The parties running in the 17 March general elections in Israel

Israeli Elections 2015Israeli Elections 2015

The Likud

Founded: 1973
Current Seats: 18
Notable Members: Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Yaalon, Tzachi Hanegbi, Danny Danon
Member of the outgoing 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.

Netanyahu presents himself as the only candidate to deal with Hamas and Hezbollah, and stop Iran going nuclear.

He in principle favours two-state solution though much of his party is skeptical.

The party’s economic agenda is secondary to the security-diplomatic one. It is generally considered fiscally conservative but proposing reduced VAT on basic goods. They have attacked Zionist Union’s plans for increased government spending.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been Prime Minister since 2009 and also from 1996 to 1999. A former elite commando, he rose to preeminence as Israel’s ambassador to the UN. Conservative on diplomatic and security issues, he accepted the idea of a Palestinian state in 2009 and engaged in peace talks in 2013-14.

Zionist Union

Result of a joint electoral pact of Labour and Hatnuah.
It calls for rebuilding relations with moderate Palestinians on way to negotiated peace. Criticised Prime Minister Netanyahu for leading Israel into diplomatic isolation and promise to strengthen Israel’s relations with the US and Europe.

On socio-economic issues, it is proposing a raft of measures to reduce the cost of living including free land for housing.

Isaac (Buji) Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union, is Labour party leader since 2013. A former lawyer, he is from an esteemed policial family. He is the son of Irish-born former President Chaim Herzog. If tapped to form the next government, Herzog would serve as Prime Minister for the first two years, and Tzipi Livni, leader of Hatnuah, the final two years.

Labour Party

Founded: 1968
Current Seats: 15
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
Notable Members: Tzipi Livni
Left the outgoing coalition in December 2014.

  • Background:

A 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.

HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home)

Founded: 2008
Current Seats: 12
Notable Members: Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Ayelet Shaked
Member of the the outgoing coalition

  • Background:

The rightist nationalist party is often associated with the religious Zionist settler movement, HaBayit HaYehudi has seen its popularity rise since former IDF Special Forces commando 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.

Staunch promoter of the West Bank settlements and opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. Bennett is set to play prominent role if Netanyahu forms the next government.

Yesh Atid (There is a Future)

Founded: 2008
Current Seats: 19
Notable Members: Yair Lapid, Yaakov Peri, Shai Peron
Left the outgoing coalition under Prime Minister Netanyahu in December 2014.

  • Background:

The surprise winner of the second most Knesset seats in the 2013 elections, Yesh Atid was founded by popular and telegenic 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.

Yesh Atid has voiced support for attempts to separate from Palestinians through a regional agreement based on the Saudi peace initiative. Spoke about the threat of boycotts if the peace process fails.

On socio-economic issues, catering the middle-class is its main agenda, including increasing housing construction and 0 % VAT for first time buyers.

It drafted legislation to draft ultra-Orthodox men.

Kulanu (All of Us)

Founded: 2014
Current Seats: 0
Notable Members: Moshe Kahlon, Yoav Galant, Michael Oren

  • 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. 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.

Kahlon is skeptical about Palestinian partner but open to land for peace.

On socio-economic issues, the party has placed emphasis on tackling monopolies and enforcing competition.

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.

Vocally hawkish on security issues, the party favours a regional agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would include a transfer of Arab-Israeli populated territories to a Palestinian state, in exchange for West Bank settlement blocs.

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 outgoing Netanyahu coalition and in the wake of the death of its founder and spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Shas faces a significant political challenge from former faction leader Eli Yishai, who has formed a new party, Yahad, after clashing with current leader Aryeh Deri.

While security and diplomacy are not the party’s main issue, their voters tend to be hawkish but the party is politically pragmatic.

Its main goal is to protect funding for ultra-Othodox institutions and other interess. It is campaigning to appeal to the poorest sectors.

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 (ultra-Othodox) institutions and maintain Israel’s status quo regarding the relationship between state and religion. It campaigns for increased welfare provisions for large families. The party is non-Zionist and does not accept cabinet positions in the government.

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. 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.

United Arab List

An electoral alliance of the three Arab parties, Hadash, Ra’am Ta’al and Balad, which was forced by the raising of the election threshold to 3.25 percent.

It supports an agreement which meets Palestinian interests and calls for greater equality for Israeli-Arab sector.

Hadash (Democratic Front of Peace and Equality)

Founded: 1977
Current Seats: 4
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
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.

Balad (Nation)

Founded: 1995
Current Seats: 3
Notable Members: Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi

Background:
Balad is secular, anti-Zionist and supports Arab nationalism. Balad MK Hanin Zoabi has been banned from the Knesset for calling Palestinian terrorists “people who see no other way to change their reality.”

Yahad (Together)

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 Yahad, a new party that he said would honor the legacy of late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

It is a hard right group opposed to any agreement with the Palestinians.