Israelis head to the polls next week (Tuesday, November 1) for the fifth time since 2019. Many people have asked me why this happens, and my answer is always the same: Israelis just want a day off! Election Day in Israel is similar to the one thing I miss about life in America: Sunday! No work, no school – just a day to spend with the family. Since the act of voting takes less than ten minutes, which includes schmoozing with friends on the voting line and yelling at the leftists who are campaigning to destroy the country, a whole day is left to enjoy with the kids and grandkids.
Okay, I’ll be serious. While it truly is a fun day (especially yelling at the leftists), that’s not the reason why we have had five rounds of voting. If you really want to know, I’ll do my best to perform an amazing magic trick, which has never been done before: to explain the complicated Israeli political process in less than 300 words. Please do not try this at home (I always wanted to say that). Hold on to your hats… here goes (Note: That was not part of the 300 words).
The Israeli Knesset has 120 members. To form a government, one party must hold the majority – which means 61 or more seats. So far, so good. The problem, however, is that in the history of Israeli politics, there was never a party that had 61. So, what happens? Simple (well, not really…): A coalition needs to be formed where the 32 MKs (Members of Knesset) from this party make a deal with the ten from another party plus another seven from that one and six from the other one. So, we’re done, right? Wrong! That adds up to 55 – and you need 61. No problem, we’ll just pull in those five guys sitting in the corner – whoops, that’s just 60. So how about the other 60 MKs? Can’t they also play in the game?
Let me take a break from my 300-word limit to give you an analogy. What’s the hardest part in planning a wedding? Table seating! What makes it so difficult is that even though Sarah and Rivkah are sisters, their husbands hate each other, so you can’t seat them at the same table. Then there’s Reuven who is suing Shimon, so you better keep them apart, and Dinah who is still angry at Chanah for putting a whoopie-cushion under her seat in tenth grade. On a grand scale, this is exactly what is going on in the coalition dealing room. Okay, now back to the 300-word limit (I’m currently at 128).
Lapid and Lieberman bash the chareidim, so they refuse to sit together. The Labor and Meretz partiers have nothing in common with Likud, so they are left out (get the joke?). The Arabs have never been part of a coalition, until Bennett and Lapid broke the “unwritten rules” and had them join their government (in June 2021), but it was only a matter of time until that would crash – which it did. It has been said that the real battle in Israeli politics is not before Election Day but after Election Day, when coalition deals are made. In the last four elections – and probably this one as well – the voters went wide and spread their votes to many different parties, which made it virtually impossible to form a normal, like-minded government. This most recent government, which lasted just 17 months, had MKs from the right, the left, and the Arabs. Everyone knew that this was a recipe for disaster – which is exactly what happened!
Here is what I will say with my final 11 words: Everything will be fine, and we’ll live happily ever after! – That’s 299! I did it!
And now for my post-magic-trick analysis: It’s not a complicated system and for many years it worked well. The problem is that, in recent elections, many new parties have entered the game, causing a problem with the “seating arrangements.” More parties means smaller parties – which makes the race to 61 quite challenging.
I believe that Netanyahu and his Likud party will get the most seats and that he will have the first chance to form a coalition. My personal desire is that Bibi form as right-wing a government as possible. This is why I have endorsed Itamar Ben-Gvir, in the hopes that he – and his partner Betzalel Smotrich (who are running together) – will win a significant number of seats. I further predict that Bibi will do everything he can to bring Benny Gantz into the coalition – something that I do not support. If that happens, the chareidi parties (Shas and Agudah) will join, but there will still be several missing MKs to get the required 61. The team of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich will then be the key to forming this coalition. My only fear is that Smotrich will break away from Ben-Gvir and run into the coalition, leaving his partner outside. I realize that this sounds crazy, but make a note of my prediction. It is a very real possibility, but one that will only strengthen Ben-Gvir in the years to come.
One final point: Throughout all the craziness and instability, Israel has grown and is the best place on earth for Jews to live. The shekel is strong, our nation is happy, and there’s more Torah in Israel today than ever before in Jewish history! We are settling the land, building homes, and planting hundreds of thousands of new fruit trees every year. Tourism is at record levels, retail stores are busy, and you can’t find a parking spot near any of the malls. Yes, I want a strong, proud Jewish government – one that will defeat the enemy once and for all – but I may have to wait a few more years for that to happen. In the meantime, let’s try to get the right guys in and enjoy a unique version of America’s Sunday: Election Day in Israel!
Am Yisrael Chai!