Israeli voters will head to the polls in three-and-a-half months to elect a new government. Here’s what that means, and where the elections may go.
After weeks of feverish speculation, the Israeli governing coalition voted unanimously on Monday to disband the Knesset and call early elections in April 2019.
Prime Minister Netanyahu had kept the country on its toes since November when some Israeli news outlets irresponsibly reported that Israel was headed for elections following the resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Instead Netanyahu wriggled out of a tight spot and convinced his remaining coalition partners to stay for a spell. But with just 61 seats out of 120, the slim government was precarious from the start and the announcement was hardly a surprise.
How should we understand what these elections mean, what will they be about, and what might they bring?
One thing should be clear: these elections should not be considered “early.” It is true that they will be held before the regularly scheduled date, which would have been in November 2019. But any meaningful consequence of the date is overshadowed by the fact that by April, four full years will have passed since the previous elections in March 2015. This reasonable length is rare in a country best known for squabbling, short-lived governments; Netanyahu will invariably be credited with stability, not blamed for elections half a year early.
Further, 3.5 months might be meaningful if poll numbers and electoral trends were volatile – if so, early elections might reflect the best possible speculation, like buying the right stock at the right time. Not so – in Israel, broad electoral trends have been remarkably stable over the last decade. Likud, Netanyahu’s ruling party, has won the last two elections (2013 and 2015) and the right-leaning breakdown for ideological blocs – right-wing, center, and left-wing parties – meant that only Likud was able to form the coalition in 2009, even though the party came in second place by one Knesset seat.
Since the last elections, public opinion surveys have shown Likud winning relentlessly over all runner up parties, with a lone exception or two well over a year back – outlier polls that showed...Read More