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Parliamentary Elections in Israel

Parliamentary Elections in Israel

Parliamentary Elections in Israel

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Parliamentary Elections in Israel

In 2009, parliamentary elections in Israel resulted in a virtual tie between Tzipi Livni, the centrist leader of the Kadimi Party, and Benyamin Netanyahu, the right-wing leader of Likud. The hawkish Netanyahu, who as prime minister in the 1990s had turned his back on a possible peace settlement with the Palestinians, was once again in the political cockpit.

True to form, Netanyahu encouraged expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and was unyielding to such issues as the status of Jerusalem and Arab-Israeli civil rights. Israel has effectively annexed Jerusalem (the 1980 Basic Law refers to the Holy City as the country’s undivided capital)—a fait accompli not recognized by any other country in the world. In 2014, the Israeli cabinet approved a nationality bill entitled “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People.” If the Knesset approves this bill without amendment, only Jews will have basic rights. (Most Arab-Israelis have refused formal citizenship in a state they consider illegitimate. As such, they do not enjoy “national rights,” including the right to vote in parliamentary elections.)

The dramatic events in the Arab World—including the Arab Spring and Egyptian Revolution, the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the civil war in Syria—again brought that troubled region to the brink of war in 2011 and 2012. In the Middle East, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Israel: A Problematic “Democracy”

Clearly, Israel has a functioning parliamentary form of government, but is it a democracy? Like the United Kingdom, it does not have a written constitution. But that’s where the similarity ends. In Israel, Jewish ancestry and national security take precedence over all other values, including the rule of law. Thus, to protect the 6.2 million Jews who comprise the 75% majority, there are severe restrictions on the civil liberties of Israeli’s roughly 1.6 million Arabs (more than 20% of the population) who, as noted earlier, are not citizens and do not enjoy the right to vote in national free elections.