6th May Palestinian / Israeli Election Update

Credit: Yesh Atid

Six weeks on from the Israeli election, and with coalition negotiations ongoing, as well Palestinian elections supposed to be taking place in May and June, LDFI have decided to send round a brief update on both polls.

Palestinian Authority

Last week, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas announced that the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Presidency of the State of Palestine were to be postponed.

It was unfortunately no great surprise, with many commentators expecting Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to cancel the upcoming elections, which would have been the first time Palestinians could have voted for their political leaders for over 15 years.

Palestinian Authority officials have claimed that Israeli authorities had informed them that they might prevent Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem from voting in the elections. However, a statement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry rejected the claims, saying: ‘The elections in the Palestinian Authority are an internal Palestinian issue, and Israel has no intention of intervening in them nor preventing them’.

However, a number of Mahmoud Abbas’ rivals, including from the Islamist Militant organisation Hamas, have accused Fatah, Abbas’ party, of reneging on previously held agreements, and arguing this is the equivalent to a coup. Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, and UK, has run the Gaza Strip since 2007. The international community has expressed disappointment at the cancellation of the elections, with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab calling on the State of Israel to allow all Palestinian citizens, including those in East Jerusalem, to vote in line with the agreements set out in the Oslo Accords.

However, the former UN Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, has said Mahmoud Abbas has “no legitimate reason” to cancel Palestinian elections, stating it is “dangerous, wrong and fatally damaging to the Palestinian national cause”.

Experts in the region suspect that Abbas’ primary reason for postponing them was the fear that Hamas would gain even more power. This concern is shared by Israel, the US, as well as Jordan and Egypt.

We shall keep you abreast of any electoral movement in Gaza and the West Bank.

State of Israel

Having received the largest number of seats in the Knesset in March’s elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given the mandate by President Reuven Rivlin to form a governing coalition. However, after the mandatory six weeks of horse-trading, he was unable to do so.

Therefore, President Rivlin has just tasked our friend MK Yair Lapid, the Leader of the liberal, centrist, secular and Zionst Yesh Atid party, to form the next government of Israel.

Lapid has stated that he will try and form a national unity government from all sides of Israel’s political and religious spectrum. He has been in negotiations with the leader of the nationalist right-wing Yamina party and its leader Naftali Bennett for a number of weeks. Bennett, the kingmaker after the recent elections despite only winning seven seats, has demanded a power-sharing agreement with Lapid, that would see Bennett serve first as prime minister for two years before Lapid takes over.

Bennett is keen to avoid a fifth election and has seized the opportunity to form a unity government with Lapid and the centre-left. He has called on all right-wing parties to join the government. Israel has a long history of unity governments, with Prime Ministerial rotation agreements in place.

Lapid and Bennett already agreed that the right-wing bloc with only 13 seats will have a disproportionate number of ministers in the government in comparison the centre-left bloc with 45 seats. In addition, their government will focus on Israel’s post-COVID recovery and reuniting the country. It is expected to refrain from dealing with controversial ideological issues, and all government decision will have to be decided in consensus and each bloc will have veto power.

Lapid has 28 days to try and form a new government. Negotiations will be complex as the various parties that comprise the anti-Netanyahu bloc differ enormously on issues of policy, religion, the peace process and more. If Lapid and Bennet are unable to form a government, Israel is likely to face its fifth elections in over two and a half years.

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