The Bizarre Nature of Voting in Israel
Americans (and Brits, like me) often have a hard time grasping the bizarre nature of voting in Israel. In other countries, you vote for the party that represents your ideology and which you therefore support. In Israel, even if such a party exists, you might well vote for a different one instead. There is ideological voting, semi-ideological voting, and strategic voting.
There are two reasons why this might happen. One has to do with the fact that every government is made up of a coalition of a variety of parties. So, for example, I personally identify most closely with Ayelet Shaked's Bayit Yehudi. However, since in this election she would support a coalition with Bibi's Likud, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir's Religious Zionism, Shas and UTJ, which in my view are a terrible combination for the country (just look at how this past year they openly voted against Israel's best interests), I would not vote for her. Instead, I would choose a party that is less aligned with my ideology, but which creates a coalition that is less problematic and is overall closer to my ideology.
The second reason has to do with the electoral threshold. The votes are divided among the 120 seats of the Knesset - but if a party does not receive at least 3.25% of the electoral threshold, then all their votes are discounted. Some people don't grasp the mathematical significance of this, so let me spell it out with an extreme example. If there was one right wing party that was 40% of the country, and twenty left wing parties that equally represented 60% of the country, the right-wing party would get every single seat in the Knesset, even though they are a minority. It would be a minority having absolute power in a democracy!
That's an extreme example, but there is a very realistic scenario that might play out this week. Bibi's bloc contains four parties which will all definitely cross the threshold. However, if all the other parties also cross the threshold, he lacks a majority and cannot form a coalition. But the non-Bibi parties include several very small parties (who foolishly did not unite). If even one or two of these parties fail to cross the threshold, then all those votes are discounted and Bibi receives a disproportionately larger share of the vote (though doubtless you won't hear any of his supporters say that such an electoral win would be "undemocratic"). Accordingly, I know a number of people (and I am inclined to join their ranks) who are voting for one of these small parties even though they disagree with their values, just to make sure that every vote in the country counts in the correct proportion.
Thus, you get a crazy situation where right-wing religious Zionists, in order to accomplish their ideological goals, are making a rational decision to vote for parties that are completely unaligned with their ideology, such as Labor, Meretz, or even Arab parties! Only in Israel.