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[IWS] CRS: ISRAEL: 2013 ELECTIONS PREVIEW [8 January 2013]

IWS Documented News Service

_______________________________

Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies

Cornell University

16 East 34th Street, 4th floor---------------------- Stuart Basefsky

New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau

________________________________________________________________________

 

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

 

Israel: 2013 Elections Preview

Jim Zanotti, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

January 8, 2013

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R42888.pdf

[full-text, 17 pages]

 

Summary

Close U.S.-Israel relations drive congressional interest in upcoming elections for Israel’s 120-seat

Knesset (parliament), scheduled for January 22, 2013. Israeli leadership decisions may have

profound implications for matters of high U.S. priority, including potential threats from Iran and

its non-state allies (such as Hezbollah and Hamas), issues of ongoing Israeli-Palestinian dispute,

and political change in neighboring Arab states. The composition of a probable new coalition and

government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could significantly influence Israeli

decisionmaking, politics, and relations with the outside world, including the United States. In

turn, this could affect U.S. popularity, credibility, and—ultimately—national security vis-à-vis the

Middle East and more broadly. For more information on Israeli politics and U.S.-Israel relations,

see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

 

Netanyahu came to power following elections in 2009, and called for the 2013 elections to take

place in January, nine months before they were required. Most polls and analyses predict that

Netanyahu will win another term as prime minister, but a drop in polling support for his joint

Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu list—possibly due in part to the indictment of Yisrael Beiteinu leader

Avigdor Lieberman—could increase his dependence on support from small right-of-center or

ultra-Orthodox parties that focus on specific issues and have seen their polling averages rise. If

they thus acquire disproportionate influence, such coalition partners—along with other parties,

cabinet ministers, and “hardline” elements within Likud—might constrain or otherwise affect

Netanyahu as he confronts a range of challenges that include the Iranian nuclear issue, cost-ofliving

and other budgetary matters, and the seemingly intractable situation with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s political opponents from the left and center appear thus far to have been

unsuccessful in attempts to gather a bloc that represents a viable political alternative.

 

The likely effects of Israel’s elections and related political developments on its internal cohesion

and foreign relations are unclear. Criticism by some U.S. and international observers of

Netanyahu’s government since 2009 has targeted expanding Jewish residential settlement in the

West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many of these critics accuse Israel’s leaders of a penchant for

short-term thinking, focused on maintaining territory and security control, at the potential expense

of a longer-term vision of mutual accommodation with other regional actors. Some Israelis

dismiss this criticism by insisting that it does not properly take into account the proximity,

multiplicity, and seriousness of the challenges Israel faces, or the concessions that Netanyahu and

other Israeli leaders have periodically made.

 

Should his party emerge with the largest Knesset representation, Netanyahu would play the

leading role in shaping the new coalition and government, but would need support from outside

his political support base. As part of this process, he would weigh various domestic and

international considerations—including the lack of a clear rival to his immediate leadership—

within an overall political, demographic, and regional security context. The strategic challenge of

Iran’s nuclear program and the potential for key short-term decision points on unilateral Israeli

military action are paramount among security concerns. However, the concerns also include

questions about growing threats in ungoverned spaces at Israel’s borders, increased potential for

West Bank instability, and the future nature of Israel’s relations with neighboring countries and

concerns about further international isolation. To the extent that Netanyahu’s choice of coalition

partners and ministers reveals his priorities and constraints as to policy initiatives, Members of

Congress can use this information to assess the status and trajectory of U.S.-Israel relations and

evaluate possible political, economic, and military options in the Middle East.

 

Contents

Introduction and Implications for Congress .................................................................................... 1

Overview.......................................................................................................................................... 1

General Assessment ................................................................................................................... 1

Political and Demographic Context ........................................................................................... 5

Key Electoral and Coalition-Building Questions ............................................................................ 7

Lieberman’s Legal Troubles: How Important a Factor? ............................................................ 7

How Might International Factors Affect the Process? ............................................................... 8

How Will a New Coalition Balance Political and Governance Considerations?....................... 9

Conclusion ..................................................................................................................................... 11

 

Figures

Figure 1. 2013 Polling Averages Compared with 2009 Election Results ........................................ 3

Figure 2. Possible Post-Election Knesset Coalition Scenarios ...................................................... 10

 

Appendixes

Appendix. Major Parties Contesting 2013 Elections ..................................................................... 13

Contacts

Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 14

Acknowledgments ......................................................................................................................... 14

 

 

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This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

 




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