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Israel - Knesset Election - 02 March 2020

Knesset elections are based on a vote for a party rather than for individuals. Elections are general, national, direct, equal, secret, and proportional. The entire country constitutes a single electoral constituency, and all citizens are eligible to vote from age 18. On Election Day, voters cast a ballot for a political party to represent them in the Knesset. Knesset elections are based on a vote for a party rather than for individuals. To date, all governments have been based on coalitions of several parties, since no party has received enough Knesset seats to be able to form a government by itself.

There could be dramatic shifts in the electorate after inconclusive polls in April 2019 and September 2019. Neither Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud nor the centrist party led by his chief contender former military boss Benny Gantz, obtained enough seats in Parliament to take it over. Talks over a potential coalition and prospects for a new election were mired in a controversy surrounding a formal indictment against Netanyahu, with the prime minister having less than a month to make an immunity appeal. The indictment charges the sitting head of the Israeli government with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases – the first time that a prime minister has faced criminal charges while still in office.

Likud wanted the election as late as possible, and Blue and White as soon as possible. If no government was formed, an election would be automatically set for March 10, which is Purim, unless a law is passed in advance to set a different date. Likud and Blue & White, the largest parties in the Knesset, have agreed elections for the 23rd Knesset on Monday, March 2, 2020. Elections are usually held on Tuesdays but were brought forward by a day because Tuesday March 3 is (7th of Adar) the day for mourning IDF soldiers whose burial place is unknown.

Gantz and Netanyahu faced off for the second time on September 17, with Blue and White winning 33 seats compared with Likud's 32, in a vote that was called after an April election also failed to produce a government. However, neither party leader managed to secure a bloc of 61 seats, as kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman, who leads the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, declined to back either candidate. An attempt to form a national unity government consisting of the three parties, with Netanyahu and Gantz rotating the prime minister position, ultimately failed as they were not able to agree who should serve as prime minister first.

In November 2019, Netanyahu was indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three corruption cases, which could damage his bid to stay in office. According to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 59 percent of Israelis say they want Netanyahu to step down after he was charged. Under Israeli law, Netanyahu would be forced to leave his post if convicted, but can remain in office while legal proceedings including appeals are ongoing. The whole process of indictment and trial could last for as long as two years. Netanyahu denied any wrongdoing and accused prosecutors of attempting a coup against him. He called for a commission to "investigate the investigators" and said law enforcement authorities "must be taken care of". His senior allies have backed him, lashing out at the legal establishment, calling senior prosecutors criminals and the attorney general a "spineless puppet".

Three polls in mid-December 2019 by Channel 11, Channel 13 and Walla! projected the political stalemate would not be resolved by the new elections. The polls showed Blue & White strengthening, partly at the expense of the Democratic Union-Meretz and the Likud gaining a seat with Shas and the New Right losing ground. But both major blocs would still be unable to form a government without each other if Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beitenu still refused to join a narrow government.

Lieberman, who served as defence minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet, resigned in November 2018 over his opposition to a ceasefire deal with Gaza’s Hamas militants. He haf since become a vocal critic of Netanyahu, in particular of his alliance with ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, and refused to align with the Likud-led bloc after two previous elections in April and September 2019.

It was expected that after the third election in one year the prime minister would succeed in forming a government. Netanyahu won 60 seats for his bloc of right-wing and religious parties in the election, one less than he needed for a majority in the Knesset, according to exit polls on the three television networks. The polls indicated that Netanyahu’s Likud won 36-37 seats. That would mark the party's best-ever result under Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister and its first to be indicted in office. Its allies in Shas, UTJ and Yamina won 9, 7-8 and 6-7 respectively. The polls showed Blue and White with 33 seats, its ally Labor-Gesher-Meretz 6-7, the Joint List 14-15 and Yisrael Beytenu 6-8. Netanyahu headed a caretaker government since December 2018.

The voter turnout at 8 p.m. was 65.6%, compared to 63.7% in the September election and was the highest turnout rate at this hour since the 1999 election. Final turnout was expected to pass 70%, up from 68.46% in April and 69.83% in September. Netanyahu's victory, after inconclusive ballots in April and September, is testimony to the political durability of Israel's longest-serving leader, who fought the latest campaign under the shadow of a looming corruption trial.

Israelis went to the polls for a third, and once again the results proved inconclusive. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz said they were racing to form governments. Despite immediately declaring victory, Netanyahu's party only won 36 seats. Gantz's Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) party won 33 seats. Benny Gantz’s Blue and White bloc with the center-left Labor-Gesher-Meretz secured 40 seats, as compared to the 58 awarded to the Likud-led bloc and the 15 won by the Arab-majority Joint List.

In a dramatic turn of events for Israel’s political limbo, Benny Gantz has accepted a list of five secularist demands in a bid to cobble together a coalition government. Those include a monthly benefit of at least 70 percent of the minimum wage for all seniors living on guaranteed income allowance and transition of control over public transport and commercial activity on Shabbat from the government to local authorities. Lieberman also wants to increase ultra-Orthodox participation in military service, legalise civil marriage, and allow municipal rabbis (who are often less stringent than the chief rabbinate) to oversee conversions.

If Lieberman, who pledged to avoid a fourth election, makes a deal with Gantz, they would need the backing of Arab lawmakers. The Joint List, for its part, has unveiled its own ultimatum to Gantz which notably demands that he reneges on his pledge to annex parts of the West Bank. Gantz had previously ruled out a coalition with the Joint List in his quest to form a “Jewish majority” coalition.

Imploring Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party to join the Likud in a national unity government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed 21 March 2020 to rotate as prime minister and to leave the role at the agreed transition date. Netanyahu claimed in an interview on Channel 12 that the Likud and Blue and White had completed negotiations for what a national unity government would look like, and under which he would serve first as prime minister and would then be replaced by Gantz. "I will leave office on the agreed date," Netanyahu said in a message to Gantz. "There will be no shticks and tricks. Millions of Israelis are waiting for us." Gantz denied that a deal had been reached, saying: "Those who want unity do not work with ultimatums and harmful leaks and certainly do not try to hurt our democracy and citizens by paralyzing the Knesset." According to details of the proposed deal, Likud would start out with the posts of prime minister, finance minister and Knesset speaker, and Blue and White would start with a deputy prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister and then switch after a year and a half.

On Sunday 12 A[ro; 2020 after President Reuven Rivlin rejected both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz requests for a mandate to build a coalition. Both instructed their teams to immediately resume intensive negotiations on an emergency government after five days with no talks. Rivlin informed Gantz on Sunday that he would not accept his request to extend his mandate to form a government for two more weeks. Rivlin made the decision after Netanyahu told him that a deal with Blue and White was not close. There would again be a 21-day period in which any MK could form a government, and if none do, a fourth election would be initiated.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his election rival, leader of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz, agreed 20 April 2020 to form an emergency coalition government, a joint statement from their parties said. "At this hour, an agreement on the establishment of an emergency national government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the chairman of the Blue and White alliance, was signed," the statement read. Israeli media reported that under the deal, Netanyahu would remain the prime minister for 18 more months, while Gantz will be the defence minister and will subsequently replace Netanyahu.

Both leaders will need to keep their supporters, who have opposing views on several issues, under a single umbrella. While Netanyahu’s Likud is right-wing, Benny Gantz represents the centre-left of the country. The two political stances are very different from each other. The coalition partners differ on the extent of judicial authority and the role of ultraorthodox groups in the military. Gantz believes in protecting the independence of courts, while Netanyahu is accused of curbing judicial freedom under the garb of making judicial reforms. The new government will also have to witness the corruption trial against Netanyahu, an elephant-in-the-room situation between the two coalition partners. Benny Gantz believes the annexation of occupied Palestinian lands should be carried out with an international consent, while Netanyahu only believes it necessary to cooperate with the US.

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Page last modified: 03-07-2022 15:25:58 ZULU