Ruth Lieberman

Israeli Elections 101

We’ve done videos on these upcoming Israeli elections, because it seems almost too complicated to put down in words what this parliamentary democracy looks like. But due to public demand, here’s an attempt. Questions are welcome at the end…


The Israeli Knesset is a parliament made up of a number of political parties. These parties must pass the threshold, that is get a minimum number of votes, to receive one of the 120 seats in the parliament. Note: 120 is not an arbitrary number but one that ties us to our roots as a Jewish people in our homeland, in ancient times the number of members of the ruling Sanhedrin, who sat and ruled from within the Temple gates.

vote ballot box

Twenty-six parties are vying on Israel’s Super Tuesday this week, for what might end up about ten parties who divvy up the seats amongst them.


But it doesn’t end there. We may know on Wednesday what the lay of the land is for those seats, but what we wont know is who will rule, and who will take the opposition seats. You see, it’s the President of the State of Israel who’ll call each party to his office, and hear from them which leader they choose to support in building the next coalition government. What does that mean? Simple: The head of a party, not necessarily the largest, with the best chance to put together a coalition, will be awarded that chance by our President.

So for example, traditionally the person chosen to put together a majority of 61 by joining parties into his coalition – has been from the Labor or Likud governments. This time, these parties are polling very close. So it’s up to the other parties to tell the President whom they prefer and he does the math.

That’s when the nailbiting and politics really get started. A good few weeks, usually, of handing out the jobs and seeing who the takers are. Building a government means choosing Cabinet Ministers, heads of Knesset committees, and the like. Watch for headlines coming out of Israel with conflicting reports on who’s getting what, and keep counting up to 61 in your head, to figure out who’s going to be the next Prime Minister and who his/her partner-parties will be.


CONFUSED? Just remember – Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, its a pretty far journey to any of our neighboring states to find women voting; people rallying; public protests and police investigations untainted and independent. We are a vibrant, living democracy in this crazy world of extremes, and somehow we find a way, each election cycle, to form alliances and create coalitions that band our elected officials together. We believe in the Zionist dream, we just have different ways of getting there, and we’re proud of our freedom and democracy.

Stay tuned on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, and Thursday…

About the Author
Ruth Lieberman is an Israeli-based political consultant and licensed tour guide, combining her love of Israel with political acumen to better Israel's standing both at home and in the eyes of the world. She has consulted for political leaders in Jerusalem and in Washington, from work on election campaigns to public advocacy and events. Her tours in Israel connect Biblical history to modern realities, to highlight Israel's achievements and promote its policies. She's also added 'archaeologist' to her title, working on an advanced degree in the field.
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