Israel opens elections early due to alleged corruption


Due in large part to criminal allegations of corruption against current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israelis will go to the polls on April 9 to elect a new Knesset, the national legislature of Israel.

Based on early opinion polls, Haaretz reported the Likud Party may take a majority of the 120 parliamentary seats, in which case Netanyahu will serve a fifth term in office. However, the recent decision by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to indict Netanyahu on the charges mid-campaign have thrown a wrench in the outcome.

Why the early elections?

Israel’s general elections should be held in the month of Heshvan, which sits somewhere between the months of late September and early November in the Gregorian calendar. However, due to the recent political turbulence, Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset in December 2018 while calling for early elections.

Political disputes became apparent in November when the now former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned from his post due to disagreement over Netanyahu’s decision to sign a truce with Hamas. Subsequently, Liberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu left its coalition with Netanyahu’s Likud, leaving the ruling party with only a slight majority in the Knesset.

Additionally, the prosecution recommended indictment in mid-December of two of three cases brought by the police: Case 2000 and Case 4000.

According to The Economist, police have been investigating Netanyahu and his wife Sara—who is already on trial—for bribery, fraud and breach of trust since 2016. Case 2000 alleges Netanyahu influenced a newspaper to have more favorable coverage of himself in exchange for curbing the outlet’s competitor. Case 4000 alleges Netanyahu intervened in telecom giant Bezeq in order to have more favorable coverage as well. An additional case, Case 1000, alleges Netanyahu received illegal gifts in various forms such as champagne, Cuban cigars and jewelry, with the total worth equivalent to over $270,000.

Which parties are running?

The 2019 elections are seeing a number of new parties vying for seats in the Knesset, as well as smaller parties creating coalitions in order to fulfill the necessary thresholds. New parties include the green Zionist Hosen Y’Israel, liberal Telem, welfare reform Gesher and the right-wing Hayamin Hehadesh.

Ultra-Orthodox parties include Shas and the United Torah Judaism, while returning parties of the right-wing include Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi. Israel’s original party, the Labor Party, is socialist democratic, as is the green party Meretz, with the center-left including the parties Kulanu and Yesh Atid.

While the party Ra’am-Balad, one of two main Arab parties which represents Israel’s approximately 20 percent Arab population, won seats in the most recent Knesset, they will not appear in the 2019 elections after Israel banned them from running. Conversely, the Central Elections Committee voted on March 6 to allow the party Otzma Yehudit—who are widely regarded as an extremist group—to run.