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Israel’s New Unity Government Has Finally Arrived

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

By Marc Rubin

Staff Writer

Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the Israeli election- - kind of, but not really.

First of all, what is a unity government? It is a coalition made up of ideologically different political parties. The many parties that make up the Knesset (the Israeli government) represent the diversity of opinions of Israelis who range from Ultra-Orthodox to Arab. In the United States, there are two main parties, but in Israel, there are 12 at the moment. The citizens of Israel do not vote for a president; rather, using the British model, they vote for a party to elect members to the Knesset where there are 120 total seats. Imagine that Americans could only vote for representatives for the House of Representatives, and the party with the majority of the votes had the power to pick the president. That's what it's like in Israel: usually, the party with the majority of seats in the Knesset appoints the Prime Minister. Since it is virtually impossible for one party to get a majority of seats in the Knesset, parties have to make coalitions to reach a majority.

Israel was set to have its election in November 2019, but, due to a disagreement over Utra-Orthodox Jews not being required to join the IDF and a ceasefire with Gaza, the election was moved up to April 9, 2019. As these events pushed to the forefront of the Knesset, Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beitenu (a centrist party), left Likud’s coalition which previously held a majority, requiring an earlier election date. In an unprecedented result, Likud, the conservative party that had won the Israeli elections consistently for the past decade or so, won 35 seats of the Knesset; Blue and White, a new slightly more center-leaning party headed by Benny Gantz, won an equal number of seats. Neither party could form a coalition, so a second election was held on September 17, 2019.

On that date, while Israelis had a day off from school and work, as each election day is a national holiday, Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy juniors were in the city of Jerusalem while Israeli history was being made. During the September election, Blue and White won 33 seats and Likud won 32 seats. Once again, Likud was given the opportunity to try and form a coalition, but failed.

By another unprecedented turn of events, a third election was held on March 2, 2020. Likud won 36 seats and Blue and White won 33 seats. After this election, Benny Gantz was given the opportunity to form a coalition.

While Gantz attempted to form a coalition, COVID-19 began to wreak havoc. With the Israeli government in limbo and the world shut down, the rival parties finally agreed on a coalition. In this emergency unity government, Netanyahu will remain prime minister for a year and a half. After that, Gantz will take over for the remainder of the term. While Netanyahu serves as Prime Minister, Gantz will hold a role as the Minister of Defense. Plenty of Israelis do not love their new government, and many believe that it will be ineffective. However, they are pleased to not have a fourth election. Supporters of Netanyahu and the Likud Party are not happy that he gave up half the government to the centrist Blue and White Party. On the other hand, some supporters of Gantz are not happy that he gave up veto power when it comes to actions such as the annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria -- commonly known as the West Bank -- which could happen this summer. To put Israel’s current government into Barrack terms, much like the Co-Editors-in-Chief of the Cougar Chronicle, the Co-Presidents of the HEAR Club, and the new split responsibilities for Co-Heads of the Upper School, Israel is heading into a brand new way of governing with Co-Prime Ministers. The Israeli people and Jews around the world are on the edges of their seats to see how this new system of leadership will pan out.

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