Ballot box voting poll station
Ballot box voting poll stationiStock

Lists for the forthcoming September 17th elections needed to be submitted by August 1. Thus the last week was hectic concerning the possible joint running of parties. An agreement was signed between the New Right, the Jewish Home and National Union. The latter two had run jointly in the Union of Right Wing Parties (URWP, or United Right) list in the April election. The New Right ran alone and failed to pass the election threshold.

This new grouping of, mainly religious, right wing parties will run under the name of United Right. Efforts to bring in the extreme right wing Otzmah Yehudit party failed. So did those concerning Zehut. The new list will be headed by former Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked of the New Right. Jewish Home leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz tried to block this as he wanted to head the list. Peretz will now be number two on the list. National Union leader, Bezalel Smotrich will be number three and the demoted leader of the New Right, Naftali Bennett will only be number four.

The agreement also includes that the three parties remain together in the coalition negotiations. All will recommend to President Rivlin that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu be tasked to form a new government.

The leader of the Zehut party, Moshe Feiglin submitted its list already on Wednesday morning, July 31. As in the April election when the party failed to pass the threshold, Zehut has chosen to run alone again.

There were no further developments on additional joint lists on the left. According to most polls, the joint running of Labor and Gesher currently does not seem to lead to a substantial increase of votes. The list may well receive six seats as did Labor in April. That will mean that Labor’s presence in the Knesset will have decreased further as Gesher's leader, Orly Levy-Abecassis will occupy one of the first six seats.

Labor leader MK Amir Peretz has been authorized to appoint the list’s eighth candidate as well as some candidates lower on the list. An effort to mobilize retired Druze General Amal Assad to the joint list failed. Assad said that he also turned down offers from the Democratic Camp (Meretz and Democratic Israel) and other parties. Veteran MK Eitan Cabel who was number fifteen on the Labor list in April has decided not to run this time.

Labor number two, MK Itzik Shmuli, who was defeated by Amir Peretz in the leadership vote, had been solicited by the Democratic Union and Blue and White. Yet he decided to remain with Labor. He and Peretz are the only Labor MKs elected in April that have remained on the list for the upcoming elections.

When the Democratic Union was formed, former Labor MK Stav Shaffir was given the right for two additional slots. The eighth slot will go to former MK, Yael Cohen Paran. She was elected in the 2015 elections on the Zionist Union list which consisted of Labor and Hatnuah. Shaffir was also entitled to name the candidate for the eleventh slot. This will go to a former Labor candidate, Rabbi Gilad Kariv. He is the head of the Reform Movement in Israel. Kariv was the only Labor Knesset candidate who endorsed MK Shaffir in her lost July 2 Labor leadership race.

Shaffir was forced to resign from the Knesset. The Head of the Central Elections Committee judge Hanan Melcer ruled that otherwise she could not run on the Democratic Union list. Another development is that the Democratic Union has vowed not to join a Netanyahu-led government.

MK Roy Folkman was elected to the Knesset in April on behalf of Kulanu. He until now held the thirty-fifth slot on the joint Likud-Kulanu list. He has however announced that he will not run in the upcoming election. Likud and Kulanu together received thirty nine seats in the April elections. As Likud had included in its list a candidate of the Union of Right Wing parties the joint list has to defend thirty eight seats.

Most polls give the Likud-Kulanu list only around thirty seats. This means that a number of Likud MKs who were newly elected in April will not return after a few months. The Zionist Union had twenty-four seats in the Knesset elected in March 2015 while Meretz had five. According to polls, it is unlikely that Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union who cover the same part of the political spectrum will even reach twenty seats.

During many previous elections there were three distinct stages. The first stage covered the period ending with the submission of the lists. The second stage ended with the beginning of the television programming of the various parties. The third period ran from that point onwards through to before election day. Since television is no longer the dominant media the second and third period are largely merged in the lead up to the election campaign.

There are background rumors about a visit to Israel by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The timing of this possible visit once again emphasizes Netanyahu’s position as a senior statesman. Whether this event would result in an increase of votes for Likud remains to be seen.

The writer is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.