A sneak peak at the 2015 Israeli elections

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By Harris Blum, for the Mitzpeh, @Harris_Blum

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As the 2015 Israeli elections draw closer, many different candidates from various political parties are scrambling to earn their spots as leaders within the Israeli government.

The upcoming elections taking place on March 17 feature several political parties. There is no shortage of conflict between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party and Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni’s joint left wing party, the Zionist Camp.

The main tension came as a result of the campaign between Likud and the Zionist Camp, which are both projected to receive between 22 and 26 seats out of the 120 available.

The Zionist Camp formed out of the Labor and Hatnuah parties in December 2014 with Herzog and Livni promising to rotate the prime minister position every two years if elected.

The Zionist Camp believes in direct negotiations with the Palestinians and in a two-state solution. It also has other left wing views regarding Arab-Israeli relations, the status of the settlements in Judea and Samaria — which they believe are an obstacle to peace — and ways to deal with terrorism in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran.

Zionist parties are typically right-wing parties that would not negotiate with Palestinians. However, both Herzog and Livni believe in direct negotiations. They have also openly expressed a strong dislike for Netanyahu and insulted him numerous times.

“We want to replace Netanyahu,” Livni stated on behalf of The Zionist Camp.

According to Israel Channel Two news polls, the other significant political parties projected to get 12 seats each include Naftali Bennett’s right wing Modern Orthodox party, HaBayit HaYehudi, and Yair Lapid’s center party Yesh Atid, which focuses on economic issues. Other less influential parties projected to get fewer than 10 seats include Ayman Odeh’s Joint List, Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, Aryeh Deri’s Shas Sephardic religious party and Eli Yishai’s YachadOtzma Yehudit religious right wing party.

The new player in the game is Moshe Kahlon. His party, Kulanu, hopes to help the faltering Israeli middle class with economic and social issues and is therefore projected to receive a sizable eight or nine seats in the Knesset.

President of Terps for Israel, sophomore government and politics major Michael Krasna said he has some concerns about the upcoming elections.

“[They’re going to] go down to the wire, and it’s anyone’s game right now,” Krasna said. “But I think that Netanyahu will pull out with a win in the end.”

Krasna said that Israelis’ biggest fear today is security and that the only leader they trust to handle security issues is Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu has earned the trust of the Israeli citizens,” Krasna said. “I think that the majority of the public who are worried about security will vote for him and the Likud party.”

Krasna also said that he is worried about what might happen if the Zionist Camp wins the elections.

“If the Zionist Camp wins the elections, their primary goal is to repair relations with the Palestinians, and I think that could be problematic because that could risk giving away too much to the Palestinians,” Krasna said.

Freshman history major Benjamin Shemony placed his political views on the far right wing.

“I really hope for a coalition government with Netanyahu, Bennett and Kahlon because I feel like the middle class are hurting and need help immediately,” Shemony said. “Also that security, especially with the Palestinians, has to be managed by a strong leader who won’t make weak decisions. We won’t be getting that with a Zionist Camp government.”

On the contrary, senior government and politics major Caleb Koffler, an active member of Maryland Hillel, sees himself on the left wing of the political spectrum.

“I think that Israel needs a prime minister who is able to push forward in a productive way, who legitimizes the rights of all people that live in the land of Israel,” Koffler said.  “I think that the status quo is unsustainable, and that in order to maintain Israel’s status as both a Jewish state and as a democracy, we need a prime minister who takes the democracy aspect just as seriously.”

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