Final prediction polls show Benjamin Netanyahu is expected, narrowly, to become the nation's next prime minister. This is an exceedingly good thing.
Israel's parliamentary system
This is an extremely cursory coverage, not exact. If someone wants to correct me on the details, do so politely and gently. EPU is momentarily boiling with Specter-hate, Collins-hate, and Snowe-hate, and not in the mood for trifles. Well, here goes.
Israel's elections are not like ours - they are like Great Britain and other parliamentary systems. Israel has a 120-person parliament. Think of it very broadly as our House of Representatives. They have a Prime Minister. Think of him/her very broadly as the President. From here the analogies go over the cliff though. Individuals are not elected to either spot. In the national election, voters vote for the party (Likud, Kadima, Labor, etc). The number of parliament slots each party wins is determined by the percentage of total votes. The parties (I suppose) decide which individuals serve as their representatives in parliament.
When the parliament is seated, they in turn elect the prime minister. During the campaign, each party has their candidate (whether declared or just de facto, I don't know). The election of the prime minister is rarely surprising, once election day's numbers are known. Voters who select Likud are pretty secure in knowing they are voting for Netanyahu, for example.
Now another notable difference between our electoral system and theirs. Bill Clinton would have lost in 1992 under the parliamentary system. Got your attention? Good.
It takes 61 votes to win. And Israel is far, far from a two-party system, and in no election -- ever -- has a single party held a majority in the parliament.
Israel's parties today, with poll numbers
Once again, a really raw oversimplified treatment. Don't shoot me.
Likud Party - the nation's major center-right party is currently led by Benjamin Netanyahu. He was the Prime Minister from 1996-1999, and was notably hard-nosed with the Palestinians and other anti-Israeli Middle Eastern elements.
Kadima Party They are a recent moderate spit-off from Likud, and are led by a very charismatic woman named Tzipi Livni.
Labor Party They are what you would expect, and they had the Prime Minister spot until recently, led by Ehud Barak. They were recently hit with public scandal, forcing the exit of Prime Minister Olmert.
Yisrael BeiteinuA recent wild card, this party is a hard-right, hard-line party built mostly from immigrants from Mordor the Soviet Empire.
Polls show this:
Likud - 27 seats
Kadima - 25 seats
Yisrael Beiteinu - 18 seats
Labor - 14 seats
There are numerous other, smaller parties, and 15% of people were undecided. Expect the final to be something like 32-30 between Likud and Kadima.
Regardless of how that race ends up, however, the operative thing is who can cobble together a coalition to get 61 votes. Yisrael Beiteinu has as much as said they will vote with Likud. Insiders say that a conservative coalition led by Likud will get something like 66 votes, easily winning.
That's the scoop, in a quickie way. I just want to say, America needs Netanyahu driving that bus. The US and Israel have been fast friends and never-quit allies for 3 generations, while the world has stood against the only free nation in that part of the world.
My only regret is that, just like in his first term, Bibi may never get the benefit of having operated while having a friend in the White House.