A Guide to Israel's Political Parties, So Far
It is understandable if the non-Israeli reader finds it hard to follow the changes that have been taking place daily in the lists of Israeli political parties. Arutz Sheva has decided to try to set the reader straight.
First, the established – well, sort of established – parties.
Likud-Yisrael Beytenu: The two parties, one nationalist and the other originally Russian immigrant nationalist, have joined ranks. This is a political move, but may also signal that the Russians, who have taken their place in Israeli life, don't feel the need for their own party anymore. The joint list has still to be formed, but polls show them hovering around 40 Knesset seats.
Likud primaries gave top spots to consistent nationalists who fought for their views, such as Ze'ev Elkin, Tzippy Hotovely and Danny Danon. Feiglin got into the 14th spot and has published his manifesto. Those who had famous names but had views that diverged from those of Likud voters were pushed down into unrealistic spots – Benny Begin and Dan Meridor are the prime examples.
Yisrael Beytenu's list has yet to be chosen by party head Avigdor Lieberman. Religious rightist MK Dudu Rotem will most certainly remain on it.
Habayit Hayehudi: The inheritor of the now-defunct NRP's constituency has joined Tekuma (one of the founding factions of the Ichud Leumi/ National Union party) in a Religious Zionist list that hopes to attract traditionally observant voters as well and bring back the proud heydays of religious Zionism. Despite the sector's figuring prominently in every facet of Israelis life, it has been sorely under-represented in the Knesset in recent years.
It now has Naftali Bennett, former CEO of the Council for Judea and Samaria and successful hi-tech entrepreneur, at its head, with MK Uri Ariel in second place, former MK Nissan Slomiansky in 3rd and former administrative head of the Rabbinical Courts Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan in 4th. Yaakov Katz ("Ketsaleh") is not on the list this time around. Veteran MK Zevulun Orlev is not on it either.
A non-observant but traditional woman, Ayelet Shaked, is in 5th place, and the head of Human Rights Organization in Yesha, Orit Strook, is in 10th place. Other figures are new, but known to religious Zionists for their accomplishments. Polls give them 10+ Knesset seats, they hope to join the PM's coalition from the right.
Bennett drew admiration in Israel for appearing on foreign media where he staunchly defended Israel during Pillar of Defense.
Labor: the old party of Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol has veered to the left, is headed by former radio personality and promoter of social issues Shelly Yechimovich, who has the gift of gab. Labor held primaries this past Thursday and chose a list that includes former workers' union boss Amir Peretz, who soon threatened to split over the party platform, and leftist, radical feminist columnist Merav Michaeli. The head of Peace Now ran for a spot, but didn't make it.
Some polls show the party with up to 20 seats.
Shas: Arye Deri is back after paying his debt to society, sharing leadership with Minister Eli Yishai, guided by former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, shlita, and the two would-be party heads are keeping their feelings for each other under control.
Yahadut Hatorah: The hareidi Lithuanian and Hassidic list was expected to stick together and continue with its well-seasoned MKs who turn to the Council of Torah Sages for guidance. However, there seems to be a conflict between the Jerusalem and other members of the Council, and a question of whom to place in the 7th - not realistic according to the polls - seat. The Council meets Monday night, so as this article is posted, there is no news.
Kadima, formed by Ariel Sharon as a "Centrist" breakaway from the Likud so as to pass the "Disengagement" is now headed by former CoS, MK Shaul Mofaz. It received the most Knesset seats in the last election and is now possibly on its way to disappearing in the tradition of other so-called Centrist, but actually opportunist, parties in Israel's past, such as hareidi-bashing Shinui (formed by Yesh Atid head's late father).
A portion of its MKs are scrambling to join other lists; ideology is generally not a factor.
Meretz, radically leftist, and the anti-Zionist Arab parties are running the same figures or similar ones. Nothing has happened to MK Ahmed Tibi who went to the UN to support Abbas and nothing has happened to MK Zouabi who joined the infamous flotilla to Gaza.
At this point, the plot thickens – or more mushrooms sprout, choose your metaphor:
Yesh Atid is the new party formed by TV personality Yair Lapid (note the rhyme). He was once was berated by this writer for asserting in his then-column in Yediot that Yom Kippur was a punishment invented by the rabbis and doesn't appear in the Torah.
His party rose meterorically at first, and now seems to be setting meteorically. Its views are hard to pin down, as they vacillate, although Lapid is famous for writing that the "Disengagement" was carried out for no other reason than to teach the religious Zionists a lesson they needed to learn.
Educator Rabbi Shai Piron and religious TV presenter and writer Dr. Aliza Lavie have joined his list as nos. 2 and 7, respectively. Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh, who helped form Am-Shalem (see below) and fought what was termed "hareidi coercion" in the town, is also on the list.
The Tzipi Livni Party is named for its head and is presenting herself as an alternative to Netanyahu as in her old days in Kadima, three years ago. She has former major-general Amram Mitzna in spot no. 2. He once led the Labor party, never mind, and was bested by Ariel Sharon for his leftist platform, which Sharon then adopted. To his credit, he has a term as Haifa mayor and putting the southern town of Yeruham back on course.
Some polls predict up to 7 seats; hardly an alternative.
Observant former head of IDF Human Resources Elazar Stern, who once considered joining Am-Shalem, is said to have joined the list, which is based on seven Kadima members who just left that party to form a faction that can give Livni financial support.
Am-Shalem: This party was formed by Shas defector Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, who left Shas for ideological reasons, but held on to his Knesset seat. It also got much publicity at first, but seems to have lost steam. It was predicated on being a fresh party for observant and Zionist Sephardic voters who want yeshiva boys to be in the army and want to join the work force, but also came out against Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Polls show that the party may not make it. Amsalem would like to join a rightist party after the elections.
Rav Amnon Yitzchak has started a new party called- Koach L'Hashpia. It is not expected to reach the minimum number of votes for a Knesset seat.
MKs Ben Ari and Eldad formed the Otzma leYisrael when the Bayit Yehudi list did not include them on its list for being connected with Baruch Marzel and thus with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane's Kach party. Some polls give them up to 3 seats, and some none at all.
Don’t' confuse that with Atzmaut, Ehud Barak's party, which seems to have given in to its almost certain early death with his (temporary?) leave from politics.
Remember, that there are usually other small parties that will be announced at the last minute. They have one-issue platforms and invariably waste votes.
And keep watching.