Making Sense of Israel’s Elections

For the fifth time in about 4 years, Israeli’s will go to the polls on November 1. Will current Prime Minister Yair Lapid re-establish control and retain his position? Will long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu find his way back to the PM’s office? Will a new Israeli leader emerge?

To answer those questions, one must have a basic understanding of Israeli government. Indeed, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Everyone gets to vote and all votes are counted equally.

Sounds simple: the person with the most votes wins…right? No.

Israelis actually vote for parties, not directly for candidates. Election cycles often feature a dozen or more parties vying for seats in the Knesset (Israel’s “Congress” of 120 seats). Each party has a “party list” of people who would represent that party in the Knesset, if the party wins seats (mandates). The number of seats allotted to each party is dependent upon how many votes the party garners in the election.

In previous elections of the past decade or so, the Likud party (led by Benjamin Netanyahu) has earned the most seats during elections. Usually 30-35. However, to govern, there must be a majority (at least 61), so parties must agree to serve together in a coalition totaling at least 61. (If not one is able to build a coalition, or if the coalition falls apart, then it’s back to the polls!)

This is where it gets a bit complicated. So, while Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu are very popular, they also have deep-seeded enemies. For example, several party leaders such as Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar, and Avigdor Lieberman are all conservative-leaning (as is Netanyahu), and all held high positions in Likud in the past. However, in the past 5 years or so, none of them would sit in coalition with Netanyahu due to personal grievances.

So, despite the fact there are far more conservative-leaning parties and mandates to serve in the Knesset, they can’t get along well enough internally to put together a strong conservative coalition. In the last election, Bennet and Lapid joined forces with much more liberal parties, including Muslim parties, in order to gain the slimmest of margins (61-59). That coalition fell apart when a couple of members defected from the governing coalition, leaving less than a majority and forcing another election.

Thus, what happens on November 1 is of critical importance in Israel and the Middle East. Bennett and Lapid have proven to be very weak leaders who have not stood up to Hezbollah (instead, they gave away rights to oil and gas), have not been strong in expression to the US regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, and have stumbled into the wokeness reaching the shores of Israel. Netanyahu is far from a perfect man, and he is fended off legal challenges. However, never has Israel had a statesman the caliber of Netanyahu. During his dozen or so years as Prime Minister, he managed to forge working relationships with Russia and moderate Sunni nations (which led to the Abraham Accords), build economic relationships with North African nations, keep Russia and Iran at bay in Syria, and remained a trusted ally of American presidents.

Israel is being tested on the world stage and, so far, Bennett and Lapid have given up ground. Israel needs strong leadership and Netanyahu is working the campaign trail trying to generate a massive conservative wave in Israel….just as we are hoping for here in America.

Because of the deep need for leadership in Israel, Amir Tsarfati has invited believers worldwide to join him for 3 days of prayer and fasting prior to Israel’s elections. Will you join the effort by committing to pray and fast for Israel October 30 – November 1?

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