In Israel, the Winner is… Democracy

Summary: Israeli citizens came out to vote on March 17, 2015. The winner in the midst of the total chaos in the Middle East, was once again, democracy.


The turbulent Middle East got a chance to see a democracy at work.

With a civil war in Syria which has thus far claimed 220,000 lives; with the Islamic State/ISIS destroying Iraq; Yemen and Libya quickly becoming failed states; Jordan becoming a giant refugee camp; Egypt flip-flopping between elections/ military take-overs/ elections in quick succession; and Iran on the verge of building nuclear weapons, a country in the heart of the Middle east with a diverse population and set of opinions took to the polls.

Bibi victory
Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu declaring victory

Great Voter Turnout. The 2015 Israeli election had an incredible voter turnout. The 71.8% turnout rate dwarfed the 54.9% in US 2012 presidential election and represented a sharp spike from the 67.7% 2013 Israeli turnout.

Majority in the Center. The political center captured the greatest number of votes. The center-right Likud party received 30 seats, center Kulanu had 10 seats, and center-left parties Yesh Atid with 11 and Labor got 24.  With a combined 75 seats in total (of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset), Israelis predominantly voted for politically moderate parties over the more extreme right-wing and left-wing parties.

Minority representation. The Arab party, the Joint List, placed third in the election with 14 seats. The religious Jewish parties, Shas (7) and United Torah Judaism (6) had a similar total vote count.

Most Women in Parliament. The 20th Knesset will have 28 women, the greatest number ever.

Extreme parties. The far-right nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu received 6 votes, and the far-left anti-national Arab Joint List received 14 seats. The right wing Israel Home received 8 seats and left-wing Meretz had 4 seats. The totals of 14 for the right-wing parties and 18 for the left-wing parties showed a bias for change in the fringes.

What’s Next for the Israeli Democracy.  If history proves a guide, Likud will be asked to form a coalition.  The Israeli election and transition to a new government should have many of the attributes of functioning democracies:

  • Citizens elected their representatives
    • Majority in the center
    • Minority representation
  • Smooth transition to new parliament
    • No military coup
    • No riots
  • New government will abide by past agreements

These are lessons and models for the chaotic Middle East.  Maybe one day the Palestinians will try it.

Related First One Through articles:

Abbas’s 10 year run at a 4 year presidential term:

When Palestinians last went to the polls in 2006, they elected Hamas, an anti-Semitic jihadist party which went to war with the second place winner, Fatah.

Israel, the Liberal Country in the Middle East

20 thoughts on “In Israel, the Winner is… Democracy

    • Likud, with Netanyahu at the helm, is only centrist by comparison with the super-far right. Sort of like saying U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is centrist because he’said not quite as nuts as the Tea Party. The real victor, in Israel and the U.S., continues to be fear tactics.


      • Likud is in the center compared to both Yisrael Beiteinu and Jewish Home. Labor is center compared to the Arab Joint List and Meretz. The core center is Kulanu and Yesh Atid. The outer parts of center are Likud and Labor- as stated in the article. A comparison to the US doesn’t make sense since the US has a two party system so there are few shades of grey.


      • I assume your opinion is based on an in-depth analysis of the Likud’s platform and its voting pattern. Perhaps you’d care to share your analysis, so we can judge it on its merits and not just on your statement.


    • Likud, with Netanyahu at the helm, is only centrist by comparison with the super-far right. Sort of like saying U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is centrist because he’s not quite as nuts as the Tea Party. The real victor, in Israel and the U.S., continues to be fear tactics.


  1. Netenyahu himself declared on election day that “Right-wing rule is in danger” because “Arabs are streaming to the polls.” So, he declares himself to be right wing, he decries citizens’ exercising their right to vote, he urges ultra-right parties to quickly form a government with him, he declares he will never give up settlements in the occupied territories and will never recognize a Palestinian states’ right to exist, he employs economic policies that widen the gap between the rich and all other Israelis, he promotes war with Iran by claiming since 1998 that it is only a year away from a nuclear bomb (including with that ridiculous Spy vs. Spy drawing at the U.N.)…. Is that enough of a policy list for you Michael, to show he is not a centrist? Oh, yeah, and every reliable news organization refers to Liked as a “right-wing party.” The comparison with the U.S. was only to say that extremists, whether in multiple parties or just the Tea Party, can make people far from the center falsely appear centrist. And no one can deny that Netanyahu ran a “Gevalt” campaign.


    • Netaniyahu is not Likud, he’s just the current leader – that’s how democracy works. Right-wing rule was actually at stake in the elections, that’s also how democracy works – an elected government rules and can lose its power, that is why we have elections.

      Actually, it was the Likud that evacuated Israeli communities from Sinai in 1982 and from Gaza in 2005, and Netaniyahu himself gave up Israeli rule over Hebron in his 90’s term, so the Likud is not that extreme right, it just wants guarantees that concessions are not for nothing. The economy is a bit too complicated to blame the social gap on Netaniyahu or the Likud, and as far as I know, Likud’s socio-ecomomical platform is not much different from any European centrum-right party.

      The Iranian issue – the world agrees Iran should not be allowed a nuclear weapon. The world just disagrees on the best way to prevent that. Since Iran directly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, it makes a perfect sense that the Israeli PM is much concerned with Iran, and wants to make sure Iran is not capable of realizing its threats. That’s his job.

      I haven’t said Likud or Netaniyau (there are a number of spellings, Netenyahu is not one of them) are centrists. The Likud is a right-wing party. But its a centre-right party, by any and all measure. I hope in the future you’ll be able to separate campaign rethorics and post-elections deeds, like patterns of voting or decisions made in office (like signing a peace deal with Egypt, courtesy of Begin’s Likud).


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  3. Michael, other than pointing out a typo (mea culpa), you avoid responding to my points. I never said Israel should not worry about an Iranian bomb, I said Netanyahu has consistently lied about its imminence. And you are going to say that neither does Likud supports its leader’s positions nor does that leader intend to follow through on them? Finally, saying Liked is centrist now because Begin signed a peace with Egypt in 1979 is like saying U.S. Republicans are environmentalists now because Nixon signed into law the EPA in 1970. You may have to face the fact that the center has not held and democracy is not the winner in this election, in Israel or indeed anywhere lately. The right has moved farther right and gevalt (alarm) is the real winner yet again.


    • I failed to recognize clear points you’ve made, I’m sorry.

      Sounds like you’re just not willing to accept that a win by a right-wing coalition is also an option in a democracy. Tough luck.


  4. Read again, Michael. I never said a right-wing party or coalition couldn’t win. My central point, which you kept trying to deny, is that Likud, under Netanyahu is indeed a very right-wing party, and it obviously won. I simply think that the way he and it won is extremely dangerous — for Israel, for democracy and for peace.


  5. IMHO use of the term “right wing” to describe Netanyahu is problematic. It is a pejorative description which lends credence to “Zionist is Racism” and “Israel is a Nazi State” canards. I am sure neither of you intend that.


    • I disagree. Being a right-winger is not a nasty contageous disease, nor is it something to be ashamed of – it is a legitimate political opinion. Netaniyahu is a right-winger, Likud is a right-wing party, I myself am a right-winger. Its OK to be right.

      I do resent the attempts to paint Likud as extreme-right lunatics, its a classic liberal-right party closely resembling the European Christian-Democratic movement in its stands on a variety of issues.


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