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(EDITORS NOTE: . When Israel came into existence in 1948 it had to create an administrative and judicial system for a population that would be quickly swollen by people arriving with virtually nothing. Those responsible for its design came from an Ashkenazi (East European) background, strong democratic ideals and a desire to create an electoral system that could not lead to dictatorship or another Hitler gaining power.  

They applied proportional representation viewing  the country as a single constituency. Elected members are chosen from a closed-list put forward by each party   The more votes given to a party the more seats they receive. This is called  ‘The  D’Hondt Method’.  Thus votes are for a party and not a candidate.   The Knesset (parliament)  has 120 seats.

The effect is a multi-party  result. For example in 2015 Likud became the largest party with 30 seats.  To form a government it required an additional 31 seats to give a majority of 61 seats.  It did this by a coalition giving 64  seats comprising     

Likud,  The Jewish Home, Torah Judaism,  Yisrael Beitei, Kulanu, Shas,
United Torah Judaism

with cabinet posts being divided between them (see Wikipedia).  This explains why coalitions of about six parties are normal.)    


ISRAEL STATE AND SOCIETY
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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Israel is a country that draws a lot of public attention around the globe. Nevertheless, both those who support Israel and those who are critical of its geopolitical standing and policies, usually have a very limited knowledge about the Israeli society and its political system. This course presents Israel from multiple perspectives - political, social, economic and cultural - in an attempt to expose the learners to a cutting edge academic research on the country. Each of the 13 sessions is focused on one aspect of the Israeli society. Every session starts with a general introduction of the issue at hand, hosting one expert or more, who share their most recent studies and insights on that specific field. Every 15 minutes, or so, the students are asked to answer an informative quiz comprised of a single question. Upon the completion of each class, an online chat will be opened. Students studying for credit are expected to participate in it, ask relevant questions and answer questions about the required readings for this class. Students will graduate from this course with a better understanding of the Israeli society, better knowledge of the
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WHY ISRAEL WILL HOLD A SECOND NATIONAL ELECTION IN 2019
A fractious parliamentary system, strong egos and lingering resentments lead to an unprecedented political quagmire
Times of Israel, Ben Sales, May 30 2019


JTA — Israel held a national election seven weeks ago. It will hold another one in September.

If that sounds weird to you, you’re right: Israel has a famously raucous political system, but it’s never held national elections twice in one year. Until now.

Just to be clear, no one really wanted this to happen, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; his main rival, Benny Gantz; or the president, Reuven Rivlin. Nor do Israeli political journalists, who just finished covering a vicious campaign.

So why is it happening? It’s a result of Israel’s fractious parliamentary system, strong egos and lingering resentments.

Here is the Jewish state’s unprecedented political quagmire, explained in plain English.

Israelis voted on April 9. But the election isn’t really over yet.

Remember when Netanyahu won re-election last month? Turns out he didn’t really.

Netanyahu’s Likud party did win the most votes, but not an outright majority in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. In order to govern in Israel’s parliamentary system, Netanyahu needed to persuade other parties to form a coalition with him. He needed to reach 61 members, or a majority of the Knesset.

After Election Day, that seemed simple. Right-wing parties had won a clear 65-seat majority in Knesset, and they all agreed that Netanyahu should continue serving as prime minister.

But seven weeks later, Netanyahu has failed to form a coalition. Some would-be partners have refused to compromise. He needed to form a coalition by midnight Wednesday.

Why can’t Netanyahu’s partners get along?

The Israeli right is split among a few factions. Two of the biggest are secular right-wingers who support a hawkish military posture and religious right-wingers who want to preserve Orthodox Judaism’s power in government.

Usually those two groups make it work. Religious parties, especially haredi ultra-Orthodox ones, will go along with the government’s decisions on defense, security and West Bank settlement. In return, secular parties agree to maintain haredi control of Jewish marriage and conversion. Also — crucially — secular parties have allowed haredi youth to avoid military conscription, which is mandatory for other Israeli Jews.

This time, however, one of the secular parties is refusing to play that game.

Yisrael Beytenu, headed by former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, wouldn’t join Netanyahu’s coalition unless the government passed a bill drafting some haredi men. Ultra-orthodox parties, in turn, wouldn’t sign on unless the bill was softened. Yisrael Beytenu wouldn’t agree to the softened version.

And here we are. It’s the first time in Israeli history that a party failed to form a coalition after winning an election.

So what happens now?

April’s election didn’t work, so they’re going to try again.

It’s unclear whether that will make any difference. Unsurprisingly, polls show a second 2019 election yielding basically the same result as the first one. But changes within the parties could lead to a different result. There’s talk of the Arab-Israeli parties uniting or different right-wing parties merging. Or Israel could be stuck with the same problem four months from now.

And yet, here we are.


A SHORT GUIDE TO THE ISRAELI POLITICAL SYSTEM
oger Darlington's World  2 June 2019


INTRODUCTION

For anyone interested in political systems, that of the state of Israel is particularly fascinating for a number of reasons.

  1. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, arguably the most troubled region in the world where Israel is surrounded by states and forces that wish that it did not exist and have repeatedly tried to ensure that it does not.
  2. It is one of a tiny number of countries in the world - another is the United Kingdom - that does not have a written constitution, since religious political parties blocked adoption of a constitution at independence in 1948 and the project has never been completed. Instead there are 11 Basic Laws. In 2003, the parliament began to draft an official constitution based on these laws - but the project continues.
  3. It is one of around a half of countries in the world (many of them smaller nations) that has a unicameral legislature. This is called the Knesset.
  4. It is highly unusual in operating both a national list system of election to the legislature together with a low minimum threshold for membership of the legislature (currently 3.25%) which, in the current fractured state of Israeli politics, virtually guarantees fragmented representation in the legislature and a coalition in government.
  5. Probably more than any other stable democracy in the world, it has a fluctuating structure of political parties with mergers, splits, and creations almost a permanent part of the political scene.
  6. Whereas in most democracies, the main cleavage between the largest political parties is ideological - broadly Left versus Right - in Israel politics is more complicated than that with issues like security and religion having a major influence in the orientation of parties and the voting by electors.
  7. Although the ultra-Orthodox community only makes up about 10% of the Israeli public, it dominates state policy on issues of religion in the public sphere.
  8. More so that any other democratic state in the world, Israel owes its existence to the political, economic and military support of the United States - although this does not always guarantee American influence (for instance, President Barack Obama failed to halt the continued spread of illegal settlements on the West Bank as part of an effort to encourage peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians). President Donald Trump has been uniquely supportive of the Israeli Government under Benjamin Netanyahu, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognising annexation of the Golan Height.


THE EXECUTIVE

The head of the Israeli state is the President who is an apolitical ceremonial figurehead. The President is elected by the Knesset for a seven year term and is limited to a single term. The current holder of the position is Reuven Rivlin, a member of the Likud Party and a former Speaker of the Knesset, who is known to Israelis as 'Ruby'. After each general election, the President invites the leader of the winning political party to form a government and there is 42 days for this process to be completed, before another political leader is given the chance to form a government or - as happened for the first time in 2019 - another general lection is held.

The Prime Minister is normally the leader of the political party with the largest representation in the legislature, certainly of the political party with the largest representation in the governing coalition. Currently the position is held by Benjamin Netanyahu (known as 'Bibi') who, following the general election of April 2019, failed to create what would be his fifth government, necessitating a further general election.

The version of proportional representation that operates in Israel virtually guarantees that the government will be a coalition and a period of six weeeks is granted to the winner of an election to form a coalition which can command a majority of seats in tne legislature. Following the election of March 2015, it took until one hour short of the deadline to complete the negotiations to form such a coalition.

After the March 2015 election, a government was formed with a bare majority (61 seats) in the 120 seat Knesset - a coalition between five parties: the right-wing Likud Party (30 seats), the centrist, socio-economic-focused Kulanu (10 seats), the national-religious, right-wing, Jewish Home (8 seats), and the ultra-orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism (7 and 6 seats respectively. Then, in May 2015, a deal was done to add the five seats of the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu to the government, bringing the total number of seats under the control of the government to a more comfortable 66.

Israel has an unusual system of deputy leaders of three kinds: Acting Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Vice Prime Minister.

The Acting Prime Minister takes the place of the Prime Minister if he or she is temporarily incapacitated while the incumbent is still in office for a period up to 100 consecutive days. The holder of this position can additionally be head of a Government Department.

Deputy Prime Minister and Vice Prime Minister are honorary rather than official executive positions.

The Prime Ministers appoints a Cabinet, the membership of which must be approved by the Knesset. Any new appointment to the Cabinet must similarly be approved by the Knesset. Most Ministers are members of the Knesset although only the Prime Minister and the Designated Acting Prime Minister are formally required to be members.

The size of the Cabinet varies, but it is typically around 20.

The Cabinet meets weekly on a Sunday in Jerusalem.


THE LEGISLATURE

Israel has a single chamber legislature called the Knesset - meaning literally gathering or assembly - which consists of 120 members (MKs) elected for a maximum term of four years. In practice, Knesset terms rarely last the full four years and, since the 1988 election, no Knesset has finished its four-year term - the average term is a mere two years. The last election was due in November 2019, but brought forward to April 2019 following a dispute between members of the outgoing government over a bill on nation service for the ultra-Orthodox population as well as impending corruption charges against the sitting Prime Minister.

The simplest way of describing the electoral system of Israel is to call it national list system.

This means that the whole country is in effect regarded as one constituency and voters, instead of choosing one candidate for their local constituency as in many countries, choose one list of candidates from a number of lists, each compiled and presented by a political party on a national level. Although national list systems do not have to operate this way, in Israel closed lists are used which means that the party determines the order of the candidates on the list and most voters have no influence over or choice of that order.

A voter can influence the national list which he or she prefers by joining that political party and voting in party primaries. Not all parties have primaries - some are run as autocracies with the party leader alone deciding - but the larger secular parties (Likud, Labour, Meretz) all have primaries, so individual voters can in those circumstances influence a national list.

Originally the Israeli electoral system had no specified threshold that a political party had to reach before it could secure representation in the Knesset which in practice meant that, if a political party secured one 120th of the vote on a national basis (that is, a mere 0.83%), it would be represented in the legislature. This meant that a lot of very small parties could secure representation in the Knesset. Then a threshold of just 1% was introduced. This has been progressively increased to 1.5%, then to 2% in the last but two election, and now to 3.25% in the last but one election.

Initially, the threshold was raised to prevent Rabbi Meir Kahane, an extreme right-winger and racist, from being re-elected to the Knesset. In recent years, the threshold has been raised further as a ploy to keep the Arab parties out, all of which would have struggled with the 3.25% requirement. Its effect has been to lead to mergers of the Arab parties into a single large bloc and even to cause some of the right-wing grouplets to unite into a larger party (Yahad) which came in a just under the threshold in 2015.

Many other democratic countries operate list systems but on a sub-national level - for instance, the 16 Lander in Germany or the 16 'regional' constituencies in Italy. But Israel is unique in having a national list system. All countries with list systems operate a threshold but this is usually 3-5% (it is 5% in Germany). Israel's threshold of 3.25% is low by international standards.

This is the simple way of explaining Israel's electoral system. The formal way of describing it is to call it the highest averages method of party-list proportional representation using the d'Hondt formula.

The highest averages method requires the number of votes for each party to be divided successively by a series of divisors and seats are then allocated to parties that secure the highest resulting quotient or average, up to the total number of seats available. The d'Hondt formula is the most widely used for list systems and involves using the divisors 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. This system tends to give larger parties a slightly larger portion of seats than their portion of the electorate. Technically this would guarantee that a party with a majority of votes would receive at least half of the seats - except no party in Israeli elections ever secures a majority of votes.

Each Knesset session is known by its election number. So the Knesset elected by Israel's first election in 1949 is known as the First Knesset, while the current Knesset, elected in 2019 is the 21st Knesset.

The Knesset sits at Givat Ram in Jerusalem.


POLITICAL PARTIES

Israel may be a small country - it has a population of just over eight million (similar to that of London) - but, by comparison with most other democracies, political parties in Israel are both numerous and fluid. Parties are constantly changing name, splitting, combining and forming alliances.

In the 9 April 2019 election, 11 political parties secured representation in the Knesset. By far the two largest blocs are:


The other nine parties represrtned in the Knesset are much smaller:

A key constituency in Israeli politics - unique to the country - is the ulta-Orthodox (also called the Haradim), an umbrella term for different sects and communities who represent about 10% of the nation's population. A vital issue for this key constituency is the arrangement which has existed since the creation of the state of Israel which exempts them from military service which is mandatory for all Jewish Israeli school leavers. The various ultra-Orthodox sects see it as a religious commandment only to study Jewish texts and separate themselves from modern society.

Often it is not possible for a government to be formed without the support of this constituency but increasingly there is resentment about this non-service in the military from other parts of Israeli society.

Recent elections have seen a dramatic rebalancing of politics in Israel. The two main parties of the left (Labour and Meretz) have fallen to a mere 10 seats in the Knesset. This seems to reflect an overall, long-term shift to the Right, powered by a mix of demographic and political factors. The demographic trends are the larger families of ultra-Orthodox communities and the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The political factors are the failure of the peace process and a growing siege mentality.

Following the failure to form a majority government after the election of 9 April 2019, a new election is to be held on 27 September 2019 - the first time that two elections have been held in the same year.


THE JUDICIARY

The highest court in Israel is the Supreme Court. The number of Supreme Court justices is determined by a resolution of the Knesset and is usually 12, but currently there are 15 Supreme Court Justices. Justices serve until the age of 70. Several leading figures in Likud and Jewish Home have called for legislation to limit the power of the Supreme Court to block legislation.

Supreme Court Justices, as well as all other judges, are appointed by the President on the nomination of the Judicial Appointments Panel. This Committee is composed of nine members: three Justices of the Supreme Court (including the President of the Court), two Ministers (one of them being the Minister of Justice), two Members of the Knesset, and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. The Minister of Justice is the chairperson of the Committee.

In February 2017, Right-wing lawmakers secured three conservative and non-activist judges out of four new appointments to the Supreme Court, putting a large dent in what had been seen as a liberal-dominated bench. Three of the four were on the Justice Minister’s list of preferred candidates, while the three judges on the nine-member Judicial Appointments panel, who voted as a bloc, failed to advance any of their nominees.

The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem.


CONCLUSION

Israeli democracy is a source - simultaneously and in almost equal measure - of both pride and frustration.

Israelis are rightly proud that their country is the only genuine and functioning democracy in the Middle East, a region dominated by repressive and dictatorial regimes. It is a democracy that has survived repeated wars and that, with a conscript army and formidable military apparatus, remains on a war-like footing. It is a democracy in which the rule of law is so strong that even a president (Moshe Katsav) or a prime minister (Ehud Olmert) can be indicted (for rape and bribery respectively).

On the other hand, Israeli's strange electoral system and fractious political parties virtually guarantee that the government will be a coalition of very different political parties with a strong likelihood that at least one will be a nationalist or ultra-religious one with disproportionate influence in the government. This makes ruling and legislating - even more negotiating with the Palestinians - very difficult, so that on average Israeli governments last only half their permitted term (two years instead of four).

In many ways, Israel is a somewhat idiosyncratic democracy. The state was born in war, it has repeatedly engaged in further wars, it has regularly been the subject of suicide bombers and rocket attacks, and it is in a permanent state of war-readiness. It has a large, conscript army (the Israeli Defence Force) and formidable security service (Mossad). Every family has some connection with the army and many of the leading political figures have had senior experience in the military or intelligence. To an extent unequalled in any other functioning democracy, it is security - and not ideology or economics - that is at the heart of political discourse and policymaking.

As in so many states, therefore, democracy here is essentially a work in progress. Some would argue that the nation is politically at a turning point. Avraham Burg, once speaker of the Knesset and deputy president, said in January 2015: "From 1948 to 1976, Israel was relatively secular, socialist, and statehood was its organizing principle. In 1977, with the rise to power of Menachem Begin, this came to an end. Since then, Israel has been in its religious-nationalistic-capitalist chapter, and territory is its organizing principle. Now the country has to choose where the third chapter will take it - to religious and nationalistic aggressiveness or normalcy. The dissatisfaction with Benjamin Netanyahu is a symbol of a far deeper dissatisfaction - not only with the man, but with the stagnation, with the economic and social degeneration."

LINK: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs guide to the country's poltical system click here


If you would like to comment on this essay e-mail me

For guides to the political systems of other nations click here


PREPARATIONS FOR THE (FIRST) ELECTIONS TO THE ISRAEL PARLIAMENT (KENESSET)
Wikipedia

These were the first elections held in Israel, and as such they demanded special preparations. On 5 November 1948 the Provisional State Council decided that the Constituent Assembly would consist of 120 members. On 8 November 1948 a population census was held which was later used in part for the preparations of the voters guide (the census was essential due to the rise of new immigrants and many Arab inhabitants of the British Mandate became refugees after the war). For the purpose of the census the entire country was under curfew for seven hours, from five in the afternoon and until midnight. Another issue was the form the Electoral System should take. Suggestions were made of different Electoral Systems.  Eventually it was decided to maintain the relative electoral system which existed in the elections for the Assembly of Representatives of the Jewish community in British controlled Palestine.  The Constituent Assembly elected would determine the future electoral system in Israel.

A thousand polling stations were prepared across the country. According to census, the number of eligible voters consisted of half a million people.


ISRAELI LEGISLATIVE ELECTION, 1949
Wikipedia

Elections for the Constituent Assembly were held in newly independent Israel on 25 January 1949. Voter turnout was 86.9%. Two days after its first meeting on 14 February 1949, legislators voted to change the name of the body to the Knesset (Hebrew: כנסת, translated as Assembly). It is known today as the First Knesset


SECOND GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL
Wikipedia

The second government of Israel was formed during the first Knesset. David Ben-Gurion made an attempt to form a minority government consisting of Mapai and Sephardim and Oriental Communities on 17 October, but it was not approved by the Knesset. Two days later President Chaim Weizmann asked Progressive Party leader Pinchas Rosen to form a government, but it was Ben-Gurion who finally managed to do so on 1 November 1950. The coalition partners were the same as in the first government: Mapai, the United Religious Front, the Progressive Party, the Sephardim and Oriental Communities and the Democratic List of Nazareth.


A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL’S ELECTIONS
How does the election system work, who is allowed to vote, and how is the next prime minister chosen: Everything you wanted to know about the Israeli electoral system but were afraid to ask.

Between the spins, the political mergers, and the many candidates vying for a spot in the next Knesset – Israel’s legislature – it’s easy to get lost in the details.

YnetNews 05.02.15

The Israeli electoral system is far from simple or intuitive; its structure will dictate how the elections will play out and shape the identity of the next government.

To guide you through the political forest that is the 2015 March election, Ynet has put together a simple – but thorough – explainer.

Electoral system

Unlike the US, Israelis vote for parties but do not directly determine which politician will head the next government. Instead, voters cast a ballot for one party, and the faction with the most votes gets a chance to form the next ruling coalitions.

Essentially, the elections for the government are actually a vote for who will sit in the 20th Knesset – a 120-person body of MKs.  

The Israeli system differs in one other central way – the entire country functions as a single district. Unlike the British parliament, on which Israel's founding fathers modeled the nascant state's legislature, all 120 seats in the Knesset are elected through a national process – much like a US senator must campaign across his state.

Party lists

Each party puts forward a list of candidates, and the number of seats that each party receives in the Knesset is proportional to the number of votes received: A party that won 15 percent of the general vote will hold 15 percent of the seats in the Knesset seats.

The candidates of any given list are elected to the Knesset based on the order in which they appear – the higher up the list, the greater the candidate's chance of recieving a Knesset seat.

The result is a multi-party system considered to be highly representative – as each citizen has a wide array of parties to choose from, some with only nuanced ideological differences between them. However, this tends to result in highly unstable governments comprising a large number of relatively small parties.

Surplus votes

The excess votes for each party – ballots which do not translate into a whole Knesset seat – are "donated" by smaller parties to their larger allies as part of what is called a "surplus-vote agreement."

For example, in the last elections, all excess votes for Bayit Yehudi were given to the Likud and a similar deal between the two will exist during the upcoming election as well. This method is known around the world as the Hagenbach-Bischoff  method (in Israel the Bader-Ofer method) and is an attempt to strengthen political blocs at the expense of smaller parties.

Thus, when a voter casts his ballot, it is important for him to be aware of the surplus deal the party has signed – as their vote might end up contributing to a different party's success.

At times, surplus deals can lead to conflicting political arrangements.

For example, during the last election, the left-wing Labor signed such a deal with the centrist Yesh Atid in the hopes of strengthening what they thought would be a center-left coalition. However, Yesh Atid's surplus votes ended up helping Netanyahu form his coalition without Labor after the prime minister reached a deal with Yesh Atid chairman Lapid – thus leaving Labor in the opposition.

Election threshold

The minimum number of Knesset seats a party can hold is 4 seats – or 3.25 percent of the general vote. The threshold was put in place to prevent one or two-person parties and to encourage people to vote for larger parties or blocs. In previous elections, the threshold was 2 Knesset seats.

A direct result of this new threshold is the Joint Arab list – a unified bloc of the three Israeli Arab political parties – each of which had averaged 3-4 Knesset seats in past elections and were thus on the cut-off point. To prevent a massive loss in Arab political representation, the three parties banded together.

Although the move forced all three to swallow their political differences, it is expected to enhance their relative power.

Ironically, the new threshold might backfire on its sponsor: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu spearheaded the Governance Law that saw the threshold rise to four seats is now polling at five seats, a massive decline since their heyday as a party of influence.

The left-wing Meretz – a fixture in Israeli politics – is also hovering around the five-seat mark after the results of the Labor primaries stole their thunder.

Yachad-HaAm Itanu – a Shas offshoot party led by its former chairman Eli Yishai – is currently polling at only four seats, a close call considering the poll’s margin of error.

Who forms next government?

After the votes are tallied and the Knesset seats are distributed – the political game of coalition-forming begins.

Putting together a ruling coalition in Israel is a delicate game of numbers and political wheeling-and-dealing between parties, who must cobble together a majority of 61 Knesset to form the government.

.The heads of the different parties are invited to meet the president and each recommends one person to form the next government. The person with the most recommendations – or the best odds of gaining a majority in the Knesset – is given a mandate by the president to negotiate with the different parties to form a coalition. If they succeed, they become the next prime minister.

The politician hoping to sit at the helm of the new government has 40 days to negotiate with the different parties to join his or her coalition – in return for their support, parties are offered ministerial positions, policy decisions and even a veto right. However,  one party’s demands can often cross another potential partner’s red line.

For example, when the last government was negotiated, religious Zionist leader Naftali Bennett secured the right to vote outside coalition lines in all issues relating to religion and state, thus clearing the way for the Yesh Atid – a secular party – to join the coalition and promote its own agenda.

Should the allotted 40 days pass without a majority reached, the president repeats the process – sometimes extending the mandate to the same person or giving it to someone else. If 100 days pass without a coalition being formed, new elections are called and the entire process begins anew.

For example, in the 2009 election, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua gained the most votes and was thus selected to lead the coalition building process. However, after two attempts, Livni failed to reach the needed majority after negotiations with Shas went sour.

The responsibility to form the government then fell on Netanyahu, though the Likud had won 27 Knesset seats as opposed to Livni’s 28.

Who can run and who can vote

Parties, lists, and political blocs can run together.

For example, the "Zionist Camp" is running on a joint ticket though it is comprised of left-wing Labor and centrist Hatnua. The parties can chose to remain together after the election – as was the case when Likud merged with Yisrael Beytenu during the current government – or disband into different factions – as the United Arab list is expected to do after the vote.

Any citizen over the age of 18 can vote and participate in the elections, including those with criminal records. However, the voting itself takes place only in Israel, preventing expats and world Jewry from participating.

Diplomats, soldiers and sailors are the exception to this rule and are allowed to vote with absentee ballots.

Although rare, some parties are barred from running. The party lists are confirmed by the Israeli Central Elections Committee, comprised of MKs and a Supreme Court judge. The committee has banned four parties from running in Israel’s history; though all but one ban has been rescinded.

According to the state, a list which acts directly or indirectly against the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or against its democratic nature; a list which incites racism; a list which supports the armed struggle of an enemy state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel cannot participate in the elections.


THE EVOLUTION OF ISRAELI POLITICS
The Economist explains
The Economist, London, Mar 15th 2015

GOLDA MEIR, the former Israeli prime minister, once told the American president, Richard Nixon: “You are the president of 150 million Americans; I am the prime minister of six million prime ministers.” Israel’s politics have long been a kaleidoscope of parties split along ideological, ethnic and religious lines

Yet the latest opinion polls suggest that a parliamentary election on March 17th may leave the Knesset as fractured as ever. Eleven parties are likely to gain seats. Even a grand coalition of the rivals Likud and Zionist Union, the two largest factions, would be unable to secure a majority. How did Israeli politics become so tangled?

Parties have splintered, merged and changed names since the birth of the Jewish state. The fragmentation has become more acute in recent decades. Take Labour. A socialist-inspired party formed of various mergers of Labour Zionist movements, it was the main force behind the creation of the state under David Ben-Gurion and dominated the early decades of its politics. But it is in the throes of a long decline. Its great rival, Likud, traces its origins to the territorial maximalists led by Zeev Jabotinsky, known as revisionists. They dominated the Herut and later the Gahal parties even as they gained allies. Under Menachem Begin Likud ended the Labour hegemony in 1977 but it, too, is now a much-reduced force.

Israeli political parties often revolve around charismatic figures. Ben-Gurion was a serial splitter. He fell out with Mapai in 1965 and led a breakaway party called Rafi. When it reconciled with the renamed Labour party in 1968, he led another splinter faction called the National List which, after his retirement in 1970, soon joined and then merged with Likud. Apart from Labour and Likud, there are seven other broad groupings. To the left of Labour lie the Zionist leftists (more willing to compromise on land), the communists (who emphasise equality among Arabs and Jews) and a spectrum of smaller Arab parties (nationalists and Islamists). To the right of Likud sits a varied and constantly changing mix of groups, often demanding harsher treatement of Arabs, be they Israeli citizens or Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Israeli politics has long nurtured centrist movements (currently, Yesh Atid and Kulanu), which tend to capitalise on resentment of the big parties and focus on social change: cleaner government, for instance, or a reduction in the influence of religious parties. Indeed, the religious parties are the traditional kingmakers. Their main concern has been to maintain the dominance of orthodox Judaism in personal law (in marriage and divorce, for example), and to secure state funds for religious schools and institutions. But the religious parties are themselves split between the ultra-orthodox sects that in the past resisted Zionism and more modern nationalists (like the National Religious Party) who regard the state as a reflection of God’s will. Shas is a religious party appealing to Mizrahi Jews, who came mostly from Muslim countries. One obvious explanation for the awful fragmentation of Israeli politics is the ideological, religious and ethnic diversity of a country made up of Jews from many corners of the world.

This is aggravated by the electoral system. From the outset Israel adopted a pure form of proportional representation. Over time the threshold for entry to the Knesset has been raised; parties must now win at least four seats. Israel experimented with the direct election of the prime minister in 1996 but soon abandoned the reform. By allowing citizens to split the ticket—ie, to cast votes for two separate parties—the measure made the factiousness of the political system even worse. Neither has ideological turmoil over the territories occupied in 1967 made matters easier. The National Religious Party was once a reliable Labour partner. After 1967 it embraced the religious settlement movement that encouraged Jews to live in the occupied territories, especially the West Bank, as a divinely-ordained duty. In 1976 it broke ranks with Labour, and joined the first Likud-led government in 1977.

Yet the greatest cause of cleavage and counter-cleavage is disillusionment with the failed peacemaking process with Palestinians and the violence that has accompanied it. Israel has moved to the right as it has lost faith in Labour's message: that a negotiated land-for-peace agreement with Palestinians can bring a lasting end to conflict.

That said, some rightists have moved leftward, embracing the idea that Israel cannot forever hold on to a growing and restive Palestinian population. The Likud prime minister, Ariel Sharon, withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. He left his Likud party and led a centrist breakaway faction called Kadima. After suffering a stroke, he was succeeded by Ehud Olmert, who won the 2006 election, reducing Likud to a rump party with just 12 seats. But Kadima itself lost its way and disbanded. Its former leader, Tzipi Livni, scion of a revisionist family, formed her own centrist party: HaTnua, which has now merged with Labour to form Zionist Union. Increasingly, then, Israeli politics has become a game of minnows. The next coalition will be a challenge to form and probably too unstable to linger long. Soon, no doubt, there will be another election, and another shake of the kaleidoscope.


THE ISRAEL ELECTION DECIDED BY ONE VOTE
Now that the role of the people is over, the election will be decided by one man: President Reuven Rivlin.
Jerusalem Post Analysis Gill Hoffman March 17, 2015

Jerusalem - With all due respect to the millions of people who gave up time on their vacation day to cast ballots, it was clear from the start that the election would be decided by one man: President Reuven Rivlin.

When the polling stations closed at 10 p.m. Tuesday, so did the irrelevant part of the election when the people had their say. Now the important part of the election begins.

Polls in The Jerusalem Post and elsewhere have found that the people of Israel do not want a national unity government. In past elections they did, but this was the “it’s us or them” election, in which everyone pushed for their own team.

Perhaps now that the election is over, the people will change their minds and favor unity again. But it does not matter, because the role of the people in the election is over.

It’s now Rivlin’s turn to take over, and Rivlin wants a unity government. It’s his job to bring about the strongest and most stable government, and he thinks that is a coalition of Likud and the Zionist Union together.

The leaders of Likud and the Zionist Union, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, will push Rivlin to give them a chance without the other. But Rivlin will push back for unity.

His associates say he won’t force a unity government, but he will encourage one. Anyone with a Jewish mother knows that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

So a unity government is the most likely coalition. It would include the Likud’s 27-28 seats, Zionist Union’s 27, Kulanu’s 9-10, Shas’s 7, and United Torah Judaism’s 6-7 for a total of 76-78 mandates.

If Netanyahu gets his way and receives the right to form a right-wing government, it would include the Likud’s seats 27-28, Bayit Yehudi’s 8-9, Kulanu’s 9-10, Shas’s 7, United Torah Judaism’s 6-7, and Yisrael Beytenu’s 5 for a total of 62-66 mandates.

If Herzog gets the right to form a government, it’s more complicated. The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties say they won’t sit in a coalition with Yesh Atid, the Joint (Arab) List says it won’t join any coalition, and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman says he won’t join a coalition with Meretz even if he is offered the title of president of the United States.

The best Herzog could do is take his 27, Kulanu’s 10, Shas’s 7, UTJ’s 6, and Meretz’s 5. That’s only 55 mandates.

That brings us back to a unity government.

President Rivlin, the choice is yours. This election will be decided by one vote. Published on: March 17, 2015 05:51 PMBy: / Gill Hoffman

Jerusalem - With all due respect to the millions of people who gave up time on their vacation day to cast ballots, it was clear from the start that the election would be decided by one man: President Reuven Rivlin.

When the polling stations closed at 10 p.m. Tuesday, so did the irrelevant part of the election when the people had their say. Now the important part of the election begins.

Polls in The Jerusalem Post and elsewhere have found that the people of Israel do not want a national unity government. In past elections they did, but this was the “it’s us or them” election, in which everyone pushed for their own team.

Perhaps now that the election is over, the people will change their minds and favor unity again. But it does not matter, because the role of the people in the election is over.

It’s now Rivlin’s turn to take over, and Rivlin wants a unity government. It’s his job to bring about the strongest and most stable government, and he thinks that is a coalition of Likud and the Zionist Union together.

The leaders of Likud and the Zionist Union, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, will push Rivlin to give them a chance without the other. But Rivlin will push back for unity.

His associates say he won’t force a unity government, but he will encourage one. Anyone with a Jewish mother knows that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

So a unity government is the most likely coalition. It would include the Likud’s 27-28 seats, Zionist Union’s 27, Kulanu’s 9-10, Shas’s 7, and United Torah Judaism’s 6-7 for a total of 76-78 mandates.

If Netanyahu gets his way and receives the right to form a right-wing government, it would include the Likud’s seats 27-28, Bayit Yehudi’s 8-9, Kulanu’s 9-10, Shas’s 7, United Torah Judaism’s 6-7, and Yisrael Beytenu’s 5 for a total of 62-66 mandates.

If Herzog gets the right to form a government, it’s more complicated. The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties say they won’t sit in a coalition with Yesh Atid, the Joint (Arab) List says it won’t join any coalition, and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman says he won’t join a coalition with Meretz even if he is offered the title of president of the United States.

The best Herzog could do is take his 27, Kulanu’s 10, Shas’s 7, UTJ’s 6, and Meretz’s 5. That’s only 55 mandates.

That brings us back to a unity government.

President Rivlin, the choice is yours. This election will be decided by one vote.



ISRAEL  DEMOCRACY -  POLITICAL SYSTEM


‘ISRAEL’  IS DIVIDED INTO TWO PARTS

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Part 1  MODERN HISTORY OF ISRAEL
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JEWISH EXILES FROM ARAB COUNTRIES and PALESTINIAN REFUGEES

ISRAEL'S ELECTION PROCESS - A CELEBRATION OF DEMOCRACY

ISRAEL GENERAL ELECTIONS: HOW DO THEY WORK?

FRANCE 24 ENGLISH (1.18)

IN DEPTH: ELECTIONS IN ISRAEL

Rajya Sabha TV 2019 (24.00)

After a supercharged and intense election campaign, Israelis went to polls on Tuesday to choose their next government.

Most of the world is focused on Whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has led the country for the past decade, will be able to hold onto power or whether Israelis have enough faith in his rival, former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz  to make a big change.

Officially, Israeli elections take place every four years. However, this time Netanyahu chose to dissolve the Knesset nearly a year early, on December 24, and called a snap election for April 9.

This year’s elections also are important as the outcome could have a major impact on Israel’s future, its role in the region, and its relationship with the United States and American Jews.

INTRODUCTION TO ISRAELI POLITICS: THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM
DC & JERUSALEM 2015 (6.37)

ISRAELI POLITICS
FOR DUMMIES
DC & JERUSALEM 2015 (14.19)

ISRAEL ELECTION RESULTS: NETANYAHU ON TOP?
DW News 2019 (6.07)


Editor’s Note
:  The Israeli parliamentary system was introduced on its creation in 1948 by Ashkenazim (Jews from Eastern Europe) who adopted their ideas to ensure there could be no dictatorship. This resulted in proportional representation and coalition government.

Israel is one constituency.  It has 120 seats in a building called the Knesset (meeting). This means that a government needs 61 seats for a majority. The seats a party has is dependent on the percentage of votes they win in an election.  Each party has a ‘list’.  If the perentage of votes they have won gives them 10 seats then the first 10 names on their list will be appointed.  

Parties grow, shrink, appear and vanish.  In the 2019 election two parties won the highest number of seats - an ‘old’ party called Likud  and a new grouping called ‘Blue and White’.

Likud was asked by the President to form a government.  It could not reach its target of 65 seats. The President would then have asked Blue and White to try but before this could happen Likud managed to dissolve Parliament and called a new election in September.

The parties that will appear then are unknown.

Israel
State and Society

Why Israel
will Hold
a Second
National Election
in 2019

A
Short Guide
to the
Israeli Political System



Preparations for the (First) Elections  (to the Israel Kenesset)

Israeli Legislative Election, 1949

Second Government of Israel

A Beginner’s Guide
to
Israel’s Elections

The Evolution
of
Israeli Politics

The
Israel Election Decided
by One Vote