Israel’s Elections: Some Thoughts

By Shlomo Maital  

   Here are a few insights from Israel’s 5th national election, on Nov. 1, within the past three and one half years.

   *Voter turnout was high, 70.6% of the electorate. (Turnout among Arab voters was lower).  Out of a population of nearly 9 million, 4,793,461 people voted.  It was fun to see parents bring small children to the polls to see democracy in action.

   * 418,055 votes were ‘wasted’.  Let me explain.  Political parties need to get 3.25% of the total vote count, as a threshold, to elect Knesset members; in this election, that came to 154,820 votes. 

   * Two major parties failed to reach the threshold:  a left-wing party, Meretz, which came within 3,800 votes;  and an Arab party, Balad.  Had they each reached the threshold, they would have each elected 4 Knesset members.  Had this happened, the right-wing led by Likud and Netanyahu would likely not have reached a 61 MK majority in the Knesset.

    * Not a single right-wing vote was ‘wasted’.  Why? Netanyahu worked hard, as a political wizard, to unite small right-wing parties;  in the end, there were only 4 of them.   In contrast, the splintered Left failed to work together, and lost.

    * A much-ignored fact: the total number of votes for Center-Left,  and for Right-Extreme Right, were almost equal!   So why then did the Right get a majority of 64 Knesset members?  Because many Left-Center votes did not ‘count’ (see above,  ‘waste’),  and not a single Right-Extreme Right vote failed to count.

   *  Two extreme-Right leaders will be in the new Cabinet; they joined to form the Religious Zionist party, with 14 Knesset seats.  Ben-Gvir is a lawyer, and leveraged the Israeli media, gaining vast publicity by staging media events. He is very smart, a Kahana supporter, and is dangerous.  He seeks the Homeland Security ministry.  Smotrich, in contrast, has a motor mouth. He is already in hot water for making outrageous statements.  He is vile, but less dangerous, because he is far less smart than Ben-Gvir. 

   *  Because Left and Right were almost tied in the vote count, the Right/Extreme Right does NOT have a mandate to make sweeping anti-democratic changes to Israel’s legal system, as they plan.  But they will do it anyway. 

   *  Will the Center-Left finally get its act together and stop cannibalizing their own candidates?  They should – but likely won’t. 

     Israel’s democracy is alive and well, and it will overcome the latest episode.  There are ups and downs in every democracy, and this ‘down’ too will pass.