Israel's Knesset Parties Engage in Exclusive Conversations with Jewish Federations January 24, 2013
After several months of political campaigning, Israel’s election results were much closer than anyone predicted and captured a wide swath of the public’s attention. The country experienced its highest voter turnout in over a decade, and the announcement of initial exit polls drew an all-time record of viewers for any broadcast in Israel.
To help the North American public better understand the results, the key players, and the main concerns of the Israeli people, The Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel & Overseas Affinity Group held a series of three exclusive teleconferences relating to the elections.
The series concluded yesterday, with a call featuring Dr. Arik Carmon, president and founder of the Israel Democracy Institute. Carmon discussed the results of the elections and speculated on what is now in store for Israel with the new Knesset.
Carmon reported that every election in Israel's history has been tight, and this election was no exception. The results have left Israel with twelve small parties represented in the Knesset, a major sign of instability ahead. With 47 new Members of Knesset who have never served before, the governing body will take some time to adjust. In addition, the Knesset now has 26 women, the highest number in any Knesset.
The key challenges for the 19th Knesset include working on the peace process and the accompanying pressure from the international community, as well as dealing with defense concerns. The Knesset will need to tackle problems in the Israeli economy, including its 40 billion NIS deficit and, most immediately, passing a budget for 2013. Israeli internal conflicts continue to cause anxiety, and many are concerned about the enlistment of Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) into the army.
All eyes are on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to see what type of coalition he will form with the other parties and what role a potential visit from Obama in the coming year might play.
Earlier this month, JFNA held two teleconferences featuring representatives from Israel’s major political parties, enabling the North American Jewish community to learn about each party’s main platform and direction.
The first call, held on January 10, included the Labor, Jewish Home and Meretz parties. Member of Knesset Dr. Nachman Shai (former Senior Vice President of JFNA’s predecessor, UJC), represented the Labor Party, headed by Shelley Yacimovich; Member of Knesset Nitzan Horowitz represented the Meretz Party; and Uri Bank represented HaBayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home). Discussion topics ranged from personal conscience and civil obedience in the IDF, to the advancing of the peace process with the Palestinians, and the pros and cons of forming a coalition in the government.
The second call, held on January 17, featured the Likud Beitenu, Hatenua and Yesh Atid parties. Knesset candidate Mr. Danny Hershtal, a marketing and PR consultant, represented Likud; Professor Alon Tal, chairman of the Green Movement, represented Hatenua (Tzipi Livni's new party); and Rabbi Dov Lipman, well known for his work fighting religious extremism in Bet Shemesh, represented Yesh Atid. The candidates touched on topics like religious-secular representation within parties, whether parties stand for anything other than their leaders and workable solutions for unity.
The calls focused on a wide range of concerns pertinent to Israel's election process, leadership and future, and provided listeners with a solid background to the events as they took place in Israel. JFNA’s Israel and Overseas Affinity group aims to provide the North American Jewish community with information and a connection to topics of relevance in Israel.
To hear the teleconferences in full, please find recordings of all three calls here.