Israelis went to the polls last week and sent a clear message to the current Prime Minister. Netanyahu will remain Prime Minister, but in a roundabout way, with a greatly reduced party and without a solid majority. In the final tally of the votes, the right block has 61 seats and the left block 59 seats. Parties that advocate for internal-Israeli issues have gained strength at the expense of Netanyahu's current coalition.
To many people around the world, the sight of 13 (!) political parties entering the Knesset can be confusing. They seem to stand for very narrow issues, a certain constituency, or just the personality of one person. It is also challenging for IRAC to navigate these unclear waters, but it is our job to get in front of as many potential legislators as possible to explain the issues that are important to us and to progressive Jews everywhere.
There is a phenomenon in Israeli politics that is somewhat unique to our country; new parties that burst onto the scene to fill a vacuum or to address a need that isn't represented by the major parties. In recent years, some of these parties did so well that they ended up being the largest parties in the Knesset and, in one case; they even became the ruling party. But political fortunes in Israel can be fickle. Kadima was the largest party in the last Knesset but now they only have two seats.
In the new Knesset, former TV news anchor Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid ("there is a future") party is the second largest and is adding a strong new voice to the Israeli political field. We are optimistic that he will use his time on the national stage to affect the change he spoke about at the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism's Biennial less than a year ago. In one regard, he has already made history. This is the first time that a major political party in Israel brings only new people into the Knesset; none of Yesh Atid's 19 Knesset members have ever held this office before.
Over the next few weeks, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be busy forming a new government. The election results show that the public is looking for leaders that will push the country in a new direction. Hopefully politicians opposed to equality and pluralism will be retired in favor of a new beginning for pluralism in Israel.
Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center.