11 Must Reads on Israel's Election Before the Polls Close

After a bruising campaign, Israeli voters are heading for the polls. Haaretz's columnists parse a number of the issues citizens face as they cast their ballots.

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Israelis, and their German Shepherd mixes, go to the polls to elect a government, on March 17, 2015,
As Israelis, and their German Shepherd mixes, go to the polls to elect a government, on March 17, 2015, Haaretz's columnists and staff writers provide insightful and fascinating commentary on a range of related topics.Credit: Moti Milrod

As Israel goes to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new government, here are 11 key election analyses from Haaretz's columnists and writers:

The lack of a dominant ruling party is the standout fault in the Israeli political system. The core of any coalition is only about a fifth of the Knesset or less, and with so many voters turning to so many smaller parties, the prime minister is left beholden to potential vetoes and can't produce a coherent and cohesive policy, Aluf Benn writes.

Born in 1949, Benjamin Netanyahu is the first prime minister born in the country’s first decade of existence. Now he must yield, Amir Oren argues, to those born in the second decade, children of the 1967 and 1973 wars, who grew up against the backdrop of Jewish settlements in the territories, intifadas and shifts in government control between Likud and Labor.

Whoever forms the next government must not assign the defense portfolio, like the finance portfolio, based on a political deal. The new government, cabinet and – if Moshe Ya'alon does not continue in office – defense minister must call on the advice and experience of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Gadi Eizenkot, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, Amos Harel urges.

As Israel's citizens vote, they are casting two ballots. One is for themselves and the other is for the 2.5 million Palestinians over age 18 who live in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. Our votes also determine their lives, their futures and their disasters, no less and perhaps even more than our own, Amira Hass writes.

With all that Israel has to brag about, the reality is that the country is a democracy in appearance alone. There’s no such thing as half democracy, and what will take place here today is barely that. The occupiers will go to the polls and the occupied can only dream about them. Their fate will be determined in their masters’ elections, Gideon Levy says.

Chemi Shalev makes 10 observations worth thinking about as Israel votes today. Among them: Tzipi Livni's last-minute decision to give up the planned rotation with Isaac Herzog may or may not have been a ploy but it stole Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign thunder; and if any candidate might do better than the polls predict, watch out for Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu.

Although we live in a flourishing, powerful country, the man who has stood at the top for the past six years never ceased talking about the threats we face. The threats are there. But they can be managed, and you can’t build a nation by constantly scaring the people. The 2015 election, Ari Shavit suggests, is a referendum on hope.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's final effort of the campaign might be called "rescue me," and it was working, luring a number of right-wing voters from Habayit Hayehudi and Kulanu. Seeing its lead over Likud shrinking, the Zionist Camp felt it needed to act – and ending Tzipi Livni's rotation deal with Isaac Herzog was the decision it took, Yossi Verter proposes.

For Israeli Arabs, the election is the true test of their community’s political leadership and, no less important, of their status within Israel’s political and parliamentary establishment. In public, the Joint List candidates have praised each other and affirmed they are united. But all that could disappear if the slate fails to win at least a dozen seats, Jack Khoury argues.

Even before the ballots are counted, Anshel Pfeffer reports, a number of the candidates, and other prominent figures in the campaign, can be pegged as winners – Zionist Camp's Isaac Herzog and Kulanu's Moshe Kahlon, for example – and losers, including Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman and Shas's Aryeh Dery.