Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Gil’s Guide to Israel’s Elections

 

Knesset voting slipsWhat?: Israel elects its 20th Knesset (legislature).

When?: Today, March 17. Irish Israelis can vote drunk. Exit polls will be broadcast at 10 PM Israel time (4 PM EDT).

How? Each voter shows her photo ID — crazy, right? — to members of a three-person panel, who check the name against their lists. If the voter passes, he or she is given an envelope and goes behind a partition where there’s a tray of white slips of paper with each party’s code letters in big writing and name in small writing. This goes back to Israel’s founding, when many new immigrants couldn’t read Hebrew. The voter chooses a slip, puts it in an envelope, and then puts the envelope in the box in front of the observers.

When do we get the results? At 10 PM Israel time (4 PM EDT) tonight (Tuesday, March 17), Israel’s three television networks will broadcast the results of their exit polls.

At 10:01 each party will declare victory. Herzog will state that they did even better than pre-election polls, that they’re the biggest party, and that they’ll form the next government. On two of those three, he’ll be telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu will announce that they had a late surge that pulled Likud to victory, that they narrowed the gap with Labor, and that he will be the next prime minister. He’ll be essentially correct.

It’s a fun night of TV — unless you’re the party lost — with each station having political comedians, pundits, and politicians celebrating, posturing, and analyzing results. It’s probably the only night where more Israelis are watching the Israeli networks than American television shows and movies. The actual results roll in through the night.

A couple of days later, we get the “double envelope” votes: soldiers, diplomats in foreign countries, hospital patients, and a few others who are allowed to vote away from their normal voting stations. This vote — which is not projected in the exit polls — usually shifts a seat from the left to the right. Last year it moved the right and religious bloc’s total from 60 to 61.

How are Knesset seats determined? Parties that don’t cross the “Electoral Threshold” — recently doubled, to 3.25% — have their votes thrown out. The remaining vote total is proportionally allocated among the remaining parties. There’s also a small trick, a bit reminiscent of Richard Pryor’s trick in Superman III, where the allocation is done by rounding down. The remainders are allocated in a weird formula that favors the big parties, and will hurt Yachad, Yesh Atid, and the Joint Arab List, which could not find partners for a vote sharing agreement.

How is the government formed? The negotiations will kick into high gear after the vote. Prime Minister Netanyahu has the big advantage according to current numbers. About a week after the elections, the president will invite delegations from each party to tell him who they support, and whether they’d consider the other guy. The president then decides who to ask to attempt to form the coalition. If that person fails, the president can give somebody else a chance.

The current president was in Netanyahu’s Likud, but there’s a lot of animosity between the two. Leaks from the president’s office indicate that he’d like to push for a “national unity government” where Likud and Labor sit together. Netanyahu indicated that he will resist such pressure. Whoever is appointed by the president must then complete negotiations to form a government of at least 61 members.

What are the issues? Judging by the campaigns, the biggest questions of this election have been:

  1. Is Bibi Netanyahu a stoopidhead?
  2. How much does that matter?

The last two times the left won the election, their campaign was all about “changing the national priorities.” They focused on social and economic issues, and downplayed the differences on peace and war. And they focused on why the Likud was bad and didn’t care about people like them. This time is no different. The right, as always, is trying to focus on security issues and fears that Labor will cause immeasurable, long-term damage on the peace and security front if they gain power. The smaller parties are focused on various niche and tribal issues.

What do the polls show? Below are the final polling averages courtesy of Knesset Jeremy.

Knesset Final Polling Average

Labor will likely be the biggest party, but Likud is likely to have the only viable path to a coalition.

What do these parties want? Here’s a great satiric flowchart:

Bechirot

Until when does this Knesset serve? The Knesset can serve until November (actually, the Hebrew month of Cheshvan) 2019. In theory. The Israeli Knesset always calls early elections. The average is about three years per Knesset.

There are 23 comments.

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  1. Israel P. Inactive

    Well done.

    As someone will surely point out, those voting slips have up-to three letters per party. They used to be one letter ech, but as parties mer ged over the years, the letter codes changed.

    And the person chosen to form the coalition has three weeks and then may ask for another three weeks. During that period, the existing (caretaker) government is at its strongest as it cannot be voted out of office.

    • #1
    • March 16, 2015, at 11:21 AM PDT
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  2. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich

    Thanks for the correction, updated.

    • #2
    • March 16, 2015, at 11:44 AM PDT
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  3. Danny Alexander Member

    Israel P. and Gil Reich —

    Please private message me when you can spare a moment to counsel me re my Aliyah plans. Said plans are on hold pending what happens with the elections and government formation.

    I was aiming to make the actual, physical Aliyah move not too long after the Pesach holiday (i.e., when presumably the Sochnut folks and Misrad HaPnim people would presumably have returned some of their mental focus to doing their jobs).

    However, I’m pretty nervous about what’s happening electorally based on these concerns about a “Prime Minister Bupi” scenario if that comes to pass:

    1) Iran/Hizballah —

    I doubt they (Herzog, Livni) would have the stomach to order a strike even if they had the sense to read the intel correctly, and even if they did order a strike I think they would botch the aftermath, including diplomatically as well as in home-front protection terms;

    2) Economic mismanagement —

    While they (Bupi) might take due care to not screw things up for the high-tech venture industry, they seem to me to be in thrall to the oligarchs and as a consequence will actually end up dramatically driving up everyone’s cost of living further.

    I actually spent the entirety of July 2014 in Israel (chiefly TLV) on a recon trip, doing all sorts of job-networking and sussing out how I might fare in combined career-growth and personal-financial terms. I think my illusions are minimal, meaning I wouldn’t be coming on Aliyah all starry-eyed, and in general (if not yet in specifics) I think I have a pragmatic sense of the pitfalls to watch out for. Basically, in personal economic terms (and yes, career-growth terms too — even at age 47), I think I have what to be cautiously optimistic about in an Aliyah scenario.

    But again, the prospect of a Bupi junta scares me on both the security and economics fronts.

    Your perspective/guidance/advice would be sincerely appreciated. Many thanks in advance for whatever time you can spare and insights you can furnish.

    (Incidentally, beyond the usual vacation trips, I have actually lived in Israel before — albeit this was as a la-dee-da “finding myself” participant in the Arad-based WUJS Institute [OBM] study program during 1995-96.)

    • #3
    • March 17, 2015, at 12:29 AM PDT
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  4. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich

    Hey Danny.

    I’ll reach out privately, but I also wanted to say this publicly:

    First of all, great! I look forward to you coming, and I’d love to meet you in person.

    Second, I’m not a Panglossian. I know good things can come to an end, even Western Civilization, Europe, Israel, and the US. I think the 92 Israeli elections (and 08 and 2012 US elections) were disasters with long-term negative consequences. Maybe these Israeli elections will be the same. OK. So what? Those are reasons to step up, not to step away. If you care about Iran, the Israeli economy, etc,. then come join us in doing all we can to make things better.

    I’ll contact you privately and I look forward to meeting you.

    Thanks

    Gil

    • #4
    • March 17, 2015, at 12:58 AM PDT
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  5. Spin Inactive
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If the voters only vote for the party, how is it decided who each individual member of the Knesset will be?

    • #5
    • March 17, 2015, at 6:53 AM PDT
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  6. Mikescapes Member

    I knew an Irish Jew who ran a popular Irish Saloon in Tel Aviv. So there exists such a creature. I hope the bar is open today.

    • #6
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:13 AM PDT
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  7. Al Sparks Thatcher

    Spin:If the voters only vote for the party, how is it decided who each individual member of the Knesset will be?

    Each party has an ordered list of candidates. So say a party is allocated or wins 5 seats as the result of an election. The first 5 persons on their list becomes members of the Knesset.

    • #7
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:16 AM PDT
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  8. Al Sparks Thatcher

    Israel P.:

    During that period, the existing (caretaker) government is at its strongest as it cannot be voted out of office.

    Maybe. I’m no expert on Israeli politics, but it seems to me that if the Prime Minister of that caretaker government has a good chance of forming the next government and is in coalition negotiations, then he’s going to be very cautious on how he governs his caretaker government.

    • #8
    • March 17, 2015, at 7:19 AM PDT
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  9. Commodore BTC Inactive

    hopefully the podcast will interview Judith Levy this week

    • #9
    • March 17, 2015, at 9:12 AM PDT
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  10. Israel P. Inactive

    My son (18) just came back. they wouldn’t let him vote. Said he already had. His vote is lost and he can go to the police to complain, but I doubt he will and what would they do anyway.

    I wonder if he will ever vote again.

    UPDATE: It’s been sorted out. I stole his vote. Or more precisely, when I voted they crossed off his name insead of mine. But with the intervention of the National Elections Committee Chairman, it was sorted out.

    • #10
    • March 17, 2015, at 10:30 AM PDT
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  11. Spin Inactive
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Al Sparks:

    Spin:If the voters only vote for the party, how is it decided who each individual member of the Knesset will be?

    Each party has an ordered list of candidates. So say a party is allocated or wins 5 seats as the result of an election. The first 5 persons on their list becomes members of the Knesset.

    How do the party members get on the list, and more importantly how do they get to the top?

    • #11
    • March 17, 2015, at 1:46 PM PDT
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  12. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich

    Spin:

    How do the party members get on the list, and more importantly how do they get to the top?

    Some parties hold primaries, some have a central committee decide, and in some the party leader decides unilaterally.

    • #12
    • March 17, 2015, at 2:06 PM PDT
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  13. Podkayne of Israel Member

    So it looks like Netanyahu has won another term, and his putative coalition should be both more right-wing and more stable than the last one. The Ultra-Orthodox are back in the coalition, unfortunately, but as my son-in-law says, “They’re simple and relatively cheap to buy off.”

    By the way, said son-in-law, who was educated in the Ultra-Orthodox sector and did not get a high school diploma, is now finishing off a degree in Political Science and Communications part time, as a father of 2. He predicted that the last government would fall, even when his professors said it wouldn’t, and he just won 700 NIS in the school betting pool for most correctly predicting the outcome of this election.

    • #13
    • March 17, 2015, at 3:03 PM PDT
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  14. Snirtler Member

    Thanks for the neat introduction to Israeli elections.

    • #14
    • March 17, 2015, at 3:28 PM PDT
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  15. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich

    Snirtler:Thanks for the neat introduction to Israeli elections.

    Glad to help. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • #15
    • March 17, 2015, at 3:32 PM PDT
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  16. Snirtler Member

    Gil Reich:

    Glad to help. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    How weighty is President Rivlin’s influence in the formation of the government? Does his preference for a national unity government, consisting of Likud and the Zionist Union, have any substantive impact at all?

    Update:

    I guess my question’s purely academic, given these reports:

    • Wed 12:56 am President Reuven Rivlin’s office has denied reports that the president has said he favors a unity government after today’s election. “All we have said is that we favor the formation of a government as quickly as possible,” a President’s Residence official says.
    • Wed 12:31 am Officials close to President Reuven Rivlin told Channel 1 late Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next coalition if Kulanu head Moshe Kahlon offers his endorsement of the incumbent.
    • #16
    • March 17, 2015, at 3:37 PM PDT
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  17. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich

    Snirtler:

    Gil Reich:

    Glad to help. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    How weighty is President Rivlin’s influence in the formation of the government? Does his preference for a national unity government, consisting of Likud and the Zionist Union, have any substantive impact at all?

    Update:

    I guess my question’s purely academic, given these reports:

    • Wed 12:56 am President Reuven Rivlin’s office has denied reports that the president has said he favors a unity government after today’s election.

      “All we have said is that we favor the formation of a government as quickly as possible,” a President’s Residence official says

    • Wed 12:31 am

    The law calls for the president to call the person he thinks has the best chance to form a government. The president can exercise some discretion, and when Herzog’s father was president he helped negotiate a national unity government. But that’s what the parties themselves wanted. It would be scandalous for the president to dramatically overplay his discretion, and not give Netanyahu the first chance to form the government. And as you mention, he’s agreed that he’ll call Netanyahu if Kulanu recommends him.

    • #17
    • March 17, 2015, at 9:45 PM PDT
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  18. Snirtler Member

    Gil Reich:

    The law calls for the president to call the person he thinks has the best chance to form a government. The president can exercise some discretion, and when Herzog’s father was president he helped negotiate a national unity government. But that’s what the parties themselves wanted. It would be scandalous for the president to dramatically overplay his discretion, and not give Netanyahu the first chance to form the government. And as you mention, he’s agreed that he’ll call Netanyahu if Kulanu recommends him.

    Thank you for the reply.

    On a different note, how far-fetched is the idea of a center-left coalition? I’m going on newspaper descriptions of Kulanu as a centrist party. What if ZU, Kulanu, the Arab List, Yesh Atid, and Meretz were to come together?

    • #18
    • March 17, 2015, at 10:03 PM PDT
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  19. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich

    Zero possibility. The Joint Arab List includes many who call themselves Palestinians and commemorate Israel Independence Day as the Day of Destruction. Last week their spokesman said that ISIS learned its practices from the rapes and massacres and other war crimes of the Zionists (they later partially walked this back). Zero chance that Kulanu (or Yesh Atid, or probably even Zionist Union) sits with them. They also insist they won’t sit with the Zionists. They couldn’t even form a vote-sharing agreement with Meretz, the left-most “Zionist” party.

    • #19
    • March 17, 2015, at 10:14 PM PDT
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  20. Snirtler Member

    Gil Reich:Zero possibility …

    Thanks for all the explanations.

    • #20
    • March 17, 2015, at 10:36 PM PDT
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  21. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gil, last night, as we were about to head out to celebrate my second son’s 16th birthday I began whooping and cheering and jumping up and down. The cause was iWc’s headline. In the car on the way to the restaurant, Papa Toad and tadpoles had many questions regarding details, and I had few answers.

    This post is a fabulous primer. Thank you so much for your extremely helpful and informative efforts.

    Peace!

    • #21
    • March 18, 2015, at 3:34 AM PDT
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  22. Gil Reich Inactive
    Gil Reich

    Mama Toad:Gil, last night, as we were about to head out to celebrate my second son’s 16th birthday I began whooping and cheering and jumping up and down. The cause was iWc’s headline. In the car on the way to the restaurant, Papa Toad and tadpoles had many questions regarding details, and I had few answers.

    This post is a fabulous primer. Thank you so much for your extremely helpful and informative efforts.

    Peace!

    Thank you!

    • #22
    • March 18, 2015, at 3:44 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. Podkayne of Israel Member

    I’ve given up on Judith Levy, she should live and be well. They should interview Pickholz, Gil, and me.

    • #23
    • March 18, 2015, at 4:09 AM PDT
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