Words by Olly De Herrera
Against the background of COVID vaccination rollout, Israel is set to begin its March 23rd election – the fourth election in just two years. The election follows the collapse of its current coalition government which lasted merely 8 months.
The alliance between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz had been formed expressly to avoid another election and to combine forces at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak. Netanyahu has served as Israel’s Prime Minister for the Likud Party since 2009, subsequently being re-elected six times – despite being indicted on charges of corruption at the time of the April 2019 election.
The ongoing trial against Netanyahu for 3 separate cases of bribery, fraud and breach of trust has delayed the beginning of its evidentiary stage until after the March elections. Political party rivals to Netanyahu – who currently stands first in the polls – appear ready to capitalize on these charges as well as the public’s election fatigue. Second in the latest polls, political party Yest Atid, and their candidate Yair Lapid, have published a detailed manifesto plan to “fight corruption” and create a “sane government”.
Israel’s electoral system is one of nationwide proportional representation, a system which means the election could end up being decided not at the top of the polls but at the bottom. Israel’s small Islamist party, Ra’am, hopes the potential to form a collation could elevate the Arab voice in Israeli politics. “Arab politicians have been onlookers in the political process in Israel” said party leader, Mansour Abbas, in an interview on his campaign trail in Kafr Kanna, “Arabs are looking for a real role in Israeli politics”.
With Palestinian citizens forming more than a fifth of the Israeli population, politicians know not to overlook the Arab vote. Netanyahu was expected to make a long-anticipated trip to the United Arab Emirates after ongoing efforts within the Gulf federation to normalise relations with Israel. The trip was, however, delayed due to problems negotiating travel through Jordanian airspace – according to Netanyahu’s campaign team. With Netanyahu taking a two-seat loss in the polls earlier this week, the countdown to March 28th remains ever tense and unpredictable.
Picture Credit: Executive Office of the President of the United States and President of the Russian Federation (edited by Matankic)