Panelists discuss the upcoming Israeli election

March 29, 2019

Four experts on Israeli politics gathered to discuss and answer questions on the upcoming Israel election on April 9.

The event was moderated by Shayna Weiss, associate director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. The panelist included Eva Bellin (POL), professor of Arab Politics at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Shai Feldman (POL), Crown Family Director and Professor of Politics at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Yehudah Mirksy (NEJS), professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and M.A candidate at the Brandeis International Business School, Doron Shapir.

The panelists explained how Israel’s government works and its differences from the United States. Israel has a parliamentary system, in which the head of the legislature is also the chief executive. Israel’s election system is a proportional representational system, in which parties are rewarded the number of seats proportional to the number of votes it receives.

Since Israel has a multi-party system, the legislative body is made up of coalition governments. After the election, the Israeli President will determine which leader holds a chance to develop a coalition government. The current election was called by the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, months before he was accused of bribery.

Controversially and to the disapproval of many American Jewish groups, Netanyahu encouraged a political agreement to unite three right-wing parties, including a faction made up of followers of the late Meir Kahane, an ultra-nationalist American-Israeli rabbi who was banned from Israeli politics for his racist opinions, according to The Washington Post

The controversies surrounding Netanyahu don’t end there; he declared on social media that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and them alone” — a statement that drew fire for casting the country’s 1.8 million Arabs and other minorities as second-class citizens. His opponent, Benjamin Gantz, has reached out to all Israeli groups. Gantz’s opponents accuse him of having to depend on Arab-Israeli parties and is part of a broader strategy to paint him and his party as left-wing. Gantz said that he is neither left nor right.

The panelists all agreed that Israelis do not care about the American-Jewish community’s opinion. The panelists’ theories included that Israelis already have the support of Evangelical Christians in the United States, and they are much more concerned with issues of security and affordable housing.The event was sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, whose mission is to promote exemplary teaching and scholarship in Israeli history, politics, culture and society. The Crown Center is committed to conducting balanced and dispassionate research of the modern Middle East, according to Brandeis’ website.

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