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January 24, 2013

Israeli Election Results Show Divided Country

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One day after the U.S. presidential inauguration, Israelis took to the polls to vote for a new government. With the election results in, Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu looks as though he will win another term in office. However, his conservative Likud party did not win with the large victory he had hoped, and the new government will likely look very different from the one currently in office.

To remain prime minister, Netanyahu must convince a majority of the 120 members of the new parliament (called the Knesset) to vote in support of him and the people he chooses to work with in the government.  That means forming a majority coalition out of the more than 15 parties who won seats in Tuesday’s election.

One of those parties is the “Jewish Home Party”, which speaks publicly about uniting the different peoples who life in Israel, but also has a hardline approach to Palestinians. Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennet advocates for annexing parts of the West Bank, where many Palestinians live, into Israel.

On the other hand, Yair Lapid of the new centrist Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) party is a charismatic journalist-turned-politician. He hopes to counter the religious conservatives on government policy, education, housing and the draft.

The historically important Labor party, which has been in decline for the last decade, is trying to resurrect itself. Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich focused on social and economic issues to connect with voters.

By changing the makeup of the parliament, Israeli voters have ensured that Netanyahu will have to work with and listen to a much different  group of people than he is currently.


Quote

“I want middle-class concerns taken care of. It is slowly collapsing. For young couples like me and my husband, it is almost impossible to buy a flat or a house. And it is even hard to raise a child and to live with respect,” Anna Kuntsman, Israel.

Warm up questions

1. Where is Israel located?

2. What do you know about Israel?

3. Are there different styles of democracy? Explain

4. What is a “coalition”?

Discussion questions

1. What are some political issues that Israel faces? How do you think this election will affect the Middle East?

2. What is the United States’ relationship with Israel?

3. What if the United States Congress had members who were affiliated with over 15 different political parties?  How would debate in Congress be different?  How would local politics be different?

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