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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Israel’s Election Continues Tradition of Democracy

On September 17, Israelis returned to the polls to vote for Israel’s new parliament, the Knesset. Roughly 70 percent of Israelis voted in these unprecedented elections which were triggered by the Knesset’s dissolution vote in May after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a new government.

The strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship is rooted in both countries’ shared values and common interests. Regardless of the composition of the new government, which has yet to be determined, the U.S.-Israel relationship must remain strong and continue to transcend partisan politics, for the benefit of both nations.

How do elections in Israel work?

  • Israelis—ages 18 and older, regardless of race or religion—elect their parliament, the Knesset, for a four-year term. However, Israeli governments generally go to early elections for political reasons, prior to their full four years.

  • Israelis cast their votes for a political party, rather than individual candidates. Each party that receives more than 3.25% of the vote gains seats in the 120-member Knesset based on the proportion of votes it gains from the national electorate.

  • Each party submits a ranked list of prospective candidates for voters to choose from. If a party wins 10 seats in the election, the top 10 candidates on the party list will become Members of Knesset (MKs).

What happens after the elections?

  • A new government must be approved by a majority of the Knesset.

  • In order to achieve a majority vote, a coalition of political parties must be formed since no single party has ever had enough seats to rule on its own.

  • The Israeli president will consult with party leaders to determine which individual has the best chance of forming a coalition.

  • Ordinarily, the president chooses the MK whose party won the most seats, but this is not always the case.

  • The chosen individual has up to four weeks to assemble a majority coalition of at least 61 MKs. If he or she fails, the president can turn to another MK or allot two more weeks to the original MK. If a government cannot be formed, a new election can be called.

Israel is a vibrant and pluralistic democracy.

  • Israel’s commitment to democracy is unique in the region and the world, demonstrating the robust nature of its governing institutions.

  • Only 22 other nations have similarly conducted uninterrupted free and fair elections since 1949.

  • Israel’s national elections reflect the diversity of its society, with active participation by minorities like Israeli Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Israel’s political spectrum ranges from the hard-left to the hard-right, with most of the population concentrated around parties from the center-left to the center-right.

  • Israel is an island of stability and democracy in a sea of chaos and authoritarianism.

The U.S.-Israel alliance transcends the political parties that hold power in either country.

  • The U.S.-Israel relationship transcends politics and is based on a long-standing friendship and strategic partnership between Americans and Israelis, who face common threats and share a common bond.

  • The strong alliance between the U.S. and Israel will continue to thrive regardless of which government is in place in Israel.

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

Type: Near East Report Near-East-Report NERSummer2019