Isaac Herzog, the leader of Israel’s center-left Labor Party, and Tzipi Livni, the recently dismissed justice minister and the leader of a small centrist faction, announced on Wednesday that they would run on a joint slate in elections next March in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the conservative Likud Party from winning a fourth term. The move injected an intriguing twist to the start of the election campaign. It also added an element of uncertainty for Mr. Netanyahu eight days after he fired Ms. Livni and his centrist finance minister, Yair Lapid, saying their public criticism of his policies made it impossible to govern the country and calling early elections less than two years after the last ballot. Mr. Herzog and Ms. Livni said that if they won enough votes to form the next government, they would take turns in the role of prime minister, with Mr. Herzog serving for the first two years and Ms. Livni for the second two, in an Israeli political compromise known as rotation. That deal seemed lopsided since the Labor Party, now with 15 seats in the 120-seat Parliament, is likely to win more than Ms. Livni’s Hatnua party, which currently has six.
Israelis delivered the narrowest of election victories to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, but did not endorse what most analysts had predicted would be a lurch to right, instead giving their backing to a broader, centrist coalition. With almost all the votes now counted, Israel’s two political blocs – the left and the right – were level on 60 seats in the 120-member Knesset, the closest Israeli election result in history. Bibi, as Mr Netanyahu is universally known in Israel, secured 31 seats, a huge disappointment for his Likud party, and its formal coalition partner Yisrael Beiteinu, which lost a quarter of the 42 seats they held in the last Knesset.
The debate moderator asked the candidates what their parties would do to prevent a third intifada, an increasingly common concern in the Israeli election campaign. In his answer, Jeremy Gimpel drew from his upbringing – in Atlanta, Ga. “I’m from America,” Gimpel said in English. “We don’t talk to terrorists. In America, we eliminate terrorists.” Soon after Gimpel had finished, New Jersey native Alon Tal shot back. “There are graves in the Wild West that say, ‘Here lies John Smith, who exercised all his rights,’” Tal said, also in English. “Do we want to find a pragmatic solution or do we want to be self-righteous?”
With only two weeks left until elections for the 19th Knesset, Tuesday will see the first of the ad campaigns which will be broadcast on radio and television for the next 11 days. Determined by a lottery and not party size, the broadcasts will begin with Rabbi Haim Amsalem’s campaign ad for his Am Shalem party. Each party will receive seven minutes for TV ads and fifteen minutes for radio. Parties with current MKs will receive an extra two minutes for each incumbent for their television spots and an extra four for radio, which means that Likud-Beytenu will have the longest air time with 91 minutes. Kadima, which was a major party in the 18th Knesset until losing candidates to fragmentation will receive 49 minutes. Labor will receive 23 minutes. New party lists such as Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Tzipi Livni’s HaTnua will receive the standard 7 minutes of air time.
Israel: Centrifuges, Palestinians, army service and cottage cheese — an Israeli election primer | The Times of Israel
According to recent polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cruising to reelection. His Likud party is expected to win 30 or 31 Knesset mandates, up from 27 three years ago and way ahead of second-place Labor, which the polls predict may gain about four or five seats to 17-18. Much has changed in the political landscape since 2009 — parties splintering, leaders ousted, new parties created — but despite Labor’s resurgence under new chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich and the creation of a new populist party by former TV personality Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc can reasonably expect to stay in power. Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Shas alone could get about 55 seats; add to that the seats of the United Torah Judaism and Jewish Home parties, and Netanyahu has a comfortable majority. But Lapid — whose new Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party is expected to win up to a dozen seats — is not the only wild card. Ousted Shas member Haim Amsellem hopes to enter the Knesset with his newly founded Am Shalem (A Complete Nation) party, and ex-minister (and ex-con) Aryeh Deri is still considering whether to field his own faction. That could cost Shas important mandates, which might force Netanyahu to look for another coalition partner — perhaps the far-right National Union. And that, in turn, could push him even further to the right and toward a collision course with the US.