Understanding Israel elections

Israeli law protects Netanyahu as he is under no obligation until his charges are proved
Understanding Israel elections
Representational Image [Source: Flickr/Gustavo]

The election in Israel is the fourth one in two years and going by the trends it seems very difficult that any party will get majority. The Likud party of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading with the highest votes but seems difficult to get anywhere close to the majority. Let's first take a closer look at the Israeli election system and how it functions. Israel's parliament has a total of 120 seats and to form a government a party has to win more than 60 votes or parties can form a coalition to form a government. In contrast to many democracies like Great Britain or the US, Israel has only one house that is referred to as Knesset. All the members of the Knesset are elected through voting at a national level and the member has to win at least 3.25% votes to get elected. Israel's election system is very simple in a way that the country is so small that the election takes place in one round, and through propositional representation, the seats are distributed in the parliament to a party. But last year the parliament was dissolved when prime ministers Netanyahu's coalition failed to pass the budget. There were two major hurdles in the budget and the difference between Netanyahu's Likud party and his main opponent Benny Gants of the blue and white party. Benny Gants wanted to pass the budget of 2020 and 2021 together but Netanyahu opposed it. When the coalition was formed there was another deal that for 18 months Netanyahu will serve as prime minister and for the next 18 months Benny Gants. So in November 2020, Benny Gants had to take oath for the office but Netanyahu didn't want to resign due to corruption charges and until he is in the prime minister's office he can't be charged. We need to properly understand that the last government that was formed between Lukid and the Blue and White party was a caretaker government and not fully fledged. The three elections that were held before the fourth one were held in April 2019, then in September 2019, then in March 2020. In the last elections that were held in 2020, the president invited members' usually party leaders to prove a majority within 24 days. When no party was able to form the government the entire Knesset was free to look for a possible government that can withstand a no-confidence motion. In April 2019 when the election took place the Netanyahu party, two parties turned out to be the biggest winners. Likud won 35 out of 120 seats and Benny Gantz blue and white also got 35 seats. But no party was able to win the majority and no coalition was formed due to differences between various parties. A new election was held in September 2019 but the same thing happened in this election as well. No party was able to win a clear majority and no possible coalition took place. The third elections took place in the 2020 March, and this time Likud emerged as the largest party and it was able to increase its vote share by 1 to a total tally of 36. At the time the state of Israel was without a government so Netanyahu and his main opponent of the blue and white party Benny Gants formed a coalition and after a year Israel had a government. But this government only acted as a caretaker and didn't have the full power that an actual government has. So on 23 December, the Israeli parliament decided to pass the budget but Netanyahu didn't pass the budget. This delay to pass the budget was for him to remain PM beyond 18 months to avoid corruption charges. The Attorney-general of Israel charged Netanyahu with corruption, bribery, and many more charges, and to avoid them he wanted immunity from the House  Committee. The problem is the house committee doesn't exist in the caretaker government as they are very limited in their functioning.

Benny Gants pulled out of the coalition due to ongoing corruption charges on Netanyahu and as of now no party has any majority but the various coalitions have been at stake in the recently concluded elections. The election of March 2021 has been poised very well and all parties will look to take away something from it. The right-wing block has 59 seats and are two-seat short of forming the government. The left-wing parties have 56 and are 5 seat shorts to form the government. The Arab party of "Ra'am" is being considered to tilt the result in anyone's favor as it has won 4 seats. The Israeli president met Netanyahu on April 4 to initiate the process of government formation as Likud emerged as the single largest party.

The issue that has been surrounding this election has been Prime Minister Netanyahu himself. He has been accused of bribery, fraud, breach of trust since the president has been holding talks with various party leaders of a possible government until then Netanyahu will continue to serve as prime minister. Here the Israeli law protects Netanyahu as he is under no obligation until his charges are proved and his immunity is only given to the prime minister of Israel. Three cases have been charged against him

Case 1000: fraud and breach of trust. He and his wife are accused of receiving gifts mostly cigars and cases of champagne from powerful businessmen.

Case 2000: fraud and breach of trust. The allegation that has been put against PM Netanyahu is that he through Yedioth Ahronoth's media tried to improve his coverage.

Case 4000: Bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Between the years of 2014-2017, Benyamin Netanyahu was in charge of the telecommunication ministry. Bezeq is the largest telecommunication company in Israel and its major shareholder is Shaul Elovitch and it also owned the news website, Walla. It was found that Mr. Elovitch and his wife used extensive pressure on the director-general to change coverage per the wishes of Netanyahu and in return, Netanyahu will help Mr. Elovitch with certain policies that would favor his company.

With protests going on every week against Netanyahu and protesters demanding his resignation it seems that things look pretty tough for the prime minister. His right-wing supporters continue to back him but with rising pressure against his corruption charges will be a spectacular exhibition of how Israeli people go on forward and what sort of coalition will be formed.

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