The Key Players & the System
Today in Israel, twenty-six different parties are competing for 120 parliamentary seats. These parties represent the broadest spectrum of Israeli society from far-left to far-right. This is a very important election for Israel, as Netanyahu faces possible defeat, something that can be very dangerous for Israel and the free world. Dangerous because other PM’s might be more willing to accept a deal with Iran, a country whose leadership has openly called for the destruction of Israel, murder of Jews and the downfall America.
For Benjamin Netanyahu to win his party must win at least 3.25 percent, which equals 4 seats, in order to secure representation in the Knesset. Even then the parties that receive more than 3.25 percent of the vote are not guaranteed to win, as in Israel’s history no party has ever received an overall majority win. It is the best coalition that most likely ensures an overall win.
Israel is a parliamentary democracy, which means that the Israeli voter selects from amongst lists of parties and the leader of the party with the most Knesset (Parliament) seats becomes the Prime Minister. Also, the whole country of Israel is considered one constituency and the 120 Knesset seats are divided proportionately between the votes that each party wins.
Netanyahu faces Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home) party which is led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, whose shares some views with the PM, but is running on a platform which emphasizes the economy and settlement issues. His biggest opponent is the Zionist Union, which is a collation party of the Labor party, one of the oldest parties in Israel, and a few newly formed parties (Yachad and Kulanu). Zionist Union’s platform is focused on addressing social and economic inequalities, as well as diplomatic and foreign policy issues. Other opponents include a Jewish non-Zionist party, an Arab majority party, a few more newly founded parties, some far-right religious parties and Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) comprised of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who leans heavily towards right-wing and nationalistic positions.
Historically, Israel has a large voter turn-out. According to some sources, during the January 2013 election 68 percent of eligible voters went to the ballots. Israelis are engaged. This election has two main issues that the voters are asked to consider, and in turn that the Israeli voter is genuinely worried about. First is the security of the land – the platform of PM Netanyahu, and the second, the economy – the platform of his most viable opponents.
The high cost of living is a central issue for Israelis, especially as it continues to rise. Many claim that buying the basics is becoming difficult as housing prices soar. Netanyahu’s primary focus has been security and his opponents have used this opportunity to pledge to the Israelis that they will work on fixing the economic problems of the Land. For Netanyahu it is the existential threat posed by Iran that is of the utmost importance.
Israelis are somewhat torn. The younger generation wants a chance to succeed and provide for their families. Some in the older generation say, “What point is there in having a good job and a full fridge if you’re dead.”
What will it take to form a coalition?
Because no one party is expected to win a majority of seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the party that wins is the party that can put together a coalition with a majority of seats (at least 61). The two leading parties, Likud (Netanyahu) and the Zionist Union (Herzog and Livni) are neck and neck in the polls; each suspended in eagerness around 24 seats. The real question is: “Which one can form the winning coalition?”
An internal Likud poll has shown for the first time that a majority of Israelis do not believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, a Likud source said Monday. On March 9, the Likud’s data showed that 62.3% thought that Netanyahu would form the coalition and 19.9 % thought that Zionist Union leaders Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni would form the government. On Monday, for the first time, the number believing Netanyahu would form the government fell to 49.6 %, while 30.4 % thought Herzog would form the coalition. It marked the first time since the election campaign began that the number dipped below 50 percent. The polls are taken by McLaughlin and associates, the American Republican strategist working for the Netanyahu campaign.
With a rightist government, Netanyahu should be able to get a core group of about 53 seats (highlighted in darker blue). As the numbers now stand, the Netanyahu-led coalition would fall just short of the 61 seats it needs should either Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) or Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) refuse to join a Netanyahu-led coalition, as each has threatened.
Netanyahu must work hard to garner votes, as his party is neck and neck with Likud, and be wise in who he sides with. In my opinion it would be wise to join forces with the Kulanu party (All of Us), led by former Likud member Moshe Kahlon. Kulanu is campaigning on promises of lowering the cost-of-living, bridging economic inequalities and fixing the housing crisis.
The Impact for the Gospel
Whoever the winner is, he or she will need to closely monitor Lebanon and Syria, and keep an eye on Hezbollah activities in the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as Hamas in Gaza and Fatah. Yakkov Lappin, writing for the Jerusalem Post observes,
By the time the results of the elections in Israel are clear, and the next ruling coalition emerges, Washington and Tehran might complete a deal that will leave Iran in possession of a large chunk of its uranium enrichment assets, all of its missiles, and all of its regional terrorist proxies and networks intact.
In the midst of all this upheaval and uncertainty, Israelis, especially secular Israelis, are not only responding to the Gospel, but asking for it. Our Tel Aviv based worker reported that many young secular Israelis are seeking out believers to discuss faith, God, and the Messiah Yeshua.
Please pray for the people of Israel and the work of Chosen People Ministries at this crucial time. Thank you.