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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Israel Returns to Elections

Next week, on Sept. 17, Israeli voters will return to the polls across the country to decide the newest members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. These unprecedented follow-up elections, the first in the country’s history, were triggered by the Knesset’s dissolution vote in May after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a new government. Following the elections, the President of Israel will choose a member of Knesset to form the next coalition.

How elections in Israel work:

  • Israelis cast their votes for an electoral list, determined by parties in advance, with each party receiving seats in the 120-member Knesset based on the proportion of total votes. Several Israeli parties determine their lists following primary elections; other parties form their lists through internal consultation. If a party wins 10 seats in the election, the top 10 candidates on the party list will become members of Knesset (MKs).

  • Following the election, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will determine which MK has the best chance of forming a 61-seat coalition, since no single party will be able to rule alone.

  • Ordinarily, the president chooses the MK whose party won the most seats. That person has several weeks to assemble a majority coalition and win a vote of confidence. If they fail, the president can turn to another MK.

This is the first time Israel has held a second election

  • Prime Minister Netanyahu was unable to secure the 61-seat majority needed to form a new government. This deadlock lead to the Knesset’s decision to dissolve itself, in place of another MK being given a chance to form the coalition.

  • This is the third time in Israel’s history that a MK entrusted with forming a government has failed to do so. In 1990, Shimon Peres was unable to form a government, but new elections were avoided when Yitzhak Shamir was able to do so. In 2008, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned, Tzipi Livni was unable to form a government leading to new elections.

The U.S.-Israel alliance transcends politics and will remain strong.

  • Israel’s vibrant and pluralistic democracy will once again be on full display as Israelis return to the polls this fall to elect a representative government.

  • As the Middle East continues undergo dramatic changes, Israel remains a stable democracy, an ally upon which America can consistently depend.

  • The U.S.-Israel relationship transcends politics and is based on a long-standing friendship and partnership between Americans and Israelis. Regardless of the composition of a new government, the U.S.-Israel relationship must remain strong and bipartisan, for the benefit of both nations.

Type: AIPAC Memo