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Recapping the Israeli Elections

Recapping the Israeli Elections

Israelis went to the polls to elect a new Knesset for the 20th time in its history on Tuesday, in what was supposed to be one of the closest elections in years. When voting ended at 10 p.m., exit polling predictions showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, Likud, in a dead heat with the center-left Zionist Union opposition party. When Israelis woke up Wednesday and the votes had been counted, it became clear that Netanyahu’s Likud had won a decisive victory, with 30 seats in Knesset compared to Zionist Union’s 24. Isaac Herzog, the leader of Zionist Union, who had been hoping to become Prime Minister and form the next Israeli government, called Netanyahu earlier Wednesday to concede the election.

The elections were unfortunately marred by rhetoric from the Prime Minister, who declared the day before the elections that a two-state solution would not happen if he were elected again. On Election Day, Prime Minister Netanyahu used a video to implore his supporters to vote because “Arabs are voting in droves” and putting the government in danger. In a reaction to the elections, Reform Movement leaders expressed concern with these developments, saying,

We are concerned about the approach a new government may take to working with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors, and, especially with the Prime Minister’s 11th hour revocation of his professed support for a two-state solution.  When the Prime Minister says that if he is elected there “will not be a Palestinian state,” we are left to wonder what type of future he envisions. A non-democratic future in which a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority?  Or a non-Jewish future in which democracy is preserved, but, inevitably, the Jewish character of the state will disappear?

Israeli political leaders now turn to the task of forming a governing coalition. Most experts expect the coalition to contain six parties from the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox: Netanyahu’s Likud, the pro-settlement Jewish Home, Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu, ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the Likud splinter party Kulanu. That process will be resolved in the coming weeks.

There has already been much written on these elections, from the New York Times Editorial Board’s condemnation of Netanyahu’s statements, to celebration of the increased number of women serving in the Knesset, to commemoration of the Joint List’s ability to unite Israeli Arabs and garner 14 seats in the new Knesset, an historic high.

To view the full statement by Reform Movement leaders, click here. Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs also released a statement on the elections, which you can read here, and make sure to check out the RACblog for more updates as the Israeli governing coalition is set.

Published: 3/19/2015

Categories: Social Justice