Mar. 16, 2015 by Darius
Israel’s much anticipated election is tomorrow, or rather later today Israeli time. For those of us who haven’t followed the run-up to the election as closely as we should have, The Washington Post fortunately ran an excellent and succinct breakdown of all the parties expected to win seats in the Knesset. Happy cramming!
This political alliance links Isaac Herzog’s Labor Party and the Hatnuah party of Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli foreign minister, justice minister and Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiator. The Zionist Union has taken the lead in polls on the back of popular dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fueled most keenly by Israel’s economic woes. Herzog has emerged as the fulcrum of the anybody-but-Netanyahu movement.
Netanyahu’s influential right-wing party has campaigned primarily on his security agenda. But the prime minister’s pronounced hawkishness, highlighted by a polarizing speech on Iran this month in Washington, has failed to check Herzog’s rise.
Some 20 percent of Israel’s nearly 6 million eligible voters are Palestinian, also known as Arab Israelis. For decades, Israel’s Arab parties have been divided by all sorts of political differences — right and left, secularism and Islamism. Now Joint List, a newly united Arab bloc, might win more than a dozen seats in Israel’s parliament, despite Palestinian voter apathy and election boycotting.
The centrist, secularist party led by ex-newscaster Yair Lapid was part of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition until differences between the duo led to a falling-out. Yesh Atid has campaigned on an agenda of domestic economic reform. Lapid has also been outspoken in his opposition to the growing influence of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israeli society.
Jewish Home and its leader, tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, are backed by a base of ultranationalists and hard-core settlers in the West Bank. As a minister in Netanyahu’s government, Bennett has spoken out against a two-state solution with the Palestinians. His party is projected to win at least 12 seats and would probably partner again with Likud.
Kulanu, another centrist faction, emerged last year as the project of a former Likud minister. Its candidates include Michael Oren, Netanyahu’s former envoy to the United States. Kulanu is expected to win more than 10 seats and may join a coalition with Likud.
The party of ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Jews, Shas is the fifth-biggest party in parliament. Its leader has said his party would ally with a Likud-led coalition but wants to see progress for poorer Jews.
United Torah Judaism
A party of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox, the UTJ, like Shas, is a reflection of the growing electoral influence of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community on the country’s politics. It would make up a solid right-wing camp in any future Netanyahu-led government.
Headed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu is an ultra-nationalist, secularist party that draws much of its support from immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But this election, polls indicate it might not even cross the threshold
of votes needed to win a seat in parliament.
The woeful state of Meretz, Israel’s traditional secular-leftist party, is a sign of the larger plight of the diminished Israeli left. The party is urging voters who are considering casting their ballot for the Zionist Union to stick with Meretz. It counts Jewish American comedian Sarah Silverman as one of its supporters.
Source: “A Guide to the Main Political Parties Vying for Seats in Israel’s Parliament,” The Washington Post, March 16, 2015, p.A10, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/guide-to-israels-parties/2015/03/15/c2ecf004-c9bf-11e4-aa1a-86135599fb0f_story.html