With final results announced in Israel's elections, StandWithUs reaffirms our respect for Israeli democracy.
Some have quipped that Israel has “too much democracy,” because it is a multiparty system and Israelis have gone to the polls several times in recent years. In a world where democracy is all too scarce and a region where Israel still faces widespread threats and calls for its destruction, the ability to vote in a free and fair election should not be taken for granted. Nor should the peaceful transfer of power, which Israel's current government is preparing for.
As with all elections, some will celebrate and others will be deeply disappointed with the outcome. As a non-partisan education organization, StandWithUs does not endorse or oppose any Israeli political leadership. However, we do educate about politics and different sides of controversial issues in Israel. As such, we believe it is important to highlight some important facts and perspectives. In this explainer, we provide our own analysis and a variety of external viewpoints.
39 different parties ran in the 2022 elections, representing voices from all over the Israeli political spectrum. To understand their different platforms, click HERE.
71.3% of eligible Israelis voted. This was the highest turnout since the 2015 elections. To see how this compares to other democracies, click HERE.
Parties must earn more than 3.25% of the vote in order to gain seats in the Knesset (Israel's parliament). Once they do, each party gets a minimum amount of 4 seats. Out of all the parties that ran this year, 10 passed this threshold (click here to see how many seats each party won).
In Israel, no single party has been able to win a majority of the Knesset's 120 seats. This means governments can only be formed when different political parties compromise and create a ruling coalition, representing a majority of 61 or more seats.
There have been five elections in Israel since 2019, because no one has been able to form a stable governing coalition. The most recent government, formed in June 2021, had the thinnest possible majority - 61 seats - coming from a uniquely diverse group of parties all over the political spectrum. Their differences ultimately proved too difficult to manage, leading to this 5th round of elections.
The main source of this political instability is that, like many other democratic societies today, Israel is deeply divided about various political issues. Since 2019, the main question for voters has been whether or not they want former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the country.
In this election, Israelis were once again split almost exactly 50/50 between parties that support and oppose Netanyahu. The majority of votes went to center-right and center-left parties. However, parties supporting Netanyahu gained a 64 seat majority because of the 3.25% threshold mentioned above. The Meretz and Balad parties - both of which oppose Netanyahu - got just under 3.25% of the vote, and thus failed to win any seats in the Knesset. Prior to the election, numerous Israeli political analysts had argued that it was a strategic mistake for these parties to run alone instead of merging with others (i.e. Meretz with Labor and Balad with Hadash-Ta'al). This proved to be a decisive factor in the election results.
The President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, is scheduled to meet with various parties next week to decide who will be tasked with trying to form a governing coalition. It is widely expected that Benjamin Netanyahu will succeed in this task and once again become Prime Minister of Israel.
It is not yet clear exactly what a coalition under Netanyahu will look like, and negotiations to create a government usually involve many compromises from various parties. However, many Israelis and supporters of Israel are deeply concerned about the rising influence of the Religious Zionism political faction, an alliance of three far right parties which together won 10% of the vote.
The articles below are a good starting point to understand various perspectives about this:
StandWithUs is proud of Israel's values as a Jewish and democratic state. We strongly condemn racism, homophobia, and support for terrorism, whether such ideas come from Palestinian leaders, extremist political figures in Israel, or bigots anywhere else. In the 1980s and 1990s Israel banned parties like Kach and Kahane Chai for inciting hate, and designated them as terrorist groups. Then, as now, it was clear that attempts by extremists to discriminate against minority groups in Israel and support terrorism against Palestinians are antithetical to Israel's founding principles.
Going forward, StandWithUs will continue to share factual information and a variety of perspectives, to provide context about political developments in Israel. When a new government is officially sworn in, we will wish it success in representing and serving all the people of Israel.