Over the past several months, we have watched an exhilarating and exhausting election season unfold in Israel and the United States. This coming Monday, March 2nd, Israelis will go to the polls to cast their votes in the third election within 12 months. We hope that this time the party leaders will be able to form a successful government and bring stability to the Israeli political theater.
In the last two elections, the right wing and left wing blocs did not receive enough votes to form a government on their own and each side’s parties were not willing to form a unity government. You may remember that Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, pledged that he would not form a coalition with the Likud party while Prime Minister Netanyahu is under indictment. Despite his legal issues, the Likud party had an internal primary in December and overwhelmingly chose Netanyahu to remain as party leader. Based on the polls, the results of this election should be very similar to the last election, making it likely that the two largest parties, Blue and White and Likud, will need to form a unity government or Israel will go to an unprecedented fourth election.
There are not many undecided voters that are likely to change the outcome. However, historically, voter turnout in Arab communities has been lower than the national average, and there are several campaigns being run around the country to encourage demographic to turn out on election day. The number of Arab members elected to the Knesset is extremely important in representing the interests of this significant minority, especially after the Trump Administration’s newly released Middle East Peace Plan. The organization Standing Together has launched campaigns around the country bringing Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis together to advocate for equal rights for Arab Israelis, and promote a peace plan to better the lives of those living in the Palestinian territories, among advocating for other minorities. Through billboards, gatherings, and marches, these activists are attempting to bring these issues to forefront of the political conversation ahead of the election and hope their efforts will encourage Israelis to go to the polls.
This year, Arab communities have experienced an unprecedented wave of violence, mostly due to poverty and lack of economic opportunity in their towns. The Abraham Initiatives launched a campaign in Arab communities to encourage people to vote in order to pass legislation granting more funding and development programs to alleviate these incidents. In the second election, with the Abraham Initiative’s urging, the Blue and White party and Labor party both launched massive efforts aimed at Arab voters. Although circumstances have changed since that election, Arab voters may still vote for left-wing and Zionist parties.
This year’s multiple elections have been a true test of Israel’s democratic system and its current party structure. We can only hope that this round will be successful and result in more equal representation for all of Israel’s citizens.