The April 9 general elections in Israel are among the most contested, uncertain, and possibly crucial in the country’s republican history. Israel’s society is increasingly polarized, and political tensions are also on the rise: the left-right dichotomy has grown beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and now touches upon a series of questions regarding the fundamental values and institutions of the state.
When we talk or write about the volatile Middle East, there are few certainties. One of these certainties is that foreign policy in Israel remains the same even as political seasons change. Whether there are elections or government crises, Israeli foreign policy bets on its outdated “security-based diplomacy” approach to foreign relations that has anchored the State’s Defense Doctrine since the Six-Day War in 1967.
There are just over 6.3 million Israeli voters on the electoral roll for the 21st Knesset elections. Of these, some 950,000 (15%) are Arab citizens. A recent public opinion poll among Israeli Arab voters, conducted three weeks before Election Day by the German Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, found that in the upcoming elections, voter turnout among Arab citizens is expected to reach a low of 51%.
The early elections for the 21st Knesset were supposed to be a referendum on Benjamin Netanyahu. This, at least, was the purpose of the Prime Minister himself – along with winning a large personal consensus and a solid political majority recreating a more disciplined right-wing coalition under a stronger Likud, and catching the momentum of the positive mood among the Israelis on security and economic policy.
On the eve of the 9 April 2019 elections to the Knesset in Israel, more continuity than change is in store. The campaign of the left-center parties fails to garner a minimal majority. The creation of Kahol-Lavan, a fresh "catch-all" party, headed by ex-generals and composed of a mix of leftist and rightwing public figures, does not do the job.
Talking about the upcoming Israeli Elections, the name of Benny Gantz stands out as the true and only rival of Benjamin Netanyahu in this electoral race; together with his party, he has an unprecedented chance to defeat the Likud.
Facing the 2019 elections, Israel’s society is split more than ever. We see a polarization between two camps, similar to those we see in other Western democracies, like the US, Britain or elsewhere. For the first time Israel society perceives the split between the left (-center-arab) block and the right as the most severe societal tension.
Developments in 2017 have once again brought into focus the one-state reality taking hold on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) has remained dormant since the collapse of the last round of US-backed talks under President Obama in Spring 2014. In the meantime, Israel (with US acquiescence) has moved further away from Palestinian negotiating positions and the internationally endorsed final status parameters meant to frame a final agreement.
During the 20th century, Israel's military and strategic posture was designed to cope with the existential threats posed by its Arab neighbors, alongside an intermittent series of low-intensity campaigns against irregular guerilla forces perched on its borders. However, the changing geo-strategic realities of the region in the aftermath of the "Arab Spring" have turned preconceived notions within the regional system on its head.