Israeli Election Update | November 2022

November 4, 2022

Tuesday’s election results in Israel were deeply disappointing for all who care about Israeli democracy, about the future of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and about liberal democracy globally.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — currently on trial for corruption — is all but certain to form the next government with the support of one of the most extreme, anti-democratic, far-right political parties ever to enter the Israeli Knesset: the Religious Zionism party, led by ultra-nationalists Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

For those of us whose core values are justice, equality and freedom, the parties and leaders who look set to control the next Knesset are fundamentally at odds with what we stand for.

As developments continue to unfold and the parties work to build a majority coalition, J Street is committed to keeping you up to date on the critical developments, and helping you fully understand and unpack the results.

The Official Results By Party

The Official Results By Party

The vote breakdown by party is:

  • Likud, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: 32 seats
  • Yesh Atid, led by Prime Minister Yair Lapid: 24 seats
  • Religious Zionism, led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir: 14 seats
  • National Unity, led by outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz: 12 seats
  • Shas, ultra-Orthodox party led by Aryeh Deri: 11 seats
  • United Torah Judaism, ultra-Orthodox party led by Yitzhak Goldknopf: 7 Seats
  • Yisrael Beiteinu, led by outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman: 6 seats
  • Ra’am, a majority Arab party led by Mansour Abbas: 5 seats
  • Hadash-Ta’al, a majority Arab party led by Ayman Odeh: 5 seats
  • Labor, led by Merav Michaeli: 4 seats

The parties who did not meet the 3.25 percent electoral threshold required to enter the Knesset include:

  • Balad, Palestinian-nationalist party led by Sami Abou Shahadeh
  • Habayit Hayehudi, led by outgoing Minister of Interior Ayelet Shaked
  • Meretz, led by Zehava Galon

What the Votes Mean

What the Votes Mean

As it stands, Netanyahu’s Likud party currently has 31 seats, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party has 24, and the far-right Religious Zionism party led by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir has 14 seats. That party includes Ben-Gvir’s “Jewish Power” faction — a descendant of the extreme racist, anti-Palestinian, pro-violence movement led by Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Netanyahu is virtually guaranteed to return to his previous role as Prime Minister. As the likelihood of Netanyahu’s victory became clear Tuesday night, the former prime minister told a crowd of supporters that “the country wants to bring back the national pride that has been taken away from us.”

The failure of two key small parties to enter the Knesset left the “anti-Netanyahu” opposition bloc with no path to forming a government. Both the progressive Zionist Meretz party led by Zehava Galon and the Palestinian-nationalist party Balad fell below the threshold for entering the Knesset. The parties within the bloc that did not cross the threshold accounted for almost 300,000 “wasted” votes.

In order for the bloc — led by Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party– to have had a fighting chance, it was pivotal for Meretz and Balad to each cross the threshold. The two major Arab parties, United Arab List and Hadash-Ta’al, each earned five seats. The center-left Labor party, led by Merav Michaeli, is just over the electoral threshold with four seats — enough to enter the Knesset, but still the party’s lowest total in history.

The Rise of Far-Right Extremists

The Rise of Far-Right Extremists

The center and left in Israel are facing a major reckoning following this election. The rise of the far-right in Israel is alarmingly clear, and the two largest left-leaning parties — Labor and Meretz — either barely or altogether failed to garner enough support to serve in the Knesset.

Just 5-10 years ago, figures like Ben-Gvir and Smotrich were on the fringes of Israeli politics — taboo figures that were never real contenders to govern. Today, it’s highly likely that they’ll be in the majority coalition as the third largest party in the Knesset. Smotrich, who has described himself as a ‘proud homophobe,’ is angling to either be the next Defense or Finance Minister. Ben-Gvir, who has repeatedly called for the death of Arabs, seeks to be the next Police Minister.

Other key figures that will potentially serve alongside Netanyahu include ultra-Orthodox Shas leader Aryeh Deri, who has stated that High Court rulings can be ignored, and ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf, who has said secular studies are useless for Israel’s economy.

It’s been reported that officials in Likud also plan to negotiate a coalition agreement with the Religious Zionism party’s anti-LGBTQ+ Noam faction, to bring them into the new government. Noam campaigned on walking back recent civil rights gains for LGBTQ+ communities, such as a ban on conversion therapy, allowing gay men to donate blood, and more.

What Comes Next?

What Comes Next?

Next week, the parties will come together to negotiate the new government officially. They will meet in the President’s Residence, and recommend their preferred candidate for Prime Minister to President Isaac Herzog.

It’s expected that as soon as Netanyahu is given the mandate to form a government from Herzog, he will act quickly to establish a right-wing/religious government.

For those who oppose the Netanyahu bloc and the far-right, the work ahead is tremendously important.

In Israel, parties will try to identify where things went wrong strategically. They will no doubt lament the fact that Netanyahu’s bloc only won the popular vote by less than half a percentage point — far less than the number of wasted votes.

This election also has significant implications for the US-Israel relationship, as the Biden administration has reportedly already suggested that it is unlikely to work directly with extremist figures such as Ben-Gvir. A wide range of American Jewish leaders are also making clear that they have serious concerns about the potential makeup, policies and ideology of this government and some of its members, and that such a government is inconsistent with the shared Jewish and democratic values that have traditionally formed the heart of our community’s relationship to Israel.

In the United States, American Jews have a role to play as the new government takes form. We must urge our own elected officials and communal leaders here in the US to stand up for justice, democracy and diplomacy — and refuse to normalize racism, incitement, and discrimination. And we must show solidarity with our friends and allies in Israel who continue to struggle for a better future in the face of this right-wing victory.

To learn more about how you can be involved in that fight, join the Progressive Israel Network tomorrow for a webinar about the results, and what’s next >>