Gilad Alper
Gilad AlperZehut

As Israel edges closer towards its third election in less than a year, a new center-right party is preparing to launch, joining an already crowded field of right-leaning parties.

The New Liberal Party of Israel, formed by three former members of the libertarian-leaning Zehut party, is set to officially launch next Wednesday at a conference in Tel Aviv.

Based on the principles of classical liberalism and free-market economics, the new party shares much of the ideology of Zehut, which endorsed the Likud shortly before the September 17th election, bowing out of the race due to the promise of a ministry position in the next government led by Binyamin Netanyahu, and the adoption by the Likud of some of Zehut’s positions on medical marijuana.

Zehut chairman Moshe Feiglin is not involved in the new venture, however, which was launched by three former Zehut candidates who refused to accept the party’s endorsement of the Likud earlier this year, instead backing the New Right faction of the Yamina list.

Economist Gilad Alper, physics lecturer Rafael Minnes, and educator and school reform activist Libby Molad lead the nascent party, which recently released a draft of its platform.

On security, foreign policy, and territorial issues, the New Liberal Party places itself to the right of center, opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state and placing Israel’s security at the top of its agenda.

“We place the security of Israel, its citizens, and its security forces at the top of the priorities list, alongside the aspiration to strengthen Israel’s position in the world, and the achievement of a just peace with its neighbors.”

“We oppose the establishment of a sovereign political entity west of the Jordan River other than Israel, and in any event [of peace talks], we will work to bring a deal to a referendum, as we believe that such crucial and decisive questions must be settled via direct democracy.”

On socio-economic issues, the party’s platform backs reduced regulation, taxation, and government intervention in the economy and increased privacy rights, along with the separation of synagogue and state.

“We will separate religion from politics, and return [religion] to the individual and the community. Religion is the private matter of each individual person. Government involvement with religious institutions results in unacceptable coercion, as well as discrimination against single people and people from the LGBT community in comparison to married couples, the banning of mass transportation on the Sabbath, the wasting of taxpayers’ funds, and unnecessary feelings of resentment between secular and religious Jews.”

The platform also calls for removing Israel’s marriage registry system from state religious authorities and the establishment of civil marriages, along with ending the chief rabbinate’s administration of Israel’s kashrut certification system.

Like Zehut, the New Liberal Party emphasizes the need to “end the war on cannabis” – including recreational marijuana – and to expand access to medicinal marijuana.

Regarding education, the party’s platform promises reforms which would decentralize and shift control of the education system from the Education Ministry to local communities. In addition, the New Liberal Party endorses the voucher system to increase parental choice.