On this day: Israel goes to the polls

February 10 2009: A win for Avigdor Lieberman

By Jennifer Lipman, February 10, 2011

Israel’s voting system is prone to inconclusive outcomes – unsurprising in a country brimming with different opinions and outlooks.

The 2009 vote was already beset by controversy, called as it was after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was forced to step down because of a criminal investigation.

The Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who took over from his as party leader after winning primary elections, but announced in October that she had been unable to form a coalition, prompting President Shimon Peres to call the election.

More than 65 per cent of Israelis cast a vote on the day, some three years after the last elections. The results actually gave Olmert’s party, Kadima, the highest number of votes and seats; at 27, one more than Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. Labour saw its worst return in years, gaining just 13 seats.

Livni’s success, however, did not translate into political control. Instead, Netanyahu was asked to form a government.

The coalition that emerged brought together Labour, who had previously stated they would not contemplate a deal with Netanyahu, and right-wing elements including Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. Lieberman became Foreign Minister while then-Labour leader Ehud Barak took on the Defence portfolio.

What the JC said: While Lieberman can take pride in the fact that the party he created has, in a decade, become Israel’s third-largest parliamentary faction, he will no doubt reflect on the fact that the polls had predicted an even greater number of seats. His strident anti-Arab campaign boomeranged to the extent that it encouraged Israeli Arabs to vote in greater numbers than had been predicted, ensuring three seats for Balad, the most extreme of the Israeli Arab parties running for the Knesset and one that Lieberman had unsuccessfully tried to ban.

See more from the JC archives here.

    Last updated: 8:46am, February 10 2011