In one month Israelis go to the polls to elect the 20th Knesset

Israeli elections Israeli elections

Facts about the elections

  • Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a single legislative chamber, the 120-seat Knesset. It is elected for a four-year term through a directly proportional system.
  • Any Israeli citizen from the age of 18 is eligible to vote and each voter chooses one party list.
  • Polls are open from 8am to 10pm. Municipal councils run the polling stations and the ballot boxes are taken to 18 counting stations across the country.
  • Major new networks announce exit polls at 10 pm local time (9 pm in Brussels, 8pm in London). Actual results start coming through within 3-4 hours of the polls closing.
  • The threshold for a party to enter the Knesset has been raised from 2 pc t 3.25 pc.

The parties running in the elections

Likud

Founded: 1973

Current Seats: 18

Notable Members: Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Ya’alon, Tzachi Hanegbi, Danny Danon

Member of the Coalition

Background:

Israel’s ruling conservative party is headed by Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu, who is running for his third consecutive term by appealing to his right-wing base on issues of security and national identity. Netanyahu initiated early elections in December 2014 with the hope that his “natural partners,”–the far right and ultra-orthodox–would replace the centrist Yesh Atid and Hatnuah parties in his coalition. However, the prime minister faces a growing “Anyone but Bibi” movement.

Yesh Atid (there is a Future)

Founded: 2008

Current Seats: 19

Notable Members: Yair Lapid, Yaakov Peri, Shai Piron

Left the Coalition

Background:

The surprise winner of the second most Knesset seats in the 2013 elections, Yesh Atid was founded by popular television anchor Yair Lapid to appeal to middle-class voters who were frustrated with Israel’s political system. However, as finance minister, Lapid has seen his popularity plummet, perceived by voters as having failed to deliver on his economic promises. The upcoming 2015 elections were triggered after Netanyahu and Lapid were unable to agree on a budget and the prime minister pushed Lapid out of his coalition. Lapid has accused Netanyahu of being “out of touch” with the average Israeli.

Labor

Founded: 1968

Current Seats: 15

Faction alliances: Running on joint ‘Zionist Union’ list with Hatnuah, Coordinating with Meretz

Notable Members: Isaac Herzog, Shelly Yachimovich, Stav Shaffir

Background:

Iterations of Israel’s founding party dominated Israeli politics for the first 29 years of the state’s existence, but it has struggled to remain competitive. It has cycled between eight different party leaders since 2001, when Labor last held the prime ministership. Former Minister Isaac Herzog defeated MK Shelly Yachimovich for the Labor leadership in 2013 after the party’s poor showing at the polls, which some supporters blamed on Yachimovich’s emphasis on economic, rather than diplomatic issues. For the 2015 elections, Herzog has announced a joint slate with Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni, and if tapped to form the next government, Herzog would serve as prime minister for the first two years, and Livni, the final two years.

Hatnuah (The Movement)

Founded: 2012

Current Seats: 6

Faction alliances: Running on joint “Zionist Union” list with Labor

Notable Members: Tzipi Livni

Left the Coalition

Background:

Former foreign minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni founded Hatnuah and campaigned on the idea that peace with the Palestinians was necessary and possible. After the 2013 election, she was the first to join the Netanyahu coalition as justice minister and chief peace negotiator. In the wake of the collapse of the Kerry initiative and the coalition, Livni has announced a joint slate with Labor, and if tapped to form the next government, Labor leader Isaac Herzog would serve as prime minister for the first two years, and Livni, for the final two years.

Meretz

Founded: 1992

Current Seats: 6

Faction alliances: Coordinating with Labor

Notable Members: Zehava Gal-On, Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Zandberg

Background:

The progressive Meretz party was a key player in the Labor coalitions of the 1990’s, and has recently seen its popularity rise after struggling over the past decade. Meretz is one of the last Israeli factions to consider itself leftist, campaigning on issues of social justice, equality and peace with the Palestinians. It was the only Zionist party to oppose the summer 2014 escalation in Gaza.

Kulanu (All of Us)

Founded: 2014

Current Seats: 0

Notable Members: Moshe Kahlon, Yoav Galant, Michael Oren (former Israel ambassador in the US), Meir Dagan

Background:

Popular Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon resigned from the Knesset three months before the 2013 elections, and announced in 2014 that he would form a new political party of “clean” lawmakers to focus on reducing the cost of living in Israel. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Israeli economist Manuel Trachtenberg are candidates. As welfare minister, Kahlon gained notoriety for helping to reform the Israeli communications market, which led to a decrease in the price of cell service packages.

HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home)

Founded: 2008

Current Seats: 12

Notable Members: Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Ayelet Shaked |

Member of Coalition

Background:

A rightist nationalist party most often associated with the religious Zionist settler movement, HaBayit HaYehudi has seen its popularity rise since former Special Forces officer, tech millionaire and Netanyahu chief of staff Naftali Bennett swept its online primary and took over the party in 2012. The party joined Netanyahu’s coalition in 2013, winning Bennett the economy ministry. His deputy, Uri Ariel, secured the housing ministry, which controls much of the settlement process.

Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home)

Founded: 1999

Current Seats: 13

Notable Members: Avigdor Lieberman

Member of Coalition

Background:

The secular, nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu was founded by Moldovan emigre Avigdor Lieberman as a home for Soviet-born Israelis. Lieberman became foreign minister in the 2013 Netanyahu coalition after running on a joint slate with Likud. Lieberman split from the Likud in the summer of 2014, citing “differences of opinion,” which were reportedly focused on his criticism of the prime minister’s restraint in handling the Gaza escalation.  Now considered to be a part of the “anyone but Bibi” camp, Israel Beiteinu has seen its popularity plummet in the wake of an investigation into alleged corruption by party officials.

Shas (Sephardic Guards)

Founded: 1984

Current Seats: 11

Notable Members: Aryeh Deri

Background:

Founded as a political party for ultra-Orthodox Sephardim, Shas has played “kingmaker” in right, center and left coalitions over the past two decades. However, it has struggled over the past year since being left out of the Netanyahu coalition and in the wake of the death of its founder and spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Shas now faces a significant political challenge from former faction leader Eli Yishai, who has formed a new party after clashing with current leader Aryeh Deri.

United Torah Judaism

Founded: 1992

Current Seats: 7

Notable Members: Yaakov Litzman, Moshe Gafni

Background:

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) is a loose alliance of Hasidic rabbis and interest groups. It works primarily to win funding for Haredi institutions and maintain Israel’s status quo regarding the relationship between state and religion. The party is non-Zionist and does not accept cabinet positions in the government.

Ha’am Itanu (The People Are with US)

Founded: 2014

Current Seats: 0

Factional Alliances: Formed a joint list with far-right Otzma LeYisrael

Notable Members: Eli Yishai

Background:

In December 2014, Shas MK Eli Yishai broke from the ultra-orthodox faction that he once led to found Ha’am Itanu, a new party that he said would honor the legacy of late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Hadash (Democratic Front of Peace and Equality)

Founded: 1977

Current Seats: 4

Faction alliances: Joined the United List with other Arab parties.

Notable Members: Dov Khenin, Mohammad Barakeh, Hana Sweid

Background:

Hadash comprises the remains of the Israeli Communist Party and is Israel’s only Jewish-Arab party. It has formed a joint list with Balad, Ra’am and Ta’al ahead of the 2015 election.

Ra’am-Ta’al (United Arab List, Arab Movement for Renewal)

Founded: 2006

Current Seats: 4

Faction alliances: Joined the United List with other Arab parties.

Notable Members: Ibrahim Sarsur, Ahmad Tibi

Background:

As Israel’s only Islamic party, Ra’am has endorsed the use of Sharia courts, the unification of state and religion, and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Arab countries. It has joined forces with the smaller Arab party Ta’al, which focuses on Israeli-Palestinian peace and equal rights for Palestinian-Israeli citizens. Ahead of the 2015 election, they have formed a join list with Balad and Hadash.

Balad (Nation)

Founded: 1995

Current Seats: 3

Faction Alliances: Joined the United List with other Arab parties.

Notable Members: Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi

Background:

Balad is secular, anti-Zionist and supports Arab nationalism. Balad MK Haneen Zoabi has been banned from the Knesset for calling Palestinian terrorists “people who see no other way to change their reality.” Ahead of the 2015 election, the party has formed a joint list with Hadash, Ra’am and Ta’al.

List of previous governments and Prime Ministers

Government Prime Minister Dates in Office
Provisional Government David Ben-Gurion 14.05.1948 – 08.03.1949
1st Government David Ben-Gurion 08.03.1949 – 30.10.1950
2nd Government David Ben-Gurion 30.10.1950 – 08.10.1951
3rd Government David Ben-Gurion 08.10.1951 – 22.12.1952
4th Government David Ben-Gurion 22.12.1952 – 26.01.1954
5th Government Moshe Sharett 26.01.1954 – 29.06.1955
6th Government Moshe Sharett 29.06.1955 – 03.11.1955
7th Government David Ben-Gurion 03.11.1955 – 07.01.1958
8th Government David Ben-Gurion 07.01.1958 – 17.12.1959
9th Government David Ben-Gurion 17.12.1959 – 02.11.1961
10th Government David Ben-Gurion 02.11.1961 – 26.06.1963
11th Government Levi Eshkol 26.06.1963 – 22.12.1964
12th Government Levi Eshkol 22.12.1964 – 12.01.1966
13th Government Levi Eshkol 12.01.1966 – 17.03.1969
14th Government Golda Meir 17.03.1969 – 15.12.1969
15th Government Golda Meir 15.12.1969 – 10.03.1974
16th Government Golda Meir 10.03.1974 – 03.06.1974
17th Government Yitzhak Rabin 03.06.1974 – 20.06.1977
18th Government Menahem Begin 20.06.1977 – 05.08.1981
19th Government Menahem Begin 05.08.1981 – 10.10.1983
20th Government Yitzhak Shamir 10.10.1983 – 13.09.1984
21st Government Shimon Peres 13.09.1984 – 20.10.1986
22nd Government Yitzhak Shamir 20.10.1986 – 22.12.1988
23rd Government Yitzhak Shamir 22.12.1988 – 11.06.1990
24th Government Yitzhak Shamir 11.06.1990 – 13.07.1992
25th Government Yitzhak Rabin 13.07.1992 – 22.11.1995
26th Government Shimon Peres 22.11.1995 – 18.06.1996
27th Government Benjamin Netanyahu 18.06.1996 – 18.05.1999
28th Government Ehud Barak 18.05.1999 – 07.03.2001
29th Government Ariel Sharon 07.03.2001 – 28.02.2003
30th Government Ariel Sharon/ Ehud Olmert 28.02.2003 – 04.05.2006
31st Government Ehud Olmert 04.05.2006 – 31.03.2009
32st Government Benjamin Netanyahu 01.04.2009 – 17.03.2013

33rd Government            Benjamin Netanyahu                18.03.2013 — 08.12.2014