The 2020 General Elections

2020 Election Campaign – Elections for the 23rd Knesset

The elections for the 23rd Knesset signal a deep rift in the Israeli political system. Even in comparison with other democracies, holding three elections in less than a year is unprecedented. The root cause of this unusual phenomenon is the fact that following the two previous elections (for the 21st Knesset in April 2019, and for the 22nd—in September 2019), the Knesset failed to form a government.

Both elections were held in the shadow of the corruption charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Likud, together with its right wing allies (Shas, Yamina, and United Torah Judaism) received 55 seats together. Blue and White, along with the three leftist lists (Labor-Gesher, the Democratic Union and the Joint List) received 57 seats. The results of the September elections once again put Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beitenu in kingmaker position. As in the April elections, attempts to form a government were unsuccessful. The process took place in parallel with the progress in Netanyahu's legal cases: The hearing took place shortly after the September elections, and on November 21, the Attorney General announced his decision to charge Netanyahu in three cases of suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

After the September elections, both Netanyahu and Gantz failed to form a government – for the first time, the process reached its third "stage" – that is, 21 days during which 61 MKs may submit their endorsement of a candidate to form a government to the president. The 21 day period came to an end on December 11, 2019, at which time the Knesset was dispersed. In order limit the duration of the election campaign somewhat, the Knesset voted by a large majority to hold the elections on Monday, March 2, 2020. Most of the parties did not make many internal changes to the composition of their lists, as compared with the previous elections. The only one which did so was Labor-Gesher, which decided to run in a joint framework with Meretz, which was nicknamed Labor-Gesher-Meretz.

Once again, at the center of this campaign lies the question of the legitimacy of Prime Minister Netanyahu's candidacy, in light of developments in the cases against him. On the first day of 2020, Netanyahu filed for immunity, but four weeks later withdrew the request. On January 28, 2020, the Attorney General filed the indictments in the Jerusalem District Court.

Lists Competing in the 2020 Elections

2020 Elections: Articles and Updates

Disqualifying candidates and lists for the Knesset violates one of the most fundamental democratic rights, the right to vote and to be elected. Therefore, it must be done with the utmost care, judgment and objectivity. Who can reject candidates and lists for the Knesset, and on what is the criteria? IDI experts answer these questions.

Minister Gideon Saar's proposed bill preventing a criminal defendant from forming a government is unprecedented, but so is the reality in Israel.

Netanyahu and Gantz could use their unity government to put in place a 'democratic ceasefire' and speed Israel’s economic recovery rather than entrenching political deadlock.

After 18 months of political deadlock, Israel’s 35th government was sworn in - and in many ways it's quite unique.

The rotation mechanism agreed upon creates a governmental structure, unprecedented neither in Israel or anywhere else

This is a familiar plague: rewriting the game rules of democracy to suit changing political circumstances has become the norm in Israel.

The coronavirus is an international threat but will it stem the growth of populism around the world?

IDI President Yohanan Plesner held an online media briefing and Q&A session on the new coalition agreement between the Likud and Blue and White parties.

The Israeli Voice Index for March 2020 found that 76% of Israelis are concerned that they or a family member will contract the coronavirus – up from 34% in February.

As the Knesset struggles to resume its work, IDI took a look at how parliaments around the world are putting into place processes and mechanisms that enable them to operate during the coronavirus pandemic so they can fulfill the vital role they play in democracies.

Will the coronavirus crisis result in an unity government, which can, at least temporarily, resolve Israel's political deadlock? IDI experts explain.

Israel finds itself in an unprecedented political situation at a time it must face a worldwide pandemic.

In this paper, we argue that in a public health emergency, such as the one we are experiencing now, when unprecedented means are being employed in the fight against COVID-19, the Knesset’s smooth functioning is even more essential, especially with regard to the need for strict and effective oversight of the government.

What will be the economic ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak on the Israeli economy? Prof. Karnit Flug explains.

Even a life-saving measure must be weighed against the threat it poses to democracy -- we do it all the time

Let’s imagine a conversation between Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook, religious Zionism’s greatest thinker, and the four Yamina Party leaders.

The people had their say in these elections. A majority of the Arab Israeli public (65%) turned out to proclaim a resounding vote of confidence in the Joint List

The results of this third round of elections would seem to indicate that, once again, no decisive victory has been won, and that the Israeli political system is likely to remain stuck at the same dead end at which it has been stranded for the last year. Could a government of experts resolve the crisis?

Although there is no precedent in Israel's history for forming a minority government immediately after an election, minority governments around the world are far from a rarity.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trial in the Jerusalem District Court is to begin on March 17th. Dr. Amir Fuchs, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute provides responses to key questions as to what this process will look like.

How can MKs 'cross the floor' and what sanctions might they face? An explainer by Dr. Assaf Shapira

A 3-pronged plan to change the balance of power in government threatens everyone who cares about human rights, regardless of politics

5 days to the Elections: Jewish Israelis are Paying Less Attention. A Majority of Arab Israelis are Following with the Same or Increased Interest. 30% of the Public Predicts a Fourth Election.

Has the "Deal of the Century" injected energy into Israel's third election and perhaps provided an incentive for Arab Israelis to turn out in higher numbers than September? Arik Rudnitzky uses the village of Bartaa as a possible case study.

Rather than “packaging” voting as a political, civic and moral obligation, we should try instead to get these potential voters to think about the personal benefits to be gained by going to the polls.

Israelis overseas today have begun early voting for the March 2nd election – but only diplomats and official emissaries are eligible to vote. What about Israeli citizens who are working or studying abroad? In many democracies mechanisms exist to allow citizens who are overseas to vote. IDI has proposed a reform that will allow Israelis who the center of their lives are based in Israel to vote in elections. 

The “Deal of the Century” and Human Rights: An overview of territorial exchanges and the status of the Palestinians in the annexed Areas 

In the case of a MK against whom the attorney-general has decided to file an indictment, the members of his party and of his Knesset bloc vote as one.

With two weeks to go, Yohanan Plesner presents the key issues to look out for in Israel's unprecedented third election and what – if anything – will determine if a stable government will finally be formed.

January's Israeli Voice Index found 32% of Israelis believe Netanyahu's investigations will be the issue with the greatest impact on voters in the upcoming Knesset elections.

At this writing, Israel seems to be headed towards its third elections within a year. Israel has been governed for almost a year by a caretaker government, and no one can be sure that the next elections will resolve the stalemate. While this state of affairs may fulfill the dreams of libertarians or anarchists, for most others – it looks more like a nightmare.

What are the legal barriers standing in the way of the current government implementing the U.S.'s “Deal of the Century” peace plan?

Political parties no longer fulfill the goals for which they were intended, rather they have become technical structures that are focused on the ranking of the candidates on their Knesset lists.

Rabbis are not necessarily any better or worse than other politicians.

After the party lists have been submitted Dr. Assaf Shapira analyzes expected representation of women in the 23rd Knesset based on the September 2019 elections

New record low of number of lists; Left-Center shrinks from eight lists in 2013 to three today; women’s’ representation continues to dither – less than 30 women MKs are expected

Regardless of the decision regardin PM Netanyahu's request for immunity - the debate will revolve around the more important question: the status of the rule of law in Israel

Given the dark insinuations in the PM's request for Knesset immunity, a vote in his favor would be a vote of no-confidence in the rule of law

A majority of Israelis gave high grades when assessing Israel’s preparedness for war in three areas: the IDF’s combat readiness, the resilience of the population on the home front, and the political echelon’s decision-making ability concerning the objectives and management of the war. At the same time, Israelis do not think highly of the preparedness of the home front regarding protection of civilian facilities.


IDI experts explain Israel’s immunity law, what happens when it’s requested and what the implications may be for the political system.

Israeli Voters, Not Judges, Must Determine Who Will Lead the Country Next

After lengthy deliberation, the attorney-general, who holds the statutory authority to file charges against him, decided to indict Netanyahu.

Israel is gearing up for its third national elections in less than a year - how does this compare to other democracies around the world?

There's an unacceptable, extreme conflict of interest between Netanyahu the accused and Netanyahu, head of the executive branch

Actual policy making in a liberal democracy is based on sophisticated nuances.

This claim was first put forth in a letter from the Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, to the speaker of the Knesset with regard to the situation of MK Haim Katz.

Our level-headed, intelligent, rational prime minister has lost his good judgment and is inciting against some of the most important institutions of state

The November 2019 Israeli Voice Index finds that 35% of Israelis think PM Netanyahu should resign and stand trial – of the Likud voters - 37% agree

They are everywhere, argued the PM after pushing to install them in polling stations. He's right, and that's exactly the problem

When the PM smeared Arab Knesset members, those 'allies' who urged us to go and vote had a responsibility to protest. They didn't.

Tomorrow, Gantz's mandate to form a government will end, and we are expected to enter an unparalleled stage in Israel - 21 days, during which a majority of Knesset members, at least 61, are allowed to ask the president to assign the mandate to anyone of the 120 MKs. 

The rhetoric accompanying the attempts to delegitimize a “minority government” is questionable. The current transitional government is supported only by 55 Knesset members, with 65 opposing it. If any government deserves the moniker ‘minority government,’ it is the one currently in office.

The final results of the third election are in and Israel is in very much the same stalemate position as the previous two rounds - is a minority government the solution?

There is a vagueness about the authority to make fateful decisions for the country, including what even counts as war.

Assaf Shapira argues that if the choice is between a minority government and another round of elections, the former is the better option.

Justice Minister Amir Ohana,has launched a fierce attack against the State Attorney’s Office. The Prime Minister who appointed him would be wise to remember that the angel of history is peeking over his shoulder.

October 2019 Israeli Voice Index revealed a decline in Israelis’ assessment of President Trump’s commitment to Israel’s security. The survey also found that 62% of Israelis support the parties they voted for in the last elections joining a Blue and White led coalition.

Benjamin Netanyahu's legal problems are at the center of the current political quagmire. So what do Israelis think about the legal situation and what are the possible resolutions?

Coalition negotiations continue and Israel does not yet have a government - but one thing is certain - Israeli democracy dodged a bullet.

Like all democracies, the principle of the "Rule of Law" exits in Israel. In recent years, there have been quite a few attempts to overcome this tenant, potentially causing long-lasting damage to public confidence in the justice system. Dr. Fuchs explains.

While we cannot know for sure if Benny Gantz will succeed where Benjamin Netanyahu has failed, we can state with certainty that our political system of the past year has been characterized by deadlock, and this is not expected to end in the near future.

The results speak for themselves. Shas, headed by Arye Deri, registered a resounding success with traditional voters. But is this a long term victory?

The failure to form a government in April and the subsequent second election surprised Israelis. Now, they might need to go to the polls for a third election in early 2020. What do Israelis think about this unprecedented political reality?

September 2019 Israeli Voice Index found that a majority of Israelis prefer a unity government. Additionally the majority of Israelis do not think the State should offer Benjamin Netanyahu a plea bargain or that he would agree to one.

Despite all the fears, voter turnout was quite respectable (the third-highest rate in the seven elections this century).

The overwhelming majority of Arab voters (81.8%) cast their ballots for the Joint List, which won 13 Knesset seats and reproduced its historic achievement of 2015. By contrast, there was a significant drop in voting for Jewish parties. Only Blue-White won respectable support in Arab localities—the equivalent of one Knesset seat, making it the leading Jewish party in the Arab sector.

The strangest and most polarizing election in Israel’s history is now over. The people have spoken, and we’re now entering the next stage of the political lifecycle: forming a new government. What are the rules governing this process, and what can be learned from a historical and comparative perspective?