Israel, the only genuine democracy in the Middle, held elections yesterday. In these elections, Likud-Beytenu led by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu received 31 mandates, Yesh Atid led by a journalist named Yair Lapid received 19 mandates, Labor, led by Shelly Yachimovic, received 15 mandates, and both the Mizrahi Shas party and the Habayit Ha-Yehudi led by an American named Naftali Bennett received 12 mandates.
Even though the right and left-center blocks were evenly split, Prime Minister Netanyahu is likely to form the next coalition because the left-center block only has 60 mandates if the Arab parties are included and these parties generally refrain from joining governing coalitions, even though there are Israeli Arabs that do serve in high level government posts as members of Zionist political parties.
A recent survey done by the Maager Institute claims that 74 percent of Likud-Beytenu voters would like for Habayit Ha-Yehudi, Yesh Atid, and the religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, which received 7 mandates, to join together in a coalition. 59 percent of Likud-Beytenu voters are opposed to former Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni’s Hatnua Party, which received 6 mandates, joining the coalition. Prime Minister Netanyahu has meanwhile announced that he would like to form “as broad a government as possible.” Yair Lapid has expressed a willingness to join either a government of the right or the left and has come out against leftist attempts to be obstructionists by trying to prevent Netanyahu from forming a coalition.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared following the conclusion of election day: “I wish to thank the millions of the citizens of Israel carried out their democratic right today. According to the exit polls, it is clear that the citizens of Israel have decided that they want me to continue in the position of prime minister of Israel and that I form as wide a coalition government as possible. The early results are a big opportunity for many changes that will favor all of Israel’s citizens. The elections are behind us and many complex challenges lie ahead. Starting tonight I will start the efforts to form a government.”
According to Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, “The nationalist camp has won the election. Benjamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister of Israel. He will lead the country in coming years too. There will still be attempts by people on the Left to block Netanyahu from forming a government. But we will now work to build a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.”
Israel’s democratic tradition as expressed yesterday is an unusual phenomenon in the Middle East. No other Middle Eastern country enjoys having a democracy like Israel. In the Palestinian Authority controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, Mahmoud Abbas continues to rule as President despite the fact that his term expired in 2009 and in Gaza there simply have been no elections since Hamas seized power by force. In neighboring Egypt, after experiencing years of authoritarian dictatorship, the population recently voted in the Muslim Brotherhood to power yet whether free elections will be held again remains to be seen. Syria is controlled by a brutal dictatorship that engages in democide against its own people; Jordan and Saudi Arabia are monarchies; and Iran has elections, but only permits Islamists to run. The fact that Israel is a vibrant democracy located in the Middle East indeed makes Israel stand out compared to her neighbors.
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