The Israeli government has decided that it will go to elections, and the agreed upon date is January 22 (my brother’s birthday – he will get a day off to celebrate the big 5-0). It will be a very strange election, though, as everyone knows that Bibi Netanyahu will be the next Prime Minister (the poll out yesterday shows the Likud party winning 29 seats, and the closest rival gets 17).
The real question will be which party will come in second. There are so many contenders for the central/left party that they will of course split the vote. Those not identifying with the right/center will have a choice of Kadima, Labor, Yair Lapid’s Atid party and Ehud Barak’s party (the name escapes me, but since most polls show he will not get enough votes to be viable I am not too worried about it).
The religious parties and the Arab parties are expected to get about the same numbers of votes that they do every year (which puzzles me since both the Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox have a lot of kids, and their representation in the Knesset should be going up, but they don’t. Who are the Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox voting for?)
For me the most interesting part of the whole process will be voting for the list of possible Knesset members for the Likud party. I am a member and can vote in the primary. The rules change each election, and the party decides ahead of time how many of their members will win a place on the list by primary votes, and how many are set to received “reserved places”. The reserved places are sometimes for women and minorities, and sometimes for new immigrants and for people from specific locations around the country. Making up the rules of these lists is always contentious. The main goal for the reserved places is to get “new blood” into the Knesset – but it sometimes is used by the party leader to both reward party hacks, and to stack the list with “yes men”. When the rules are worked out and the number of places are announced, I will G-d willing publish my recommendations.
Many Israeli parties have the leader choose the list (which is shocking to many ex-Americans who think that Israel is a democracy like America. Can you imagine giving the leader of your party the ability to choose who will be in Congress?) The Likud and Labor party have primaries, although the Labor party also has reserved places.
There is one person in my household a little disappointed about the date, though. My middle son will be 18 in February, a bit late to be able to vote this time around. He wanted to be able to vote already.