Photo: Reuters
Voting in Israel's elections
Photo: Reuters

Israel goes to the polls: How it all works

Which parties will win enough votes to secure a spot in the Knesset? Who is most likely to form the next government? Can anyone challenge Netanyahu's position as prime minister? Everything you wanted to know about Election Day in one place

Israelis vote in a national election on Tuesday. Polls show that veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking a fifth term in office, is best positioned in the tight race to win and head the next government. His decade-long dominance of Israeli politics has been the biggest issue of the campaign.



What are polls showing?

Recent polls have shown that the right-wing bloc led by Netanyahu will win a majority in the Knesset. But they also show a new centrist party headed by a popular former general emerging as the largest faction in parliament. Surveys detect many undecided voters who could swing the election either way.


Moshe Kahlon recommending Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin in 2015 (Photo: Ohad  Zwigenberg)
Moshe Kahlon recommending Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister to President Reuven Rivlin in 2015 (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)


How do the Israeli elections work?

The 120 Knesset seats are allocated by proportional representation to party lists. In order to win seats in the Knesset, a party must pass a threshold of at least 3.25 percent of the national vote, equivalent to 4 seats.


No single party has ever won an outright majority in the Knesset, making coalition governments the norm. After the election and consultations with party leaders, the president asks the candidate whom he judges has the best chance of forming a coalition to try and put together a government. That is usually the person heading the largest party, but not necessarily.


That candidate has 28 days to form a government, with a possible 14-day extension. If he or she fails then the president tasks a different candidate with the job.


In the 2019 election, about 5.8 million Israelis are eligible to vote, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.


Which parties have the best chance of winning Knesset seats?

Likud, headed by incumbent prime minister Netanyahu:

The biggest right-wing party in Israel is predicted to win about 29 seats. Likud champions tough security policies when it comes to Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Many of its members oppose the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu, in a last-minute election promise, said he would annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank if he wins another term.


In the run-up to the vote, Likud has rallied around Netanyahu, who is facing possible indictment in three corruption cases in which he has denied any wrongdoing.


Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)
Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: AP)


Blue and White, headed by former IDF chief Benny Gantz:

Gantz has emerged as a serious rival to Netanyahu. His party is forecast to win 31 seats.


Benny Gantz (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
Benny Gantz (Photo: Moti Kimchi)


Gantz is a popular former IDF chief and a political newcomer. He has joined forces with two other former military leaders - hawkish former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon and another political novice Gabi Ashkenazi - and center-left former finance minister Yair Lapid to form the new centrist Blue and White party.


Gantz has called for pursuing peace with the Palestinians while maintaining Israeli security interests. He has signalled he would make territorial concessions toward the Palestinians but has also sidestepped the question of Palestinian statehood.


He has vowed clean government, while at the same time giving mixed signals over whether he would join a Netanyahu-led coalition.


Labor, headed by Avi Gabbay:

Opinion polls have shown left-wing Labor, which governed Israel for decades, plummeting to 10 seats in the election from its current 18.


Avi Gabbay (Photo: Avi Mualem)
Avi Gabbay (Photo: Avi Mualem)


Its campaign has stressed social and economic reform, as well as pursuing peace and a two-state solution with the Palestinians.


The New Right, headed by Naftali Bennet and Ayelet Shaked:

Bennett, the outgoing education minister, and Justice Minister Shaked split from the national-religious Jewish Home party to form a new far-right party that would appeal to more secular constituents.


Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennet (Photo: Rami Zarnegar) (Photo: Rami Zarnger)
Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennet (Photo: Rami Zarnegar)


Polls presently show them winning 6 seats. Bennett calls for annexing most of the West Bank, offering autonomy to Palestinians.


Shaked has vowed to "rein in" the Supreme Court, which she has branded as too liberal and interventionist.


The Union of Right-Wing Parties, headed by Rabbi Rafi Peretz:


Predicted to win 7 seats, Israel's national-religious party is the most prominent political representative of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. 


Rabbi Rafi Peretz (Photo: Moti Kimchi)  (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
Rabbi Rafi Peretz (Photo: Moti Kimchi)


It repudiates the idea of a Palestinian state and stresses Israel's biblical and religious connections to land Palestinians seek for a state.


The union includes Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), an ultra-nationalist religious party that includes disciples of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane who advocated the "transfer" of Palestinians to neighboring Arab countries and a ban on intermarriage between Jews and Arabs.


Zehut, headed by Moshe Feiglin:

Predicted to win 7 seats, Israel's national-religious party is the most prominent political representative of Israeli settlers in the West Bank.


Moshe Feiglin (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Moshe Feiglin (Photo: Yaron Brener)


An ultra-nationalist religious party that has surged in the polls in recent weeks and is forecast to take around 6 seats - partly over its support for legalizing marijuana use.


Feiglin has however dialled back his support for this measure in recent days.  


Zehut calls for the voluntary transfer of Palestinians to neighboring Arab states and bills itself as a libertarian force, pushing for a free market economy.


Kulanu, headed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon:

A former Likud member, Kahlon has partly come through on his pledge to halt soaring housing prices, but has fallen short on dramatically reducing the overall cost of living that puts Israel among the most expensive countries in the world.


Moshe Kahlon (Photo: AFP)
Moshe Kahlon (Photo: AFP)


His party casts itself as moderate right-wing and has focused its campaign on socio-economic issues.


Kulanu is expected to win only half of its current 10 seats.


Yisrael Beitenu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman:

The far-right party, which has counted on the support of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, has been teetering on the electoral threshold in recent polls.


Avigdor Lieberman (צילום: אבי מועלם)
Avigdor Lieberman (צילום: אבי מועלם)


Moldovan-born Lieberman is a former defence minister whose policies include trading Arab towns in Israel to any future Palestinian state for territory in the West Bank where Jewish settlements have been built.


He also wants to make loyalty to the state a condition for citizenship.


United Torah Judaism  (UTJ), headed by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman:

UTJ represents ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredim, of European origin and is seen winning about 6-7 seats in the Knesset.


Yaakov Litzman (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Yaakov Litzman (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


Successive coalition governments have had to rely on support from ultra-Orthodox parties, which traditionally put their sectoral demands above larger issues like security and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


UTJ is primarily concerned with safeguarding state benefits for Haredi men who devote themselves to full-time religious study and do not serve in the conscript military or work.


Shas, headed by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri:


Aryeh Deri
Aryeh Deri


Allied with UTJ, SHAS (a Hebrew acronym for Union of Sephardic Torah Observers) has like UTJ been an almost permanent fixture in successive governments and represents Haredi Jews of Middle Eastern origin.


According to opinion polls, it will win 5-6 seats in parliament.


Hadash-Ta'al, Headed by Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi:

Predicted to take 7-8 seats in the Knesset, the socialist Jewish-Arab party draws most of its voters from Israel's 20 percent Arab minority.


Ayman Odeh (L) and Ahmad Tibi
Ayman Odeh (L) and Ahmad Tibi


It advocates an Arab-Jewish alliance to fight discrimination, racism and social inequality in Israel.


Arab parties have never joined governing coalitions in Israel.


Ra'am-Balad, headed by Mansour Abbas:

Predicted to win 4 seats, Raam-Balad's leaders are a mix of Islamist and Arab nationalists.


Mansour Abbas
Mansour Abbas


It describes itself as a democratic movement opposed to Israel's rule over the West Bank.


Meretz, headed by Tamar Zandberg:

Predicted to win 5-6 seats in the Knesset, the left-wing party has not been part of a coalition government in the past two decades.


Tamar Zandberg (Photo: Avi Mualem)
Tamar Zandberg (Photo: Avi Mualem)


Popular with liberal middle-class Israelis, the party advocates a two-state solution with the Palestinians. 


פרסום ראשון: 04.08.19, 13:28
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