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Israeli Election Update: Benjamin Netanyahu's Party Takes The Lead

Israel’s election has come to a close and incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party is locked in a neck-and-neck race with his Israeli Labor Party rival, Isaac Herzog. 

Three local news agencies have released exit polls. Two of the agencies reported both the Israeli Labor Party and the Likud Party have won 27 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s legislative branch. The other news agency reported the Israeli Labor Party won 27 seats and the Likud Party won 28 seats — giving Netanyahu the advantage.

Israel’s elections are complicated — the prime minster holds executive power, but he or she is nominated by the president, a largely ceremonial title. 

Citizens cast votes for the party they favor, rather than individual candidates. There are 120 seats in the Knesset and parties require a minimum of four seats to gain entrance into the Knesset. Each seat requires approximately 30,000 votes.

After the general elections, the president is elected by a majority vote in the Knesset. The president then meets with the heads of every party and decides on a  prime minister nominee, who must be voted in by the majority of the Knesset. Typically the prime minister is the leader of the largest party.

Netanyahu’s Likud Party is center-right. In the last days of the election, Netanyahu tried to appeal to the far-right by stating he would never allow a Palestinian state to be formed while he’s in office.

If the Likud Party stays in power, Israel’s relationship with the U.S. may continue to fray while President Barack Obama is in power. Netanyahu opposes the nuclear deal the U.S. has with Iran, while Israel has built homes for Israeli settlers in disputed areas, which Obama opposes.

The Israeli Labor Party, also known as Zionist Union, is center-left. Herzog, who studied at Cornell University and New York University, has campaigned on promises of reform in Israel. 

“What I run for is social justice," he told CNN. "I will change the nature of the division of wealth in a fair and more balanced way, close inequality and give a sense of purpose to the people here in the workplace, in the housing and in the cost of living."

Herzog has also promised to re-open peace talks with the Palestinians.

The vote count will most likely by concluded on March 18.

Sources: Council On Foreign Relations, ABC News, CNBC, CNN, The Knesset, The Telegraph

Image via Israel Defense Forces/Wikimedia Commons


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