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  • Sean Voitov

An uncertain future less certain

A collapsing democracy, a power grab by a man who is under investigation for corruption, segregation of communities based on religion, ethnicity and sex and the constant risk of a full blown war. These sound nothing like close to home, they sound like some far away dictatorship from the past in a third world country. Instead, it is classified as a democracy, close to America and adopts a very much Western lifestyle. Israel after its General election on 1st November saw Benjamin Netenyahu become Prime Minister of the country (for the third time and after fighting in a total of 7 general elections whilst facing corruption charges) and has led it failing as a legitimate democratic country.

The country is not like the UK in terms of how it forms its governments, the entire country is one big constituency where people vote for the party they like most. In order to get a seat, the party must get a specific percentage of votes and each time they pass the number, they get a seat. It is almost exactly proportional meaning that the number of votes cast for one party is reflected in the makeup of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament). People do not choose who becomes a member either, the party has a list of candidates who they rank, so if everyone does not have a seat then their most important members do. Every Israeli government ever has been a coalition government made of at least two parties, usually more and this is just a result of the electoral system. So during a general election whilst the party with the most votes gets to head the government, it is made of other parties whose leaders take up roles in government and are able to heavily influence legislation.

This brings up a better understanding of what is going on in Israel now after Netenyahu’s re-election. He was defeated in last year’s general election after a coalition of parties united to form an anti-Netanyahu bloc after he proved divisive in the country and unable to govern effectively over it. It was the 3rd general election in 2yrs. This bloc was unique and started off with optimistic hope. It was composed of right-wing parties, left-wing parties and even an Arab party. Whilst many hoped that it would mark a new Israel, less than a year later it crumbled as two members left the government sparking an immediate general election. Now with 23% of the vote, Netenyahu’s Likud party has brought by far the most right-wing party in Israeli history.

The coalition government consists of three far right parties, the Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam, two ultra-orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the right wing likud party. Two bills are to be prepared as preconditions for some parties joining, the first one being to enable appointing an independent minister within the Defense Ministry with wide-ranging authority over West Bank settlers and Palestinians, as well as clear a path for Shas’s party leader, Aryeh Deri, to run two ministries, despite a recent suspended sentence for tax fraud. The second one being to expand political authority over the police leadership and policy, as demanded by far-right incoming police minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Among the planned changes is legislation that would allow the Knesset to override a High Court ruling deeming a law unconstitutional and possibly even new regulations replacing lawyers on the Judicial Appointments Committee with politicians.

Israel is in turmoil. No one is happy with the government except the minority that elected the government. There is criticism within the Likud party about too many key positions being given outside of the party, indeed Ben Gvir only has 6 seats, after forming a technical alliance with the religious zionist party, which in combination secured 10% of the vote meaning that despite being the first security minister of israel, this has been done by securing less than 10% of voters in Israel, which with a small population is smaller than u might expect

The former defence minister, Benny Gantz, part of the right wing Yesh Atid Party that used to run the country has been strongly critical of the government, appealing to Haredi (very religious) political parties “remember that you were part of the constellation that whitewashed harm to minorities. That disintegrated us into tribes.” People in Israel are scared of the new government and what it has already begun to do. The Israel Democracy Institute found that 70% of secular Jewish Israelis now feel threatened by the new government, that is 45% of the country’s Jewish population. A TV poll by Israel's channel 13 even found that if the election was held today Netenyahu would lose with his 4 seat majority turning into 2 seats short of a majority.

The international stage is worried too. Since Ben-Gvir’s highly controversial visit to the al aqsa mosque there are fears that violence will spark again in Israel between Israelis and Palestinians and already it seems that the relationship between America and Israel, traditionally very close, will be stretched as Israel starts to push the boundaries of international agreements and principles to the extreme. There are even fears that Israel’s position on the Ukraine War is changing from being pro-Ukraine to becoming neutral.

The future of Israel is in danger. One man is sacrificing an entire country, its democracy and its people’s support for his own power grab. If this is only the start of the Netenyahu government, then by G-d let it be the worst part in its chapter.

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