Israel Election Update

Posted on November 1, 2002 In Press Releases


To: Rabbis, Synagogue Leaders, Key Contacts
From: Richard B. Stone, Chairman
Betty Ehrenberg, Director, International and Communal Affairs
Re: Israel Election Update, November 2002

On November 5, 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon petitioned President of Israel Moshe Katzav to dissolve the 15th Knesset, thus forcing early elections within 90 days. As you know, Israel is a Parliamentary democracy and the public votes for parties. In 1996, the Knesset voted to change the system and divided the vote for Prime Minister from that of Members of Knesset. After two such elections, the Knesset voted to change the law back to the former system last year.

Some points pertaining to the 2003 elections:

Elections will be held prior to February 5, 2003.

Parties must submit a list of candidates for the Knesset by December 20th, 2002.

The Likud primaries are expected to be held within a month of the call for new elections. Approximately 305,000 Likud members are eligible to vote in the party primaries.

Labor Parties primaries will be held on November 19th, 2002. Approximately 113,000 Labor Party members are eligible to vote in the primaries.

General Facts about Israeli Elections:

All 120 seats of the Knesset are determined in these elections.

Israelis vote for a party, not an individual, by secret ballot.

Knesset seats are distributed according to the percentage of votes each party receives. This is called proportional representation.

Knesset elections are scheduled for every four years, but early elections can be held if:
– The government loses a no-confidence vote in the Knesset
– The Prime Minister asks the President to dissolve the Knesset.
– The Knesset votes to dissolve itself.
– The budget fails to pass within three months of the start of the fiscal year.

Only parties that receive a minimum of 1.5% of the votes will receive Knesset seats.

Israeli parties compile a list of candidates as a result of party primaries called party lists.

Only registered party members can participate in the party primaries.

The head of the party list that receives the most votes is asked to form the government. If he is successful, he becomes Prime Minister.

Parties may join in coalition and present combined lists for voter consideration.

The Israeli President can postpone elections in case of a national emergency. The 1973 elections were postponed due to war.

The current Prime Minister and his Cabinet will govern the country until the next government is formed following the elections. It cannot be brought down by a no-confidence vote in the Knesset prior to that time.

A government is formed when a party wins 61 of 120 seats on its own or forms a coalition with other parties to reach that number.

A National Unity government is formed if Labor and Likud form a coalition.

Political parties are provided free television time by the government. All political television time is suspended 48 hours prior to elections.

All political polling must be suspended 24 hours prior to the beginning of voting.

For more information, please call (212) 613-8124.