image via flickr

Usually, elections take place in democratic countries every four or six years. In Israel too elections happen every four years. But not this time.  Israel held its general election in April 2019 which remained inconclusive and will lead to another election the same year in September of this year, 2019.

With the election results of April 9, Benjamin Netanyahu had apparently emerged as victorious, but after 7 weeks he realized his election campaigns, not to mention his victory party, went for nothing. This is interesting but not unexpected in a highly fragmented society.

In Israel, any party in order to gain majority in parliament, Knesset, needs the support of 61 to claim majority in the House of 120. Initially, it seemed simple case of majority when the results came, which saw  the right wing parties grabbing 65-seat majority, comfortable enough to form the government under Netanyahu’s Likud party. But it was not as simple as it initially looked.

Those who agreed for an alliance then, are not in agreement now, deserting PM Netanyahu’s dream to be elected for record fifth term. The majority party had to show the majority support in the consistent stipulated time of six weeks, which wasn’t the case, leaving Netanyahu empty-handed. Fearing that President Reuven Rivlin could invite the Left Wing to try to form the government as the majority party, Netanyahu preempted the move by dissolving the parliament as soon as his deadline to show majority support expired, rendering the Knesset look more like a still-born child, dying before its birth.

What became the bone of contention that led to all this stalemate was a proposed draft law that was contested between the ‘could-be’ allies of the Netanyahu-led coalition government. The two right wings groups’ conflicting interests, one religious while the other secular, are the reasons why Israel will see two elections in 2019 for the first time in its history.

Interestingly, the antagonist in the political drama has been Netanyahu’s longtime friend, now turned a foe, Avigdor Lieberman, who has been the one of the main opponent, and most probably the cause in triggering the unprecedented second election in a calendar year.

Lieberman has been pushing to get the draft law, stipulating a certain percentage of young ultra-orthodox men to serve in the military. In Israel, it is mandatory for every Jewish man to serve in the military for 3 years but so far the exemption has been extended to the ultra-orthodox males, which has been resented by the secular segments of the society. The nationalist but secular Yisrael Beiteinu party of Lieberman with 5 seats has taken the issue head-on with the Ultra-Orthodox Right-Wing party, halting the prospects of the record fifth-term of Netanyahu.

Some analysts believe that by championing the cause of the secular segments, Lieberman wants to extend his political clout. In this, he has not only been successful so far but also is believed to gain more seats in the election that is around the corner now. He has also vowed to push the issue in his September election campaign.

On the other hand, Netanyahu, whose grip on power seems to loosen now as he has not been able to woo the divided Right-wing parties, that would otherwise become the part of his ruling coalition, into a working arrangement. Besides, more important is the charges of corruption which made him even more vulnerable. He has been facing several charges and a possible indictment for bribery, fraud and the breach of trust.

It seems that the political and legal challenges that the man- who has been termed by many as a dictator and who has been at the helm of Israel’s affairs for a whole decade now- facing enough challenges to  perhaps  have Israel and the world witness leadership change in the coming elections in September.