Israeli expert Dr. Meir Elran, Ph.D., predicts the upcoming Israeli elections could have significant ramifications on the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians, as well as with the relationship between the Israeli government and the Diaspora communities around the world.
A veteran in the Israel Defense Forces, primarily in the Military Intelligence Directorate, Elran spoke at JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) meeting--held in February at JUF--to discuss the upcoming elections in Israel.
Elran is a senior research fellow and head of the Homeland Security Program, co-head of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, and currently serves as a visiting professor with the University of Chicago.
He lauded Israel's vibrant democracy, and then outlined the general structure of Israel's parliamentary system that is based upon proportional representation, as opposed to the American two-party system and its electoral college for the presidency. Unheard of in the United States, an election with over 30 parties running for office in Israel is commonplace.
Elran explained that a single party has never won a simple majority of seats (61 out of 120) in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, so in order to form a government, parties create coalitions.
Peace and security have always been a major concern for Israeli voters, and this upcoming election will be no different, said Elran. The parties in the center tend not to be ideologically driven, and therefore are the most willing to join a governing coalition.
The newest of these center parties, led by Former IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, is the Israel Resilience Party. (A few hours after Dr. Elran spoke, Israel Resilience announced a coalition with the Yesh Atid party, led by Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya'alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, both former IDF Chiefs of Staff, like Gantz. Israeli media are calling this the strongest challenge yet to Prime Minister Netanyahu.)
While recent polls indicate current Prime Minister Netanyahu will most likely be re-elected, he faces several corruption charges. If Netanyahu is indicted and steps down, there is the question of who will take over, according to Elran.
JUF Board Member Gita Berk also gave an update at the meeting on the dire situation of Venezuela's Jewish community. Born in Venezuela the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Berk keeps in touch with members of the Jewish community in Caracas, communicating daily with former classmates and friends.
She noted how the livelihood of Venezuelan Jews, who were once welcomed as refugees fleeing persecution, grew increasingly dangerous during the presidency of Hugo Chavez-known by many for his hateful rhetoric against Jews and others-and now during Nicolas Maduro's presidency, called out by most as elected fraudulently.
Now, the combination of rampant economic strife and hunger, coupled with an environment already extremely hostile towards Jews, has created a perfect storm in Venezuela.
JUF's overseas arms--the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee--have delivered needed food and medicine to the people of Venezuela, which Berk said has helped alleviate the situation a bit.
For more information on the upcoming Israeli elections, visit Israel Democracy Institute's 2019 election guide .
Jake Chernoff is a Program Associate for JUF/Federation's Public Affairs.