Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the successful formation of Israel’s 33rd government in the 19th Knesset. The following table shows the results of the elections, with a comparison to the results of the previous elections in 2009:
Jerusalem, Feb. 20 – Former IDF chief and Kadima Party leader Shaul Mofaz presented his own three-stage peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, calling Wednesday for a regional peace conference to help bring both parties back to the negotiating table.
“I believe that this year will be a very critical one,” said Mofaz told a foreign press briefing organized by The Israel Project. “The first goal of the state of Israel is to push forward the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“After the visit of President Obama we should call for a regional (peace) conference under the umbrella of the Quartet and the U.S. in order to have a restart of the negotiations between the two sides,” Mofaz said. “The conference should include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries willing to participate.”
Mofaz proposes the conference set the goals for an interim agreement that will set up a Palestinian state with provisional borders as negotiations continue for a permanent peace treaty. The most sensitive issues of Jerusalem and refugees will be left to the final third stage of a negotiated permanent settlement.
President Barak Obama is expected to visit Israel next month, and Mofaz said he met with the American leader last June in Washington, where Obama appeared to agree with his concept that negotiations should start on borders and security arrangements – two areas where Mofaz says Israel and the Palestinians are already close to agreement.
The plan is “a pragmatic way to implementing the two-state solution, or the vision of two states,” the Iranian-born Mofaz said.
His centrist Kadima Party lost considerable footing during the January elections, falling from being the largest block in the 120-seat Knesset with 29 seats under former party leader Tzipi Livni to being the smallest faction with only 2 seats.
Livni, who formed her own Movement Party that captured six seats, became the first politician to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is forming a coalition government. She is reportedly being tasked to head future peace talks. Having led the peace negotiations four years ago, Livni already has a positive relationship with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and senior officials of the Palestinian Authority.
Jerusalem, Feb. 3 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is officially starting coalition negotiations Sunday, having been tasked by President Shimon Peres with forming a new government after his Likud-Beiteinu party emerged as the biggest winner in last month’s national election.
Accepting the task at a ceremony Saturday evening at Peres’ official residence, Netanyahu called in a televised speech for a national unity government that would include as many parties as possible in his next government, saying that peace is a central goal for Israel.
“The next government I form, Mr. President, will be committed to peace. I call from here to [Palestinian President] Abu Mazen to return to the negotiating table. Woe to each day that passes without us talking and seeking together a solution of peace for our two nations.”
The peace process is anticipated to be a major focus of international efforts with an expected visit to Israel later this month by new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Netanyahu also met last week with former UK prime minister Tony Blair, the international peace Quartet’s special envoy. At the same time UK Minister for Europe David Lidington said in a statement that his country “will emphasize the importance of a major effort on the peace process, and call for the EU to offer strong support for a U.S.-led push for progress in the coming months.”
Coalition Negotiations – What’s Next
Under Israel’s proportional representation electoral system the president customarily tasks the leader of the party with the largest number of seats to form a government in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Historically, no party in Israel has ever won 61 seats and coalition governments are the norm.
As expected after holding talks last week with all 12 parties that won seats Peres called on Netanyahu, whose Likud-Beiteinu party captured 31 seats with 23.3% of the popular vote.
Netanyahu now has up to 42 days to find coalition partners among the other 11 parties. His largest most probable partner is the new centrist Yesh Atid party that captured 19 seats. Netanyahu is expected to try and persuade as many parties as possible to join his government to make it stable for the long term.
Coalition negotiations for the next weeks will center on which parties get cabinet portfolios, and the types of legislation the parties will want enacted as a price for supporting the government.
Read the full article at cnn.com
By Josh Block, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Josh Block is CEO & president of the Israel Project, a 501c3 nonpartisan organization based in Washington D.C. A former Clinton administration official at USAID, Block was also a member of the senior staff at AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby. You can follow him @JoshBlockDC. The views expressed are his own.
The months leading up to yesterday’s Israeli election were filled with confident forecasting. Israeli voters, analysts told us, were turning rightward and even losing confidence in the Jewish state's democratic institutions. Voter turnout would slouch toward all-time lows, and remaining voters would empower a government that was, depending on a pundit’s particular verve, “hardline,” “extremist,” “ultra-nationalist,” – or even worse.
Israeli voters, however, had other ideas. And now many of those pundits are expressing surprise at the turnout and composition of Israel’s 19th Knesset.
By the time polls closed last night, two-thirds of Israeli voters had cast their ballots, exceeding the last election's turnout after inching toward levels not seen in over a decade and a half. The Israeli public – caricatured on the eve of the election by one far-left voice as "sleepy, complacent and apathetic" – turned out to be far more engaged than many had imagined. Admirers of Israel’s boisterous democratic culture had every reason to feel buoyed.
And if Israeli voters spoke loudly, they also spoke clearly.
The night’s big winner was the centrist Yesh Atid party, which garnered 19 seats, far outrunning election-eve polls to become Israel's second-largest party. Founded and led by Israeli TV personality Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid offers a post-ideological pragmatism. The party couples an emphasis on tough national security with an explicit endorsement of a two-state solution, and promotes free market policies while insisting on the need to bolster the middle class. Meanwhile, Yesh Atid’s avowedly secularist agenda, its core brand, is expressed in terms of the need to integrate Israel’s ultra-orthodox and Arab minorities into the state's civil and military institutions.
Lapid himself is a secular icon in Israel. Though yesterday marked his first election night as a candidate, he is no stranger to politics. His father, Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, headed Israel's top secular liberal party, Shinui (Change), for seven years at the beginning of the last decade. While Yesh Atid is not strictly modeled on Shinui, it is in many ways its modern reincarnation.
Lapid and his party seem to reflect the current mood of the Israeli electorate: skeptical of Palestinian intentions but willing to take risks for peace, averse to old-style Israeli socialism but opposed to shredding Israel's social safety net, and socially liberal while respectful of religious expression.
As expected, the Likud-Beitenu list of incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to anchor a ruling coalition majority in Israel's 120-seat Knesset, landing 31 seats. It should surprise no one that Netanyahu's first coalition-building phone call after polls closed was to Lapid. Netanyahu has shown a strong predictive preference for broad centrist coalitions to those including religious parties and those to his right. He has repeatedly endeavored to forge coalition governments with Israel’s center-left parties, as with Labor and Kadima after the last election.
Netanyahu – like Ariel Sharon before him, who in his second political incarnation proved a pragmatist rather than an ideologue – is today the leading centrist among his Likud colleagues. And he appears already hard at work on building a center-right coalition – much like Sharon and Lapid the Father teamed up to do ten years ago. Given the little distance between the two on key issues – both are free-market-oriented, both are committed to a two-state solution including an undivided Jerusalem – it is highly likely that they will sit together in Israel's next government.
Last night's third-place party, and the one likely to lead Israel's Opposition in the next Knesset, is Shelly Yachimovich's Labor party. On foreign policy, Labor hews to the country’s consensus, sharing widely held skepticism of Palestinian intentions, while remaining committed to a negotiated solution. Domestically, Yachimovich has oriented the party to the left, moving to slow and even reverse Israel's economic liberalization. The party is projected to receive 15 seats in the incoming Knesset.
While doomsday predictions of Israel’s illiberalism, endless caricatures of a country being transformed by some emerging ultra-orthodox monopoly, and threats of a radical shift to the right may have been en vogue for pundits (and useful for those whose political agendas are served by such misleading portrayals) they stand in stark contrast to reality – and to the real State of Israel. Although it may confound Israel’s critics, the distribution of votes makes it overwhelmingly likely that, once again, both Israel’s next government and its opposition will be led by parties that back the two-state solution.
Israelis woke up on Wednesday to a new political configuration, but a largely unchanged political reality. The country’s center-right and center-left blocs, within which different parties compete for and cannibalize each other's votes, have been roughly stable for over a decade.
Last night, a centrist country, rooted in liberal, Western values identical to our own, gave its vote to parties clustered around the political center. Those who predicted a different outcome will now have to ask themselves which of their assumptions, or their agendas, led them so far astray.
Party supporters celebrate the unprecedented success of the centrist Yesh Atid party, which looks set to become Israel's second most powerful party in the next Knesset.
The New York Times: Marcus Sheff, Executive Director of TIP Israel describes landscape in Israeli Elections
A weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged Wednesday from Israel’s national election likely to serve a third term, after voters on Tuesday gave a surprising second place to a new centrist party founded by a television celebrity who emphasized kitchen-table issues like class size and apartment prices.
For Mr. Netanyahu, who entered the race an overwhelming favorite with no obvious challenger, the outcome was a humbling rebuke as his ticket lost seats in the new Parliament. Over all, his conservative team came in first, but it was the center, led by the political novice Yair Lapid, 49, that emerged newly invigorated, suggesting that at the very least Israel’s rightward tilt may be stalled.
Mr. Lapid, a telegenic celebrity whose father made a splash with his own short-lived centrist party a decade ago, ran a campaign that resonated with the middle class. His signature issue is a call to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into the army and the work force.
Perhaps as important, he also avoided antagonizing the right, having not emphasized traditional issues of the left, like the peace process. Like a large majority of the Israeli public, he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is skeptical of the Palestinian leadership’s willingness to negotiate seriously; he has called for a return to peace talks but has not made it a priority.
Sensing his message of strength was not penetrating, Mr. Netanyahu posted a panicky message on Facebook before the polls closed, saying, “The Likud government is in danger, go vote for us for the sake of the country’s future.” Tuesday ended with Mr. Netanyahu reaching out again — this time to Mr. Lapid, Israel’s newest kingmaker, offering to work with him as part of the “broadest coalition possible.”
Israel’s political hierarchy is only partly determined during an election. The next stage, when factions try to build a majority coalition, decides who will govern, how they will govern and for how long. While Mr. Lapid has signaled a willingness to work with Mr. Netanyahu, the ultimate coalition may bring together parties with such different ideologies and agendas that the result is paralysis.
Still, for the center, it was a time of celebration.
“The citizens of Israel today said no to politics of fear and hatred,” Mr. Lapid told an upscale crowd of supporters who had welcomed him with drums, dancing and popping Champagne corks. “They said no to the possibility that we might splinter off into sectors, and groups and tribes and narrow interest groups. They said no to extremists, and they said no to antidemocratic behavior.”
With 99 percent of the ballots counted by Wednesday morning, the traditional blocs were evenly divided, with 60 Parliament seats for right-wing and religious parties, and 60 for center, left and Arab-dominated factions.
Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu ticket had 31 seats, followed by 19 for Mr. Lapid’s Yesh Atid and 15 for Labor. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party and the Jewish Home, which is dominated by religious-Zionists and advocates annexing the West Bank, each garnered 11 seats. Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua and the left-wing, pro-peace Meretz each got six, while the three Arab parties totaled 12. Kadima which won the most parliament seats – 28 – in the last election, had 2, having collapsed after briefly joining the Netanyahu coalition last year but failing to fulfill its promises. Votes of soldiers and a few other groups had yet to be counted and could change the balance.
The prime minister called Mr. Lapid shortly after the polls closed at 10 p.m. Tuesday and, according to Israeli television reports, told him that they had great things to do together for the country. In his speech to a rowdy crowd of supporters here Wednesday morning, he said, “I see many partners.”
Mr. Lapid indicated he was open to working with Mr. Netanyahu, saying the only way to face Israel’s challenges was “together.” But he added: “What is good for Israel is not in the possession of the right, and nor is it in the possession of the left. It lies in the possibility of creating here a real and decent center.”
The results were a blow to the prime minister, whose aggressive push to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has led to international condemnation and strained relations with Washington. The support for Mr. Lapid and Labor showed voters responded strongly to an emphasis on domestic, socioeconomic issues that brought 500,000 people to the streets of Tel Aviv in the summer of 2011.
“Israelis are asking for a moderate coalition,” said Marcus Sheff, executive director of The Israel Project, an advocacy group that conducts research on public opinion. “Israel’s middle class wasn’t asleep as people assumed. The embers of the social protest are still strong.”
Erel Margalit, a venture capitalist and first-time candidate who was elected to Parliament on Labor’s list, described the high turnout as a “protest vote” and “a clear demonstration of how many Israelis feel like something needs to be done and something needs to change.”
“It was not a fringe phenomenon; it was a mainstream phenomenon,” he said of the 2011 movement.
After the center-left failed to field a credible alternative to Mr. Netanyahu and much attention focused on the hawkish Jewish Home, which wants Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank, the results shocked many analysts and even candidates. Turnout was nearly 67 percent, higher than the 65 percent in 2009 and the 63 percent in 2003.
Meretz, the left-wing pro-peace party, was set to double its three Parliament seats, with six. It remained unclear whether Kadima, the centrist party that won the most seats in 2009 — 28 — had enough votes to send anyone to Parliament. The party collapsed last year after briefly entering Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition only to fail in its promise to end draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.
Mr. Netanyahu, 63, is already Israel’s second-longest serving prime minister, after the state’s founding leader, David Ben-Gurion, having served from 1996 to 1999 and then again since 2009.
Analysts said he had virtually ensured his victory as the campaign had begun by uniting his party with the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, whose leader, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned as foreign minister last month after being indicted on a charge of fraud. But it was mostly downhill from there: the joint list fell far short of the 42 seats the two parties now hold in Parliament. Experts cited both supporters’ confidence in Mr. Netanyahu’s returning to the premiership — leaving them feeling freer to cast ballots elsewhere — and tactical errors.
“While in the past he was given poor cards and played them well, this time he had the best cards and played them badly,” Ari Shavit, a columnist for the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz, said Tuesday night on Israel’s Channel One. “This was a lesson in how not to run a campaign.”
Now, Mr. Netanyahu is left to form a government among factions with competing interests: Mr. Lapid’s vision challenges the ultra-Orthodox parties that have long been part of Mr. Netanyahu’s team, and Jewish Home’s platform contradicts that of Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister who based her campaign on returning to negotiations with the Palestinians.
Several commentators saw Tuesday’s vote as an “interim” election, predicting that the new coalition, whatever its makeup, would not be able to withstand the pressing challenges ahead, including a $10 billion budget deficit and the question of whether to launch a military strike against the Iranian nuclear program.
“This is a government that will not be able to make decisions on anything — on the peace process, on equal sharing of the burden or on budgetary matters,” Emmanuel Rosen, a prominent television analyst, said early Wednesday on Channel 10. “The next elections are already on the horizon.”
Reporting was contributed by Isabel Kershner and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem, Irit Pazner Garshowitz from Tel Aviv, and Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel.
Tel Aviv, January 22 – Israeli voters flocked to the polls in near-record numbers on Tuesday to elect the country’s 19th Knesset, registering turnout levels not seen since the country’s hotly contested 1999 election. By 6 p.m., 3.1 million Israelis, or 55.5 percent of the electorate, had cast their ballot.
The voting comes after weeks of pundit predictions, both in Israel and abroad, predicting an apathetic Israeli electorate.
Should the numbers hold up, analysts will likely have to reexamine critical assumptions about the ideology and enthusiasm of Israeli voters. Youth voting has in particular stymied efforts to predict turnout and voting. Israeli media outlets prominently featured first-time voters saying that they had opted to vote for newer parties as alternatives to Israel’s traditional center-right and center-left parties, the Likud and Labor parties respectively.
Israeli analysts have largely assumed that a larger turnout favors Israel’s center-left bloc against the center-right bloc that is largely expected to emerge with a majority. Huge majorities of Israelis have consistently favored compromises with the Palestinians in the pursuit of a two-state solution, and Israeli parties with platforms deemphasizing a peace deal would be advantaged by lower-turnout, niche-voter electoral scenarios.
There are 32 party lists competing in the election, with larger parties focusing on broad political and social issues and various smaller parties proposing specific changes to the electoral system, greater separation of religion and state, and the legalization of cannabis.
Jerusalem, Jan. 22 – As Israelis cast their ballots in national elections today, here is a brief summary of what happens election day and some facts and figures.
Israel Election Day Factsheet
Election Day Schedule:
Jan 22 07:00 – Polls open
22:00 – Polls close
22:00 – All three television stations (1, 2, 10) announce results of their exit polls
22:00 – Manual counting of ballots begins
23:00 (approximate) – Initial results from first few polling stations are announced as polling stations report their vote counts to the Central Elections Committee (CEC) in Jerusalem. Counting continues all night long.
Jan 23 01:00 (approximate) – Sufficient results should be announced that may indicate how accurate exit polls are.
03:00 (approximate) – more than 60% of polls reporting, clearer picture of coalition options.
Unfortunately there is no way of knowing the specific time when the CEC will reach 99% of polls so that anybody can definitively say “here are the final results.” The official results are published by the CEC 8 days after the election.
How voting works:
· Voters are automatically registered to vote at a polling station nearest their registered place of residence.
· Voters arrives at their polling station with valid photo ID. The list of voters is posted outside each polling station.
· Three scrutineers from different parties check the voters’ ID against the list of eligible voters.
· The voter is given an empty envelope and their name is crossed off the list by all three scrutineers.
· The voter goes behind a partition where nobody else can see them.
· Behind the partition is a box holding small paper ballots with the Hebrew letter symbols of the party and the party name spelled out. The ballots are approximately 5 cm by 10 cm.
· The voter chooses the ballot paper with the symbol of the party they want and places it in an envelope.
· The voter then walks out from behind the partition and places the envelope in the ballot box.
· When polls close at 10pm, the doors are locked, the seal broken on each ballot box, and votes are counted in the presence of the scrutineers and election officials from the CEC.
Facts and Figures:
Election Day is a national holiday. All schools and non-essential businesses are closed.
Population of Israel as of December, 2012 = 7.981 million
6.015 million Jewish (75.4% of the population)
1.648 million Arabs (20.6%)
0.319 million others (4.0%)
Number of eligible voters = 5,656,705
Number of polling stations = 10,133
Number of polling stations for people with disabilities = 1,555
Number of polling stations in hospitals = 195
Number of polling stations at diplomatic representations abroad = 96
Number of polling stations in prisons and detention centers = 57
It is generally assumed given previous experience that sometime between 3am and 7am the CEC will have 99% of the polls and will release those results. There is no assigned time other than the release of the official results eight days later.
Opinion polls indicate Netanyahu’s list is expected to win the most seats. This means President Peres will likely ask Netanyahu to form a government. The election results will dictate how the coalition negotiations will likely commence, and which parties Netanyahu will negotiate with first in order to put together a 61+ seat majority in the 120-member Knesset, Israel’s parliament. However, the negotiations could take weeks.
Tel Aviv, January 22 – Israel's three major news television stations tonight released exit poll results projecting that the country's 19th Knesset will be dominated by parties clustering around the Israeli political center. The announcements come after months during which analysts predicted Israelis were preparing to vote into power the most right-wing government in the country's history.
In contrast, it appears that both the next Israeli government and the Israeli opposition will be led by parties committed to securing a two-state resolution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As polls had predicted since the campaign began three months ago, the final vote was closely divided between a center-right bloc anchored by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-Beitenu party and a fractured Israeli center-left. The Likud-Beitenu list is expected to receive just over 30 seats, and Netanyahu will almost certainly be asked by Israel's President Shimon Peres to form the next coalition government. Electoral calculations indicate that he will be able to form a slim majority in Israel's 120-seat Knesset.
The surprise of the evening was the strength of Israel's centrist Yesh Atid party, founded and led by TV personality Yair Lapid. If exit polling holds, the party will have received enough votes to secure its place as Israel's second-largest party. Yesh Atid ran on a platform of secularism, governmental reform, and free market-oriented economic policies. Demographically, it draws from Israel's moderate middle class.
There is minimal distance between Likud-Beitenu and Yesh Atid on critical issues. Both parties share a foreign policy emphasizing the need for a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tempered with skepticism regarding Palestinian willingness to make and abide by negotiated agreements. Domestically, both parties are committed to pursuing liberal economic policies.
The next Israeli opposition will likely almost certainly be led by the center-left Labor party, which seems set to take its place as Israel's third most powerful party. Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich has taken her party to the left economically, but Labor shares with Likud-Beitenu and Yesh Atid -- and with huge swaths of the Israeli public -- both a commitment to a two-state solution and a skepticism regarding Palestinian policies.
The broad contours of Israel’s January 22 election were in line with months of polling predictions, even as the specifics of the race were shaken by the surprising late surge of the centrist party Yesh Atid. As polls projected, the voting was divided roughly evenly between a center-right bloc anchored by a dominant Likud-Beitenu slate and a fractured center-left. Incumbent Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly be asked to form Israel’s next coalition government, and the third place Labor party is likely to lead the opposition.
The surprise of the evening was the success of the new, centrist Yesh Atid party, which found itself with enough votes to become Israel’s second-largest party. Only recently created by former journalist Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid’s success has triggered a wave of interest in the group and its positions.
Founded and led by Israeli TV personality Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid embodies a kind of post-ideological pragmatism. It couples an emphasis on tough national security with an explicit endorsement of a two-state solution. It promotes free market policies while insisting on the need to bolster the middle class. And though it is avowedly secular, the Yesh Atid agenda is expressed in terms of the need to integrate Israel’s ultra-orthodox and Arab minorities into the state's civil and military institutions.
The Israel Project has compiled a series of multimedia resources documenting Yesh Atid’s platform and the party’s rise. Two videos from a recent TIP election debate, held days before voting commenced, show top Yesh Atid foreign policy official Yaakov Peri outlining the party’s foreign policy agenda in general and specifically regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Below the videos is a gallery showing the scene at the Yesh Atid party on the night of the elections, as news of the party’s electoral successes began to trickle in.
PHOTO GALLERY (Click here for more photos):