliament Votes to Move Elections Up to April—will Netanyahu Win Again?

December 27, 2018 Special Feature

Israeli Knesset Building. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock.

The Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, voted on Wednesday to dissolve its current rendition and move elections up to April. A press release on the Knesset website said the vote passed overwhelmingly by a 102-2 margin. Just over four years since the last round of elections were held in March 2015, Israelis will be going to the polls again to determine if Benjamin Netanyahu will be able secure his fourth consecutive term as the leader of the Jewish State.

So far, it looks likely. According to a poll earlier this week originally published by the Maariv Hebrew newspaper and reposted in English by The Times of Israel, Netanyahu’s Likud party would win more than double the number of Knesset seats as the runner up party—earning 30 seats compared to 13 for what was then a hypothetical new party to be created by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz. The Knesset is comprised of 120 seats, making 61 the threshold for holding a majority.

Generally, that is accomplished by multiple parties joining forces in a coalition. The poll, conducted by Panels Politics, found that Netanyahu could narrowly cobble together a government coalition of right-leaning and religious political parties similar to the current government.

Gantz is considered a centrist according to The Times and could offer a cushion to a Netanyahu government, while the next largest party in the poll is the center-left Yesh Atid party with 12 seats. Yesh Atid has previously served in a coalition with Netanyahu, although that ultimately broke down.

The current leading opposition party—the left-leaning Zionist Union party—would suffer heavy losses according to the poll, dropping from 24 seats to just nine.

After the poll, Gantz officially formed his new party—known as Hosen L’Israel in Hebrew or “the Israel Resilience Party” in English, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Netanyahu, on his official Twitter feed, tweeted his thoughts about the upcoming elections. According to an English translation of his Hebrew post, the current Israeli leader said, “We have tremendous achievements in every field, and we still have a lot of work to do for the citizens of Israel and the State of Israel. With the help of God and with your help—we will receive the trust of the voter and we will continue to work!”

The official tasked with formally asking a legislator to form a government as the next prime minister is Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, although such a decision is effectively just a formality based on behind-the-scenes coalition negotiations. However, Rivlin did opine on the new elections, and in so doing alluded to some of the controversy in the last elections held in the United States while hoping for “clean and fair” elections in Israel.

“We are now in a world in which we are increasingly exposed to a combination of power, interests and interference that use technology, where cyber armies are available to sway the public agenda, to distort opinions away from facts towards ‘fake news’, towards scandal, speculation and slander,” said Rivlin in an Israeli press release. “In such a world, we need to ensure a fair democratic process. We must insist, as citizens, that we have access to facts and opinions without distortion.”

Rivlin concluded with a wish that all Israeli parties should share, that “the elections will strengthen, not weaken, us as a society, and that they will be credit to Israeli democracy.”

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, December 27, 2018)

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