Israel Goes to Polls to Elect New Leader


Israel has opened its polls for an election that is expected to be a very close contest between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party and an alliance from the centre-left.  The centre-left Zionist Union are promising to repair relations with the international community and with the Palestinians while Mr Netanyahu continues to state he will not allow the creation of a Palestinian state if he wins another term in office but is trailing in opinion polls.

Polls opened at 7am and are due to close at 10pm with key issues being the economy and living standards around the country.


The results of the election could be announced shortly afterwards but then a period of length negotiations could be needed to form the next coalition government.  No party has even won an outright majority under the proportional representation system used in Israel and neither side is expected to get more than one quarter of the votes this time around.

Opinion polls from the weekend suggested that the centre-left Zionist Union looked set to win the most seats but it may be possible for Mr Netanyahu to still form a coalition government even if his Likud party don’t top the polls.

The main candidates in the election include:

  • Benjamin Netanyahu – looking for his fourth term in office, a veteran of Israeli politics. His stance on both the Palestinians and Iran have made him popular with the right but very divisive with everyone else
  • Yitzhak Herzog – co-leader of the centre-left Zionist Union, he has accused the current government of depressing living standards in Israel and campaigned against Mr Netanyahu’s foreign policy.
  • Tzipi Livni – co leader of the centre-left Zionist Union, he is seeking greater cooperation with the Palestinian Authority
  • Moshe Kahlon – former Likud welfare and communications minister, his centre-right Kulanu party could be the deciding factor in any coalition


One of the major focuses of the campaign has been Israel’s relationship with the US along with its concerns over the nuclear program in Iran.  But the biggest areas of concern from the voters are the socio-economic problems the country is facing such as a slow economy and a high cost of living.

The city of Jerusalem has also been a central issue in the campaigning with Mr Netanyahu accusing centre-left challengers of being ‘willing to relinquish Israel’s claim on Jerusalem’ by entering peace talks with the Palestinians.  Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East War, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In response, Mr Herzog accused Mr Netanyahu of ‘panicking’ and that his party would safeguard the capital and its residents with actions not just words.

Around six million Israelis are voting for a new parliament, called the Knesset.  Votes are cast for a party, rather than for a person and there are 120 seats available, meaning no party can achieve a majority.  Parties need to command 61 seats to form a government and the President has 7 days to appoint an MP that has the best chance of forming a government.  That person then has 28 days to form a workable coalition.


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