The 21st Knesset: Which new parties have the best chance?

A number of new parties - most led by former lawmakers - will vie for a place in the next Knesset. But what are their chances?

David Rosenberg,

Eli Yishai, Moshe Feiglin, Orly Levy
Eli Yishai, Moshe Feiglin, Orly Levy
Hadas Parush, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Every election cycle in Israel, new parties attempt to beat the odds and become one of the few factions to clear the Knesset’s electoral threshold.

In any given election, some 30 to 35 parties run, but only roughly a third manage to win enough votes to actually enter the Knesset.

In 2015, the last election, 10 different lists made it into the Knesset, clearing the 3.25% electoral threshold.

Of those 10 lists, just 1 – Kulanu – was a new party running for the first time with no ties any existing faction.

As the electoral threshold for the Knesset has been increased, new parties have faced an uphill battle to convince voters of their viability. From the establishment of the state in 1948 until 1988, the minimum threshold was 1% - equivalent to 1.2 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

That threshold was raised to 1.5% in 1992, and was raised again to 2.0% in 2006. In the election for the 20th Knesset in 2015, the threshold was placed at 3.25% - or the equivalent of nearly four seats.

Nevertheless, a minority of new parties do make it into the Knesset, with new factions winning seats in the Knesset for the first time in five of the seven last elections over the past quarter century.

A number of lawmakers and former lawmakers have already announced their plans to run for the 21st Knesset, which is slated to be voted in no later than November, 2019.

Former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, an anti-Oslo Accords activist who later established the “Jewish Leadership” faction within the Likud, was one of the first to announce his candidacy for the 21st Knesset.

After serving as an MK for the Likud from 2013 to 2015, Feiglin established the Zehut (“Identity”) party. Combining hawkish views on security issues and a program for annexing Judea and Samaria with libertarian socio-economic policies, Zehut calls for the graduation replacement of the IDF draft with a volunteer army, the legalization of recreational marijuana, and sharp reductions to government regulation and taxation.

In 2016, after being replaced by Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman as Defense Minister, former IDF Chief of Staff and Likud MK Moshe Yaalon resigned from the Knesset and announced his plans to form a new party.

While Yaalon has yet to establish a new faction, the former Defense Minister has in the past expressed opposition to a mass withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, suggesting the Palestinian Authority or some other autonomous Palestinian Arab body serve in place of a Palestinian state. Yaalon has shown a liberal streak on some social issues, vowing to back state recognition for same-sex marriages.

Another former minister with plans for a Knesset run is former Interior Minister and ex-Shas chairman Eli Yishai.

Yishai led the Sephardic haredi Shas party after his predecessor, Aryeh Deri, was convicted of bribery and fraud in 1999, serving in various ministerial positions through 2013.

Following the election to the 19th Knesset in 2013, however, Yishai was replaced as chairman of Shas by Deri, who had served a 22-month jail term and mandatory seven-year waiting period after his prison sentence.

Ahead of the 2015 Knesset election, Yishai bolted from Shas, forming the Yahad party with then-Jewish Home MK Yoni Chetboun.

In 2015, Yahad ran on a joint list with the Otzma Yehudit party, led by former Kach party activists including one-time National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari and Baruch Marzel, as well as attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir. The list narrowly missed the 3.25% minimum threshold, and failed to enter the Knesset.

Last year, Yishai announced his plans to run again for the Knesset at the helm of the Yahad list.

The last of the four most significant new parties likely to compete in the next Knesset elections was launched by a sitting MK, Orly Levy-Abekasis.

Elected on the Yisrael Beytenu ticket in 2015, Levy-Abekasis split from the party after it joined the coalition government in 2016.

Since then, Levy-Abekasis has served as an independent Knesset member in the opposition.

But in March, Levy-Abekasis announced her plans to form a new party and a bid for the 21st Knesset.

While no name has been selected for the new faction or platform drawn up, Levy-Abekasis touted the party as a “real alternative to crony capitalism”.

Of the four, it is Levy-Abekasis as-of-yet unnamed party which appears most likely to win seats in the next Knesset. Recent polls show a party led by Levy-Abekasis winning anywhere between four to eight mandates. All 12 of the most recent Knesset polls show her party passing the minimum threshold.

A new survey published on Tuesady by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University corroborate past polls, showing a party led by Levy-Abekasis as the 7th most popular party in the country, with 4% of respondents (both Arabs and Jews) saying they support her faction and 3.7% saying they would vote for her if new elections were held today.

The second most popular new part considered by the poll is a faction led by Yaalon, which has the backing of 2.4% of respondents, while 2.0% say they would definitely vote for the party if new elections were held today.

Both Yahad and Zehut failed to reach 1% in the poll, with just 0.8% of respondents saying they back Yahad and 0.6% who said they would definitely vote for Yahad if new elections were held today. Only 0.3% of respondents said they back Feiglin’s Zehut party, while 0.2% say they would definitely vote for Zehut if new elections were held today.

Yahad, Zehut, and Moshe Yaalon’s new party have all failed to cross the minimum threshold in virtually every poll conducted since 2015, though a 2017 survey conducted by pollster Camille Fuchs suggested that if voters were confident it would pass the threshold, Zehut could win as many as six seats.

A poll this March showed Yahad with 1.9% and Zehut at 1.2%.




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