The one voting issue
Israelis will go to the polls on November 1st for the fifth time in ~3.5 years. I won’t rehash our recent electoral history, other than to say that this insanity of going to vote over and over again revolves entirely around one individual: former Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.
Putting aside whether one supports Netanyahu or opposes him, this is a profoundly unhealthy political situation. These five recent elections have not been about policy, as elections should be; Israel’s political landscape has undergone a metamorphosis into two major camps: pro-Bibi and anti-Bibi. It’s to the point that most parties barely bother campaigning on their political platforms.
Without Bibi, a government would readily be formed, and that is an objective fact.
Bibi himself knows this, of course; but he does not care. He only cares about getting elected again as Prime Minister, castrating Israel’s courts, and getting parliamentary immunity so that he won’t have to face the legal consequences of being found guilty of corruption. This is also a fact, although his supporters will dispute it. (the ultimate proof of this was Bibi’s leaving the State of Israel without a budget and without a fully functioning government entirely for his personal political benefit, with no thought whatsoever to the well-being of the State and its citizens.)
Required for forming a government coalition: 61 Knesset seats
Israel’s parliament is called the Knesset, and it has 120 seats. In order to become Prime Minister, one needs a majority of the Knesset (61 Members of Knesset) to support them.
We are now going into our fifth election in ~3.5 years because Bibi has been unable to get 61 Knesset Members to support his Premiership. However, despite this, the man remains the head of the largest Knesset party- Likud. In the latest polls, Likud is projected to get 32 seats in the coming elections (more than ¼ of the entire Knesset), making the formation of a broad coalition government without Bibi incredibly challenging.
Bibi’s main opponent
The former Prime Minister’s main opponent for the premiership is current interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid party. Yesh Atid is projected to get 24 seats in the Knesset, making it the second largest party after the Likud.
Of course, there are no guarantees in Israeli politics; the head of a smaller party could become Prime Minister, which is exactly what happened when former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett replaced Netanyahu. Still, Prime Minister Yair Lapid is broadly considered the most likely alternative to Bibi, and he’s already the sitting Prime Minister, which affects public perception.
How to avoid handing the election to Netanyahu
Many voters who don’t want to see Bibi return to power are going to be voting for Yair Lapid to keep him in the Prime Minister’s seat. This, however, is a terrible mistake.
The electoral threshold
You see, there is an electoral threshold in Israel of 3.25%, meaning that any political party receiving less than 3.25% of the total vote will be left out of the Knesset. In and of itself, this is not unreasonable, but the consequences of a party failing to enter the Knesset could be tremendous.
If a party garners only 3.2% of the vote, just under the required 3.25%, it fails to enter the Knesset; and its votes get distributed among the other parties, according to whichever parties are closest to receiving another Knesset seat.
3.25% of the national vote represents four seats in the Knesset, which means that any party receiving 3.2% of the vote will end up having its four Knesset seats distributed among those parties that did cross the voter threshold. Statistically, half of that party’s four seats (two Knesset seats) will go to parties that support Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s potential coalition in the polls
All of this is in an environment, in which Netanyahu and his political allies are projected to get 59 or 60 Knesset seats. Recall: there are 120 seats in the Knesset, and one only needs the support of 61 Knesset Members to become Prime Minister.
Simply put: If one small party fails to enter the Knesset due to the voter threshold of 3.25%, half of its votes (equivalent to two seats in the Knesset) will almost certainly go to parties that support Benjamin Netanyahu… And this will be enough to return him to power.
The correct voting strategy for Netanyahu’s opponents
This is why voters who don’t want to see Netanyahu back in power must vote for the smaller parties that oppose him. Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party are guaranteed to get in, as is another large, centrist party led by Benny Gantz.
There are four small parties hovering dangerously close to the threshold that need our votes, and we need all four of these parties to cross the threshold and enter the Knesset, lest Bibi absorb half of their Knesset seats and form a coalition.
From the perspective of anyone who wants Yair Lapid to remain Prime Minister, it doesn’t actually matter whether they, as voters, agree with the platforms of these four smaller parties… It only matters whether or not these four parties cross the threshold.
If any one of these four small parties fails to cross that threshold, Yair Lapid won’t have enough political allies to form a government coalition with; and this will guarantee Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power.
The four parties are the two left-wing Zionist parties (Meretz and Labor) and the two Arab parties (The Joint List & Ra’am)