The Parties in Israel’s 2019 Parliamentary Election

The Parties in Israel’s 2019 Parliamentary Election

The Parties in Israel’s 2019 Parliamentary Election

Explainer

21 min read

On 9 April 2019, Israelis will go to the polls to elect the 21st Knesset (parliament). Some 6.34 million Israelis are entitled to vote, and voter turnout is usually relatively high, with an average of 77 per cent since 1949 (the lowest turnout was in 2006, when just 63.5 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots). Election day is also a national day of rest, which helps encourage a higher turnout.

A record 42 parties are standing for election for the 120-seat unicameral legislature—but according to the polls, only a dozen or so are likely to be elected. The Israeli electoral system is one of proportional representation, and parties need to get at least 3.25 per cent of the total valid votes to gain representation in the Knesset with a minimum of four seats.

After the election, the president meets the leaders of all the elected parties, and they recommend whom they think the president should call on to form a government. The leader of a party can abstain from making a recommendation. Within a week of the results being published, the president then meets the party leader who received the most recommendations and has the best chance of forming a government—usually the head of the largest party. That leader has 28 days to put together a coalition government of at least 61 members of Knesset (MKs).

If the designated party leader fails to form a coalition government in the allotted time frame, the president can grant a 14-day extension for further negotiations. Should the designated leader fail to form a coalition after the extension period, the president may turn to another party leader and task him or her with forming a coalition government.

This explainer sets out the main parties participating in this April’s election.

Likud

Leader

Benjamin Netanyahu: Netanyahu served as Israeli prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and has done so since 2009 (he was re-elected in 2013 and 2015). Netanyahu is currently also defence minister and health minister.

Establishment

Likud was formed in 1973 by Menachem Begin following a merger of several right-wing parties: Herut, the Liberal Party, the Free Center, the National List and the Labour Movement for Greater Israel. The party’s name means “consolidation”. Its best showing was in 1981, with 41 seats.

Key Figures

Among the top names on this year’s Knesset list are:

  • Yuli Edelstein: Knesset speaker since 2013.
  • Israel Katz: Transport minister since 2009 and intelligence minister since 2015. Netanyahu appointed Katz acting foreign minister in February 2019 after a high court petition against the prime minister holding three senior portfolios.
  • Gideon Sa’ar: Netanyahu’s former education minister, who resigned in 2014 but managed to secure the fourth spot on the Knesset list despite being out of government for over four years. Many consider Sa’ar to be the leading contender for the Likud leadership after Netanyahu.
  • Yoav Galant: A former candidate for chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Galant is the most senior security figure in the party and a potential candidate for minister of defence in the next government, should Netanyahu form it. He quit Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party to join Likud earlier this year.
  • Nir Barkat: The former mayor of Jerusalem (2008–2018) is running for election to the Knesset for the first time.
  • Miri Regev: The culture minister is one of the most contentious figures in the outgoing government, renowned for often-outspoken remarks.

Alignment

Likud was founded as a secular, centre-right party. It has served in ten of Israel’s 13 ruling coalitions since the party’s establishment in 1973, including governments led by other parties.

Platform

Likud believes in strengthening the Jewish settlements in the West Bank—although it was also the party to dismantle all the Jewish settlements in Gaza under the disengagement plan in 2005, and in Sinai as part of the peace agreement with Egypt. In his 2009 Bar Ilan speech, Netanyahu endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, under several conditions, but has been mostly ambiguous about the issue since, especially in Hebrew. He has, however, come out against the one-state solution, and has stated that he wants a “sustainable” two-state solution.

On the economy, Likud is traditionally free-market capitalist. Under Netanyahu, the party has maintained a relatively fiscally conservative position. While Israel’s economy has grown in the last ten years, Israel’s cost of living is among the highest in the developed world, and salaries have not kept up with rising prices, particularly in housing. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2018, Israel had the third-highest level of working poor.

Seats

  • Current: 30 seats.
  • Predicted: 27–31 seats, according to polling.

Blue and White

Leader

Blue and White is co-led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Gantz served as IDF chief of staff from 2011 to 2015 and entered politics when the 2019 election was announced. Lapid, a former newspaper pundit and news presenter, served as finance minister under Netanyahu in 2013–2015. Under the party’s founding merger agreement, if Blue and White forms the next government, Gantz will serve as prime minister for the first two and a half years, and will then be replaced by Lapid.

Establishment

Blue and White is a joint Knesset list formed in February 2019, merging Lapid’s centrist-secular Yesh Atid party, Gantz’s centrist Israel Resilience Party (Hosen Israel) and Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon’s moderate-right Telem party. Yesh Atid was founded in 2012, while Gantz’s and Ya’alon’s parties were both founded shortly before the 2019 election was announced.

Key Figures

Dubbed the generals’ party, Blue and White includes another two former IDF chiefs of staff:

  • Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon: Netanyahu’s defence minister from 2013 to 2016. He resigned in 2016, and in 2017 revoked his membership of Likud. Since his resignation, he has repeatedly accused Netanyahu of corruption.
  • Gabi Ashkenazi: IDF chief of staff in 2007–2011, and only entered politics as part of the merger between Gantz and Lapid, in which he acted as a key mediator.

Other key figures include:

  • Zvi Hauser: Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary in 2009–2013. He is part of Ya’alon’s party.
  • Yoaz Hendel: An Israeli military historian and columnist who headed the right-wing Institute for Zionist Strategies. He briefly served as Netanyahu’s director of communications and public diplomacy, and on the negotiation team with the Palestinians. Hendel also joined as part of Ya’alon’s party.
  • Miki Haimovitch: A former TV news presenter and, in recent years, a social justice activist. She is a member of Gantz’s party.
  • Avi Nissenkorn: Joined Gantz from the leadership of the Histadrut labour federation—an indication that Israel’s largest union would not necessarily align itself with the Labour Party, as it had done historically.
  • Ofer Shelach: A former military TV commentator, and an MK for Yesh Atid since 2013. He is close to Lapid and seen as one of the party’s most prominent spokespeople.
  • Orna Barbivai: The first female IDF general, Barbivai joined Lapid’s Yesh Atid party shortly before the 2019 election was announced.

Alignment

Centre-right. Although its opponents to the right have branded Blue and White a left-wing party, it is an eclectic mix of rightist, centrist and moderate-left opinions. Gantz has called himself a security hawk, but he has kept his position on the Palestinian issue deliberately murky. Others, such as Ya’alon, remain opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

If the party wins a plurality of seats on 9 April, it will attempt to form as broad a coalition as possible, and Lapid has said it would approach a post-Netanyahu Likud to join it. One area of difficulty will be the ultra-Orthodox parties, with which Lapid has clashed over the years and which blame Lapid for keeping them out of Netanyahu’s 2013–2015 government. Should Blue and White come second, behind Likud, the party might agree to sit in a Netanyahu government.

Platform

Blue and White is running on a platform of social justice similar to that of Yesh Atid, including anti-corruption, equality of army draft, religious plurality, growth and economic efficiency, and support for the squeezed middle class. In addition, Gantz has spoken about the importance of ending the rifts in Israeli society and rebuilding trust between communities.

On security issues, the party is hawkish, including on Iran. Its political charter commits the party to pursuing a regional conference with Arab countries to “deepen the processes of separation from the Palestinians, while uncompromisingly protecting the security interests of the country and the Israeli army’s freedom of action everywhere”. The party vows that “there will not be a second disengagement [from the West Bank]” as “unilateral moves lead the enemy to the conclusion that violent opposition can beat us. Any significant diplomatic steps will be preceded by a referendum or authorised by a special majority in the Knesset.” The party also pledges not to withdraw Israeli control over four strategic areas: the major settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

On social issues, the party pledges to allow local governments to operate limited public transportation on the Sabbath; pass legislation on civil unions and surrogacy for LGBT families; increase investment in health infrastructure and expenditure on public health services; and “heal the wounds created by the current government in relations with world Jewry, especially in the United States”.

Seats

  • Current: Yesh Atid has 11 seats. The other parties are not represented.
  • Predicted: Blue and White is expected to win 30–32 seats, according to polling.

Labour

Leader

Avi Gabbay: He was elected leader in 2017 despite never having been a member of the party, beating long-term Labour stalwarts. Gabbay served as Netanyahu’s minister for the environment on behalf of the Kulanu party from 2015 to 2016.

Establishment

Labour was founded in 1968. Until 1977, all of Israel’s prime ministers were linked to the labour movement (and the party’s forerunners). The last time Labour won an election was in 1999.

Key Figures

  • Shelly Yachimovich: A former journalist and TV presenter, she joined the Labour Party in 2005, and headed the party from 2011 to 2013. Currently serving as leader of the opposition, Yachimovich is known for her social activism, working for a fair economy and a just society.
  • General Tal Russo: Labour’s highest-ranking security figure, Russo joined the party in February 2019, and was granted the reserved second slot on the party slate.
  • Stav Shaffir: First elected to the Knesset in 2013 at just 27, Shaffir came to prominence during the 2011 social justice protests, and continues to be a flag-bearer for issues such as affordable housing, public services and income inequality.

Alignment

Left wing. Labour has served in Likud-led governments, including briefly under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005, and under Netanyahu in 2009–2011.

Platform

The party was once most known for its dovish positions on peace, but in this election it has put social justice issues front and centre. On security issues, Labour’s platform advocates “separating” from the Palestinians and steps to restart peace talks. The party’s long-term vision is “a regional arrangement with the Palestinians and the moderate Arab states, in which a demilitarised Palestinian state will be established by our side”. But, the party says, as this is not attainable in the near future, it proposes an immediate end to building outside settlement blocs, legislation to encourage settlers living outside the blocs to relocate and a referendum on the future status of Palestinian neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Seats

  • Current: The Zionist Union—the alliance between Labour and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party—has 24 seats in the outgoing Knesset. Gabbay dissolved the partnership in January 2019, and due to polling figures that showed she would fail to pass the electoral threshold, Livni decided not to run in this year’s election.
  • Predicted: Labour is set to win nine or ten seats, according to polling.

United Torah Judaism

Leader

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) is a joint list representing the Ashkenazi (European-descent) ultra-Orthodox parties Agudat Yisrael (Union of Israel) and Degel HaTorah (The Torah’s Banner). Yaakov Litzman is top of the party list as leader of Agudat Yisrael, and Moshe Gafni second, heading up Degel HaTorah.

Establishment

UTJ has run as a joint ticket since 1992—though during parliamentary terms, it has split a number of times. Agudat Yisrael’s roots go back to 1912, and it has been represented in the Knesset since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Degel HaTorah was founded in 1988, partly as a response to Agudat Yisrael’s domination of ultra-Orthodox political representation. The two parties represent different ultra-Orthodox religious sects.

Key Figures

  • Yaakov Litzman: An MK since 1999 and the outgoing deputy health minister (Netanyahu retains the title of minister in name only). The ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi sector has a long-time policy of refraining from serving as ministers as a symbol of its refusal to accept fully the legitimacy of a non-religious Jewish state. Litzman was forced to take on the title of minister in the outgoing Knesset due to a petition in the Israeli High Court demanding that he either become minister or resign—and so the Council of Torah Sages allowed him to become minister. He resigned in 2017 to protest against railway repair work on the Sabbath, but a new law was passed a few months later that allowed him to return to the post of deputy health minister. Litzman was questioned by police in March 2019, including over allegations he used his position and authority to sabotage the extradition to Australia of a Jewish teacher suspected of paedophilia.
  • Moshe Gafni: An MK since 1988. He has chaired the powerful Knesset Finance Committee since 2009.

Alignment

Religious centre-right. UTJ has served in both left- and right-wing governments, but usually prefers to support the right-wing camp as it tends to have a more conservative outlook on religious issues. UTJ can often play the role of kingmaker in coalition talks and is courted by left- and right-wing parties to help make up the numbers for a majority.

Platform

UTJ’s main issue is to preserve the religious character of the Israeli state, and the party seeks to promote the interests of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, especially in the areas of education, welfare and deferral of army service. It can be centrist on issues of foreign policy and security, which it considers secondary, determining its positions based on religious concerns and guidance from the parties’ Councils of Torah Sages, rather than security or diplomatic considerations.

Seats

  • Current: Six seats.
  • Predicted: Six or seven seats, according to polling.

New Right

Leader

New Right is co-led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of whom were the top members of the Jewish Home party in the outgoing Knesset.

Establishment

New Right was formed in 2019. In a surprise split from Jewish Home after the election was called, Bennett and Shaked said they wanted to establish a new party that would bring together religious and secular right-wingers. Bennett and Shaked said they felt constrained in attracting new voters by the legacy and structure of Jewish Home, which they said was too beholden to the directives of its rabbinical leaders.

Key Figures

  • Naftali Bennett: A former high-tech entrepreneur, Bennett served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff while in opposition in 2006–2008. He was head of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organisation of councils of Jewish settlements, and in 2012 was elected to head the Jewish Home party, taking it to 12 seats in the 2013 election. Bennett served as minister of the economy under Netanyahu, and then minister of education after the 2015 election.
  • Ayelet Shaked: Netanyahu’s office director in 2006–2008, and elected to the Knesset in 2013 as number five on Jewish Home’s list (she identifies as secular). She has served as justice minister since the 2015 election.
  • Caroline Glick: A senior columnist at Breitbart News and a long-time senior columnist for the Jerusalem Post newspaper. She also writes for the right-wing Hebrew daily Makor Rishon. In 2014, she published her book The Israeli Solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. At number six on the list for the New Right, this is Glick’s first foray into politics.

Alignment

Right wing. The party says it will recommend to the president that Netanyahu form the next government, and urges its constituents to vote for it to ensure the next Netanyahu government will pursue right-wing policies.

Platform

The party believes that the Greater Land of Israel belongs to the Jews and categorically opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state. It supports the annexation of Area C of the West Bank—the area under full Israeli administration, which includes the Israeli settlements and accounts for roughly 60 per cent of the area of the West Bank. New Right stands for economic liberalism, reducing regulation and promoting Israel’s high-tech industry. The party says it will promote cooperation between secular and religious Jews and promote the Jewish character of the State of Israel, without coercion. It opposes judicial activism, and Shaked has set out a series of reforms including proposing that the political echelon appoint judges as a means to curb the role of the Israeli Supreme Court in checking the Knesset’s powers.

Seats

  • Current: The Jewish Home party has eight seats.
  • Predicted: Polling suggests New Right will win between four and six seats.

Shas

Leader

Aryeh Deri: Currently minister of the interior, he was first elected as an MK in 1992, serving until 1999 and again since 2013. He served 22 months in prison for accepting bribes during his first stint as interior minister.

Establishment

Shas (the Hebrew acronym for Torah-Observant Sephardis) was established by the charismatic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to represent the interests of Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Jews (whose origins are in the Middle East and North Africa) and counter the dominance of the Ashkenazi elite—both religious and secular. Shas’s best showing at the ballot was in 1999, when it won 17 seats.

Key Figures

  • Yitzhak Cohen: Number two on the list, behind Deri, Cohen has twice been minister for religious affairs and is the outgoing deputy finance minister. He has been an MK since 1996.
  • Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Although the party’s spiritual leader passed away in 2013, he is still firmly present in this year’s campaign, with his name on the ballot slips. The party’s support has declined over the years due to infighting, and without the rallying figure of Rabbi Yosef to mobilise the masses, it faces its worst ever showing at the ballot this year.

Alignment

Religious centre-right. The party has served in almost every governing coalition since its establishment, and often is the kingmaker in coalition building. Although the party tends to be relatively hawkish, it has agreed to serve in left-wing governments, as Rabbi Yosef declared that human life is more important than territories. Deri abstained in the Knesset vote on the 1993 Oslo Accords, allowing them to pass as a result.

Platform

The party seeks to end prejudice and discrimination against the Sephardic community, and highlights economic issues and social justice.

Seats

  • Current: Seven seats.
  • Predicted: Five or six seats, according to polling.

Union of Right-Wing Parties

Leader

Rabbi Rafi Peretz: The former chief rabbi of the IDF entered politics and became leader after Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked quit to set up the New Right party. 

Establishment

The Union of Right-Wing Parties was established in 2019. It is an alliance that brings together the Jewish Home, National Union and extremist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power). It has been presented as a ‘technical bloc’ intended to allow the parties to enter the Knesset, with the intent being to split immediately after the election into separate Knesset factions. 

The alliance was formed after Netanyahu pressured the leaders of Jewish Home and National Union (which had already agreed to run together) to merge with Otzma Yehudit, a party formed by disciples of the racist Jewish ideologue Meir Kahane. The leaders of Jewish Home–National Union initially rebuffed Netanyahu’s efforts, saying that Otzma Yehudit was too extreme. Keen for this electoral buffer, Netanyahu offered them extensive benefits including two key ministries. The merger was condemned by most major Jewish organisations in the United States.

Key Figures

  • Bezalel Smotrich: Heads the National Union faction. Since becoming an MK in 2015, he has made a name for himself with controversial statements about the rights of Arab citizens in Israel and the LGBT community. 
  • Itamar Ben-Gvir: The Otzma Yehudit candidate on the list, after the Israeli Supreme Court disqualified Michael Ben-Ari for incitement to racism. Ben-Gvir is an attorney by profession and was part of a now-outlawed Kahanist youth movement. 

Alignment

Far right, national-religious. 

Platform

The Union of Right-Wing Parties opposes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the evacuation of settlements. It opposes equal rights for the LGBT community. Otzma Yehudit advocates the transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank. 

Seats

  • Current: Jewish Home has eight seats. 
  • Predicted: The Union of Right-Wing Parties is expected to win five to seven seats.

Hadash-Ta’al

Leader

The party is co-led by Ayman Odeh of Hadash (the Hebrew acronym for the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) and Ahmad Tibi of Ta’al (the acronym for the Arab Movement for Renewal). 

Establishment

Hadash was established in 1977 as a joint Jewish and Arab left-wing party that included the Israeli Communist Party and other left-wing groups. It defines itself as a non-Zionist party.

Tibi established Ta’al in 1996 but since the 1999 election has always run with another party. Ta’al-Hadash last ran together in 2003, winning three seats (though Tibi later split). 

In the outgoing Knesset, Ta’al and Hadash were part of the Joint List that brought together all the Arab parties, and Odeh was head of the list.

Key Figures

  • Ayman Odeh: A lawyer by training from Haifa. Odeh was elected leader of Hadash before the 2015 election. 
  • Ahmad Tibi: A gynaecologist from Taybe, in central Israel. Tibi has been an MK since 1999 and has served as deputy Knesset speaker. In 1993–1999, Tibi was a political adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and took part in the Wye River negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in 1998. The Central Elections Committee (CEC) has discussed disqualifying him several times, and the panel voted in favour in 2003 and 2009. Both times, however, the supreme court overturned the decision. 
  • Aida Touma-Suleiman: A political activist and journalist, and third on the joint slate’s list, representing Hadash. She has been an MK since 2015 and was the first female Arab citizen of Israel to chair a Knesset committee. In 2007, she was among the candidates in a group of women to receive the Nobel Prize for Peace. 
  • Ofer Cassif: A Hadash member who is fourth on the list. A politics lecturer, he was disqualified by the CEC for comments that the panel believed negated Israel’s right to exist. The supreme court overturned his disqualification.

Alignment

Hadash-Ta’al is on the left of the Israeli political spectrum, given its positions on social issues and the peace process with the Palestinians. No Arab party has ever served in an Israeli government; the 1992 government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin received support from the Arab parties of the opposition. Hadash-Ta’al will likely not recommend anyone to the president after the election. 

Platform

The party favours Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and supports the Arab Peace Initiative. It backs workers’ rights and calls for the nationalisation of Israel’s gas, mineral and oil reserves. It calls for the recognition of Palestinian Arabs as a national minority in Israel.

Seats

  • Current: The Joint List has a total of 13 seats, making it the third-largest faction in the outgoing Knesset. Hadash has five members, and Ta’al one.
  • Predicted: Seven or eight seats, according to polling.

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Ra’am-Balad

Leader

Mansour Abbas heads the alliance and Ra’am (the Hebrew acronym for the United Arab List). Mtanes Shihadeh is number two on the list, and the leader of Balad (the acronym for the National Democratic Alliance).

Establishment

Both Ra’am and Balad were part of the Joint List, and decided to run together in the 2019 election, mostly to minimise the risk of failing to pass the electoral threshold.

Ra’am was established in 1996 and ran together with Tibi’s Ta’al in 2006, 2009 and 2013. It was formed by the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, together with the Arab Democratic Party. 

Balad was also established in 1996 and ran with Hadash. In 1999, it ran with Ta’al. Balad ran independently between 2003 and 2013. The CEC disqualified Balad’s list in 2003 and 2009, but the supreme court overturned the ban. The CEC also disqualified this year’s joint alliance and tried to stop Ra’am-Balad from running, but this was again overruled by the supreme court. 

Key Figures

The joint party slate contains mostly new figures. 

Mansour Abbas is deputy chairman of the Islamic Movement, and Mtanes Shehadeh was elected to head the Balad list in February 2019. 

Jamal Zahalka remains the chairman of the Balad party. He has served as an MK since 2003 but is not standing for election this year. 

Alignment

Both parties are considered far left and nationalist. Balad champions turning the State of Israel into a “state of all of its citizens”. The Islamic Movement is now the dominant force in Ra’am, which has a strong affiliation with the Bedouin population in Israel. It will not sit in a governing coalition and is unlikely to recommend anyone to the president to form a government after the election.

Platform

The party supports the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, with an end to the occupation and dismantling of the settlements. It also seeks the release of Palestinian prisoners and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. It too advocates the recognition of Israeli Arabs as a national minority and seeks to ensure their rights in a constitution, as well as closing the gaps in the educational system and elsewhere. 

Seats

  • Current: The Joint List has a total of 13 seats. Ra’am and Balad have four members each.
  • Predicted: Four seats, according to polling.

Meretz

Leader

Tamar Zandberg: An MK since 2013, she has led the party since March 2018. 

Establishment

Meretz was founded in 1992 as a joint list between three left-wing parties: Mapam, Ratz and Shinui. They officially merged in 1997. Meretz’s best result was in 1992, when it won 12 seats. The party is polling close to the electoral threshold. 

Key Figures

  • Ilan Gilon: A renowned disability campaigner, having contracted polio as a baby. He was first elected to the Knesset in 1999 but failed to be re-elected until 2009.
  • Michal Rozin: An MK since 2013, Rozin has worked particularly on issues concerning women’s rights, LGBT rights, employment rights, and the status of migrant workers and refugees in Israel. 

Alignment

Left wing, social democratic.

Platform

The party is the last standard bearer of the peace camp and a forthright proponent of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It advocates ending the settlement enterprise and withdrawing from the occupied Palestinian territories. In addition, Meretz supports equal rights for all citizens, separation of religion and state, and a welfare state. 

Seats

  • Current: Five seats.
  • Predicted: Four to six seats, according to polling.

Yisrael Beiteinu

Leader

Avigdor Liberman: A former defence minister and foreign minister who served as director-general of Netanyahu’s office in 1996–1997. 

Establishment

Yisrael Beiteinu was established in 1999, predominantly aimed at immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In 2009, the party won its highest number of seats, with 15; and in 2013 it ran together with Likud. In 2015 its representation fell to six seats. This year, plagued by corruption scandals and a perceived failure to advance issues of key importance to its Russian-speaking constituents, the party is polling close to the electoral threshold and may not enter the next Knesset. 

Key Figures

The list this year is composed of mostly new faces, selected by Liberman. His number two in the outgoing Knesset, Orly Levy-Abekasis, quit and is heading her own party ahead of this election. 

Alignment

Secular right wing. 

Platform

Yisrael Beiteinu is hawkish on foreign policy and security, with secular, liberal positions on issues of religion and state. Liberman has long advocated redrawing the map so that Arab areas inside Israel (and their residents) would become part of a future Palestinian state in exchange for West Bank settlements remaining in Israel under a future agreement with the Palestinians. 

Seats

  • Current: Five seats.
  • Predicted: Between zero and four seats, according to polling.

Kulanu

Leader

Moshe Kahlon: Currently finance minister, he was communications minister in Netanyahu’s 2009 government. Once seen as a rising star in Likud, Kahlon took a break from politics and did not run in the 2013 election, before forming his own party. 

Establishment

Kulanu was founded in 2014 to focus predominantly on socio-economic issues. The party is in danger of being wiped out in this election, as it is polling close to the electoral threshold. 

Key Figures

  • Eli Cohen: Minister of the economy.
  • Yifat Shasha-Biton: Appointed construction and housing minister in January 2019, after Yoav Galant quit Kulanu to join Likud. 

Alignment

Centre-right.

Platform

Kulanu focuses on bringing down the cost of living, particularly housing, as well as reducing social gaps and fighting corruption. Security and foreign policy issues feature less prominently in Kahlon’s vision, but this election the party has branded itself the “Sane Right”. While Kahlon says Israel should not return to the 1967 border, he is in favour of economic and security coordination with the Palestinians.

Seats

  • Current: Ten seats.
  • Predicted: Up to four seats, according to polling.

Other Parties to Watch

Zehut

Zehut (Identity) is headed by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who was ousted from that party by Netanyahu. Zehut is a far-right/libertarian party with a messianic platform including the annexation of the West Bank and the construction of the Third Temple. The ultra-nationalist Feiglin was put on the UK’s exclusion list in 2008 and served time for sedition. He may be this election’s fashionable protest vote, with polls putting him over the electoral threshold (and some giving the party as many as six seats), mostly due to his vocal support for the legalisation of cannabis. Feiglin himself has refused to align with any of the leading candidates, and if he passes the threshold, he may be poised to act as the tiebreaker between the left and the right when it comes to forming a coalition.

Gesher

Gesher (Bridge) is headed by former Yisrael Beiteinu MK Orly Levy-Abekasis. She resigned from Liberman’s party in 2016 when it joined Netanyahu’s government. Her centre-right party appeared an early favourite in the polls, as she set out a platform of social justice to fight for the public good. Negotiations with Benny Gantz failed, however, and Gesher did not make it into the anti-Netanyahu alliance. Recent polls show the party failing to cross the threshold, although it could see a final rally from undecided voters on election day.

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