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Analysis

Israeli Elections: Everything you need to know

Israeli elections 9 April 2019. BICOM will be producing a regular poll of polls and analysis of the parties and politicians – all right here. 

Our Israeli election briefing examines the reasons for early elections; identifies key issues on which the election will be fought; analyses voting trends over the last decade; and highlights events that could shake up the election and the future formation of the governing coalition.

Read our break down of all the Parties, Politicians and Policies

Our Israeli Elections Bulletin can be found here

Latest Polling Data

The Next Israeli Government?*

*Final results of the Israeli election
Green = Arab parties; Red = left-wing parties; Orange = centrist parties; Blue = right-wing parties; Black = ultra-Orthodox parties

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to continue as Israel’s Prime Minister after final results show that his Likud has a clear path to form a 65 seat coalition with five other parties.

The New Right – which was under the electoral threshold by only a few thousand votes – called for a recount of the 200,000 double envelope votes which include those of soldiers, hospital patients and overseas diplomats. Gesher and Zehut failed to get over the threshold and have not won any seats

Number of Seats Based on Aggregated Polls*

*Final results of the Israeli election

Projected Seats by Bloc Over Time 

The importance of blocs: whilst personality is increasingly more important than policy, parties are typically labelled as being part of one of five blocs – right-wing, left-wing, centre, ultra-Orthodox, and Arab – based on their positions on issues of national security and / or religion and state. At the same time, several parties avoid these labels and there is often a fluidity between the blocs themselves. For more in-depth analysis about the blocs, be sure to read our Israel Elections briefing.

Getting to 61 – possible governing coalitions*

*According to numbers based on aggregated polling, March 22 – April 5

 

Where do the parties stand on major political issues?

Netanyahu’s Favourability vs Gantz

Blue White leader Benny Gantz is significant because of the strength of his individual polling numbers, which consistently show the former IDF Chief of Staff closer to the Prime Minister in head to head polling than any other candidate since Netanyahu took office in 2009. Gantz is assumed to be broadly centrist and his security credentials could make him a more credible prime ministerial candidate than other Netanyahu rivals, and draw away some of Likud’s more centrist voters.

Brief History of IDF Chiefs of Staff in Politics

Listen to our latest podcast on the upcoming elections

All of our podcasts on the Israeli elections can be found here

Best Cartoons

April 5 – This Haaretz cartoon shows all the parties fighting in a frying pan. As it gets hotter, some of the smaller parties, such as Gesher, Raam-Balad, Yisrael Beitenu and Kulanu (all currently near the electoral threshold of 3.25%) may be falling out

April 2 – In this Maariv cartoon Netanyahu is seen hugging four people with radical, homophobic and racist opinions saying ‘Atleast you are not bots’. This week the Prime Minister responded to a study claiming an army of internet bots were promoting Likud material by finding one individual behind some offensive tweets and doing a press conference with him

March 27 – Yediot Ahronot’s cartoon shows Netanyahu’s trip to Washington and Trump recognising sovereignty over the Golan was overshadowed by a missile attack from Gaza on a house in central Israel. In this cartoon, Netanyahu tries to change the conversation back to his diplomatic success

March 22 – To mark the festival of Purim, on which Jews dress up, a Haaretz cartoon displays all the major political leaders. Netanyahu and his wife and held aloft a submarine by Likud MKs. Moshe Feiglin, the leader of the right-wing libertarian Zehut party, which may be the surprise of the election holds aloft the Temple (which he’d like rebuilt) and a marijuana bong which he’d like to legalise. Meanwhile, Labour and Meretz leaders are dressed as clowns, Finance Minister Kahlon is throwing out money, Ahmad Tibi has a card with Netanyahu’s slogan ‘its Bibi or Tibi’ and Benny Gantz wears a phone with Iran’s Supreme Leader on it

March 19 – From Yediot Ahronot: As the festival of Purim approaches, on which Jews eat pastries known as ‘Haman ears’ – after the villain of the story – Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is seen offering children ‘Bagatz (Supreme Court) ears’. Following the court’s decision to disqualify Jewish Power leader Michael Ben Ari for incitement to racism (but allow Arab party Balad-Raam to run) many on the right have been critical of the court. Shaked announced her intention to make drastic changes to the judicial process.

March 18 – From Maariv: The cartoon shows Netanyahu sitting with a host of caricature bad guys to discuss who they should decide will be the next one to say he supports Blue White party leader Benny Gantz. Netanyahu’s so-called gevalt campaign (Yiddish for alarm) has seen him claim that the Iranian regime publicly supports Gantz’s candidacy. He has also argued that Blue White is weak and soft on Hamas.

 

March 4: From Yediot Ahronot – Netanyahu implores “more feeling” as his obedient MKs sing ‘it’s Bibi or Tibi’ One of Bibi’s main arguments has been that Blue White will form a coalition with the Arab parties, one of which is jointly headed by Ahmed Tibi of Ta’al.

 

February 28: From Yediot Ahronot – Likud TV presenting the weather report with Attorney Avichai Mandelblit’s face on it today, tomorrow and Saturday with the presenter warning we’re in for stormy inclement weather. The AG’s announcement to indict Netanyahu is the start of a long legal process. The PM does not have to resign and he can stand and become the next PM. But politically it will shake up the election, could reduce his support and make it harder for Netanyahu to form a coalition

February 25: From Yediot Ahronot –  New Right leader Naftali Bennett reading a scary bedtime story to children. ‘Then Bibi, Gantz and Trump will establish a Palestinian state’. Bennett claimed that Netanyahu will agree to Trump’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks, due to be published after the elections. Bibi and Bennett are fighting a bitter battle to win right wing votes.

February 22: From Haaretz – the cartoon shows the winners and losers of the last few days. Yair Lapid and 3 former IDF Chiefs of Staff rejoice after forming their new party while Netanyahu and leaders of a far right party hold a photo of Meir Kahane, whose Kach party is illegal in Israel and is an illegal terrorist organisation in the US and Europe. Labour and Meretz failed to merge which might harm Meretz prospects, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni – who left politics – share a joint (Barak has an interest in a medical marijuana company); and Gesher’s leader Orly Levy – whose support has decreased, is packing her bags.

January 15: From Haaretz – As Benny Gantz breaks his silence and says the the Nation State Law should be amended to be more inclusive to the Druze, Netanyahu’s Likud party ‘open up the gates of hell’

January 10: An insightful cartoon in Yediot Ahronot shows Naftali Bennett, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid & Avi Gabbai battling it out for 2020 while Netanyahu languishes back in 2019. The article by Sima Kadmon argues that Israeli politicians are increasingly working towards two assumptions. First, that Netanyahu will win the elections and second, that he’ll be forced out soon afterwards.

January 7: From Yediot Ahronot – Netanyahu, Culture Minister Miri Regev and Coalition Chairman David Amsalem attack Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Mandelblit is likely to announce whether or not the PM will be indicted before April elections. Likud members are pressuring him not to do so, fearing it will harm Netanyahu’s election prospects

January 6: From Yediot Ahronot – Benny Gantz studying an empty white board on suggestions for election posters. Gantz says ‘excellent – I love it’. And aide replies ‘hold on – we haven’t printed the poster yet’.

December 28: From Haaretz – the Attorney General carries files for the Prime Minister’s investigations watched by Gidon Saar, a likely challenger to Netanyahu within Likud, and Netanyahu clings on for dear life. Finance Minister Kahlon gets injured by high electricity prices. Aymen Odeh and Ahmed Tibi of the Joint Arab List consider splitting. Yesh Atid leader Lapid is threatened by a potential merger between new parties led by former IDF Chiefs of Staff Gantz and Yaalon. Orly Levy who formed her own party Gesher – just as her dad did in the 1990s – is leaving her former party head, Avigdor Lieberman, behind. Jewish Home leaders stand on the roof of a settlement outpost. And Ehud Barak cooks a stew including Zionist Union leaders Gabbay & Livni.

December 27: From Yediot Ahronot – on the wall a plaque reads: “The Thinking Man – please do not disturb” and depicts former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz – whose entry into the race could shake up the Israeli elections – while current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair Lapid, Tzipi Livni & Avi Gabbay look on and say ‘Hurry up already!’

December 27: From Marriv – the the small fish – representing left & centre-left parties – argue over who should lead the anti-Bibi bloc. The bubble text reads: ‘if you all follow me we can beat him’. Meanwhile, a much larger Netanyahu shaped fish looks on.

Selected Campaign Ads

Hadash-Taal

  • Hadash-Taal’s poster shows party leaders Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi calling for a high voter turnout for their merged list. It is a play on Netanyahu’s (erroneous) accusation on the eve of the 2015 elections that the Arabs were flocking to the polling stations in droves being bused in by the New Israel Fund.

Labour

  • Following Ayeled Shaked’s ‘fascism perfume’ ad, Labour’s Stav Shaffir stars in this video which sees her smash the perfume. ‘Israeli democracy is stronger than them. Not afraid. Winning.’
  • This video shows a family discussing who to vote for and claims that choosing Benny Gantz is really a vote for the right wing as the party will ultimately sit in the Netanyahu government.
  • In a video arguing that most Israelis want to live in a ‘normal state’, senior Labour party MKs argue that while its ‘normal to be right wing’ or ‘to want a secure way to separate from the Palestinians’ it is not normal support the release of Rabin’s murderer Yigal Amir or to believe if the Palestinian issue is ignored it will simply go away.
  • Stav Shaffir casts herself into one of Netanyahu’s campaign videos to berate the Prime Minister over the state of the country and his policies.

Blue White Party

  • This Blue White ad – ‘Bibi listen to Bibi’ – shows a clip of Netanyahu from 2009 calling for term limits and promising to destroy Hamas. The clip argues Netanyahu hasn’t dealt with Hamas for 13 years and should leave it to the Blue White party
  • This Blue White poster says ‘The People of Israel Lives’ alongside another poster of followers of Meir Kahane, Jewish Power party figures, and Netanyahu with the slogan ‘Kahane lives’. Netanyahu was a key figure in the merger between Jewish Power and Jewish Home/National Union party in order to strengthen his chances of securing a right wing governing coalition after the elections.
  • In this video, Blue White argues that with Netanyahu overly focused on himself and his legal difficulties (and criticising the Attorney General on Facebook) he has no time for running the country.
  • Criticising Netanyahu’s role facilitating the merger of the Jewish Home and Jewish Power parties, a Blue White campaign video reads “you picked Bibi, you got Ben-Ari” and the second image reads “you picked Bibi, you got Kahane” and ends with the message ‘On April 9 we stop this insanity. We pick Blue White”
  • A Blue White video plays a clip from 2008 in which Netanyahu calls on then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign following police recommendations against him. It argues that Netanyahu will be up to his neck in cases and won’t have time for the public. The video ends with Blue White’s slogan is “Israel before everything”
  • A Blue White video asks the question “who else has 117 years of security experience” and shows a collection of photographs and videos of the three former Chiefs of Staff on the party list – Lt Gen Benny Gantz, Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, and former Defence Minister Lt Gen Moshe Yaalon

Kulanu

  • Kulanu argues that while there are some who go crazy for the festival of Purim, others are crazy the entire year. After showing a number of individuals from other right wing parties, the video concludes “There are many types of right wing. If you want a national, statesmanlike, socially minded right, like the right wing of Menachem Begin vote for Moshe Kahlon”
  • Other politicians are portrayed as cartoons fighting with each other to the tune of Hava Nagila. The video says: “Everyone is fighting. Kahlon is the only one fighting for you”

Likud

  • This Likud clip charges Yediot Ahronoth with claiming Likud voters are ‘Bots’ and calls on those Likud voters – who represent a cross section of Israeli society – to come out in droves on election day  to stop the left from taking power
  • In this video PM Netanyahu arrives at a Purim party only to be mistaken for Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid who the host thinks have dressed up as him. After answering a series of questions and detailing his achievements, Gantz and Lapid also arrive at the party…dressed up as Bibi.
  • In this video Bibi gets busy cooking a fried egg, only to warn the public that what Blue/White is cooking is something dangerous – a leftist government with the support of the Arab parties.
  • For weeks Netanyahu has been (erroneously) claiming that Benny Gantz took part in a ceremony honouring Hamas terrorists. This video, released by Likud, slightly changes the claim highlighting Gantz’s participation in a ceremony for Israeli and Palestinian victims of Operation Protective Edge, amongst which the video says “were 1000 Hamas terrorists”. The video ends with the phrase Likud has been consistently pushing. That Gantz is “left wing” and “weak” – Watch here
  • This Likud video claims Gantz and Lapid supported the Iranian Nuclear deal. It shows Gantz stating he sees some positives in the deal, and Lapid arguing that cancelling the deal is not a strategy. Meanwhile, the video highlights how Netanyahu spoke in Congress against the deal and convinced Trump to cancel it.

Yisrael Beitenu

  • Yisrael Beitenu’s campaign video shows Or Ansbacher’s rapist and murderer and then points out that Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, and Benjamin Netnayahu did not support Yisrael Beitenu’s proposed death penalty for terrorist bill.
  • Dressing up as an ultra-Orthodox Rabbi for Purim, leader Avigdor Lieberman states that he is now permitting public transportation on Shabbat and civil marriages – two main principles of the party’s platform opposed by ultra-Orthodox parties.

New Right

  • A New Right ad shows party leader Naftali Bennett putting his suit on while Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh can be heard in the background. Bennett then warns Haniyeh in Arabic that he isn’t Avigdor Lieberman, with the inference being he doesn’t make idle threats – Lieberman said that if he were defense minister he would give Haniyeh 48 hours to return the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers or be assassinated
  • Standing in Rabin Square, Naftali Bennett holds a dove and first asks the bird ‘do you know what your problem is?’ He then lectures the bird on a ‘right wing peace’
  • In a campaign video released on March 18, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the New Right discusses her new perfume line – Fascism – which, after listing her policies, argues ‘just smells like democracy to me’. Many of Shaked’s plans for limiting the power of the Supreme Court and the process of choosing judges has been termed fascist by her political opponents.
  • Ayelet Shaked of the New Right party shared a video marking international women’s day, which showed the top candidates in several parties, all of whom are men. The video ends with the top candidates in the New Right party two of whom are women.

United Right

  • In a video from the National Union, leader Betzalel Smotrich explains that without a merger, some right wing votes would ‘go in the dustbin’ and lead to the left wing taking power He gives the example of the 1992 election in which the loss of right wing parties that did not cross the threshold paved the way to a left-wing government that signed the Oslo Accords.

Shas

  • This ad from Shas claims Yair Lapid (number 2 on the Blue and White list) plans to introduce a gay pride parade at the Western Wall, cancel child allowances and allow pig meat to be sold throughout the country. The ad argues that that only a strong Shas party can prevent this

Key facts about the Israeli electorate and Knesset 

  • Size of the electorate: 5,881,696
  • Voter turnout rate: 71.8% (2015); 67.8% (2013); 64.7% (2013)
  • Women MKs: 35
  • Number of votes required to reach 3.25% electoral threshold: 138,259 (approximately)
  • Votes per Knesset seat: 35,456 (approximately)
  • Number of parties in the current Knesset: 10
  • Arab MKs: 17
  • Number of MKs under 40: 17 (Stav Shaffir of Labor is the youngest at 33)