By: Sam Weinberg  | 

Unpack With YUPAC: Breaking Down the Israeli Election Results

Israel is looking to move forward from a recent period of political instability following its fifth election in three years, whose results led to a major victory for the right wing. As final ballots were tallied, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party had  32 seats in the 120-seat Israeli parliament, the Knesset. His coalition stands to have 65 or more seats, well more than enough to certify a governing majority and the ability to pass policies that reflect the right-wing viewpoint.

Behind Netanyahu, affectionately known as Bibi, is the current prime minister Yair Lapid and the centrist Yesh Atid Party, coming in with twenty-four seats. Lapid conceded quickly and instructed his staff to begin the procession of power. Following Lapid came the rising Religious Zionist Party at 14 seats, led by former Yamina Knesset members Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Ben-Gvir is a former follower of the Kach party, which was led by the highly controversial Meir Kahane before it became barred from running in the late-1980s. He is viewed as a rising star on the most right-wing ends of the Israeli political spectrum and is involved in deeply polarizing narratives. As the results came in and the Lapid government came to an end, Ben-Gvir tweeted, “It’s time to put order here. It’s time for a landlord.” He has expressed a strong desire to take over the Public Security Ministry, which is in charge of the police. The Religious Zionist Party gained eight seats, the largest gain by any party.

Bibi, the longest-serving prime minister in the nation’s history, was ousted just last year following Lapid and Naftali Bennet’s, former leader of Yamina, formation of a rotation government. The ousting came following various legal troubles and continuing political instability. Yet it became evident that a government focused purely on the removal of Bibi was unstable and doomed to collapse. Following the formation of what was the most diverse government in Israeli history, with newfound representation for Arab parties, ideological inconsistencies led to stagnancies and eventually unstable leadership. Bibi now retakes office still facing legal challenges, including corruption and fraud charges. He remains the most dominant figure in modern Israeli politics who gains equal measures of praise and critique for his tough-line stance on Palestinians and strong grasp on leadership.

Other parties in the new government include the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, combining for eighteen seats and making for a sizable portion of the new coalition. Some of their demands as a part of the new government are the cancellation of recent reforms to the system of certification of kosher food and reversing recent changes in the nation’s approach to conversions. They will also pursue legal protections for the Charedi population, including assurance that students in the yeshivas won’t need to draft as well as increased  funding for their schools. 

While the United States maintained its status as Israel’s greatest ally during the Obama years, it was no secret there was tension between the American president and Bibi. Whether it be pursuing more contact with Palestinian leadership or the deeply impactful Iran deal, Obama and Bibi were evidently not the closest of friends. Bibi's relationship with President Donald Trump was much warmer, especially following Trump’s decision to officially proclaim Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The relationship between the two men was brought even closer following numerous instances of Trump standing up for Israel on the international stage in the United Nations and American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. It remains to be seen what the relationship between Bibi and Biden will look like, although overall both countries are hoping to continue a longstanding and fruitful relationship.
Assuming this coalition remains stable and there are no unforeseen governmental collapses, the next election will likely be in November of 2025, four years after this year’s election. The new Knesset was sworn in on November 15.

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Photo Caption: With the results of the most recent Israeli election, Bibi Netanyahu has reclaimed the office of Prime Minister

Photo Credit: STERN/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/Roman Kubanskiy