The State of Israel has just had its second election of the year, after the previous election in March failed to produce a workable coalition.
The election this week has again failed to produce an obvious route to a coalition. The two most likely options are either a centrist/right-wing coalition (Blue and White with Likud and other right-wing parties) or another failure to form a coalition leading to another vote in March.
The centrist Blue and White party looks to have gained more seats than right-wing Likud (33/31 as of writing).
The Joint List is made up of four mostly Arab (sometimes known as Israeli Arabs or Palestinian Israelis) parties, with varying political views; it is the third-largest party (13 seats). Given a centre-right coalition, it would become the official opposition for the first time in Israel’s history. This would give the Arab community a more prominent platform in politics.
Israeli politics is fractious and split with competing interests.
Externally speaking we (especially on the left) look for possible signs of hope that a left-leaning coalition could be formed. Such a coalition is the only one likely to lead to peace talks and a just solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
This election has shown no signs that the ‘left’ in Israel is reawakening from what is widely believed (among Israelis) to be its failure in the peace process in the 1990s-2000s. The majority of Israelis think Israel gave too much and got back terror in return.
The main campaign issues are not about the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians but democracy, corruption, security and the economy.
About 18-20% of seats go to religious parties. These parties are split between the ‘National Religious’ parties, who integrate into society, and the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) / Shas (Religious Jews from the Middle East/North Africa). The latter are not so interested in wider issues. They prioritise protecting and funding their institutions, and ensuring exemption from national service.
The peace process, therefore, plays a smaller role in public priorities. The ultra-right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu are popular for their secularism (more than for their right-wing credentials) and their desire for a separation of Church (sic) and State.
Blue and White are centrist though untested on many issues. They are popular with secularist left-wingers who have despaired at the peace process. Blue and White haven’t said much about what they would do on these issues.
The traditional left-wing parties can now only garner less than 10% of seats.
The glimmers of hope for the future come from the Arab voters. Experts believe that they gave Blue and White two seats in this election pushing them clean of Likud. At the same time the joint list has had the equal best result in its history. This was partly in reaction to the intimidation and abuse coming from the right, which helped to mobilise voters.
Many left-wing Zionist commentators in Israel are increasingly seeing forming partnerships with the Arab parties and voters as a way forward.
The increased participation by the Arab public can only be a good thing for Israeli democracy and is one of the most likely routes to a just solution of Palestine.