Israel heads to its fourth election in two years, airport opens so stranded travelers can come home

Travel in and out of Israel has been on lockdown for months, leaving tens of thousands of Israelis stranded far from home. Starting Tuesday, Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport will be open again for travelers from all destinations. But the doors are not exactly wide open. The government will only be allowing in 3,000 passengers each day.

Many Israelis are eager to get back home, including my dear wife, who needs to tend to her aging mother. Many of them want to participle in the March 23 election. In one week, the citizens of Israel will go to the polls for the fourth time in two years. Israel’s democratic political system differs from the US, in that Israelis vote for a party, not an individual. And there are dozens of parties on the ballot, ranging from the Ultra-Orthodox to a new party against lockdowns and forced vaccinations.

In order to be prime minister, the party leader forms a coalition to gain a majority of seats in the Knesset (equivalent to the US Congress). As in the last three elections, the polls show no clear-cut front runner who will be able to form that coalition.

Current polling indicates four candidates, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history, have a shot at pulling together enough support to form a government. In addition to Netanyahu, there is former Defense Minister, Neftali Bennett, and former Education Minister, Gideon Star, both of whom are considered right-wing or conservative. And from the center of the spectrum, there is Yair Lapid, who left a lucrative career in media and entertainment over a decade ago. He favors the formation of a Palestinian state—but is no dove.

There is also the Gush HaTenachi (the Biblical Bloc) party—made up of Messianic Jews and Christian Arabs. Thus far, they have not been able to gather enough votes to break the 3.25% (four seats) threshold. Maybe this is their time.

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