Israeli Elections- Voting Blocs, or: 34 Parties Made Simpler

In my previous election post, I wrote about the 34 party lists running in the elections, which are scheduled for January 22nd. 34 parties is quite a lot and can lead to a lot of confusion when heading to the polls. How does one choose a party to vote for? How can one hope to make out the political map ahead of the elections? How can 34 parties run a country?

 Thankfully, reality is a lot simpler.

 First, we can usually disregard most of the parties which are not in the Knesset. The requirements for forming a party are low enough for every Tom, Dick and Haim to form parties ahead of elections, but new parties very rarely get in. More precisely, new parties run by new people very rarely get in.

Second, the Israeli political map is divided into four main blocs: the Right, the Left, the Ultra Orthodox community and the Arab minority. All of the parties currently in the Knesset belong to one of these blocs. So while it may look like a battle between 34 parties, it is in fact a battle between these four groups.

pie chart-blocs

While the Ultra-Orthodox and Arab blocs usually stay the same, Israeli politics are basically a tug of war between the two larger blocs- the Right and the Left.

The Right

The Right bloc is currently made up of four parties: Likud (Netanyahu’s party), Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman’s party), The Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi) and the National Union (Ichud Leumi).

Likud is the largest party, with 27 Knesset seats (out of 120). Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu have merged their lists and are running as one party. Meanwhile, the Jewish Home has had a complete change of leadership and is now run by Naftali Bennet. Bennet attempted to merge with the National Union, but ended up merging only with half of the National Union. The other half formed a new party called “Otzma LeYisrael” (Strong Israel). Nevertheless, Bennet is expected to enlarge his party from 3 seats to more than 10.

In these two graphs, the parties are placed according to their views (from Right to far Right).

The Right Bloc- 18th (current) Knesset- Total: 49 seats

rightbloc_18th knesset

The Right Bloc- According to Polls:



The Left

In the 18th Knesset, the Left was represented by four parties: Labor, Meretz, Atzma’ut and Kadima (Kadima defines itself as center, but was made up of a mixture of Leftwing and Rightwing politicians. Its policies were Left).

Atzma’ut was a party formed by Ehud Barak who broke off from Labor, when he realized he would not be able to remain head of Labor. The party is not competing in the elections. Labor is now run by Shelly Yachimovitch.

Meanwhile, Kadima also had a change of leadership: Shaul Mofaz won the election against Tzipi Livni. Livni left politics for a few months, but is now running in her own party. Her new party, simply called “The Movement” (HaTnua) took 1/4 of Kadima’s MKs, as well as 1/4 of Kadima’s funding.

A new player is Yair Lapid. Lapid is a well-known journalist, who has decided to join the recent trend of journalists crossing the lines into politics.

Other journalists who have made this crossover include Shelly Yachimovitch (Labor leader), Uri Orbach (Jewish home), Anastasia Michaely (Yisrael Beiteinu), Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz), Mickey Rosenthal (Labor), Merav Michaely (Labor), Nino Absedze (Kadima, changed to Labor) and others.

To sum things up, Kadima, which was the largest party on the Left in the 18th Knesset, has disintegrated, and its supporters are now divided between Labor, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid.

The following two graphs show the parties on the Left, placed according to their views (far Left to center Left; Kadima, Livni and Lapid are all considered “Center-Left”):

The Left Bloc- 18th (current) Knesset- Total: 44 seats

leftbloc_18th knesset

The Left Bloc- According to Polls:



The Ultra Orthodox Bloc

The Ultra Orthodox bloc stays mostly static. This is because the two parties making up this bloc cater to an audience which usually votes according to what the community’s Rabbis say. Changes in the size of parties are mostly due to population growth.

Yahadut HaTorah represents the Ashkenazi Ultra Orthodox communities, while Shas represents the Sephardic Ultra Orthodox community. Shas also claims to represent the poorer and disenfranchised levels of society, and they often get support from some non-Ultra-Orthodox voters because of this.

Shas has had a slight change in leadership: Arie Deri, the previous party leader is returned to politics after a few years spent in jail for corruption offenses. Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, the real party leader, decided that until the elctions, the party would be headed by a triumverate of Eli Yishay (the current leader), Deri and Ariel Attias.

Rabbi Haim Amsalem was a Shas MK, but went against his party’s policy, namely, calling on Ultra Orthodox youth to enlist in the IDF and for the community to become more involved in Israeli society. He was shunned by Shas and is now running separately.

The Ultra Orthodox Bloc- 18th (current) Knesset- Total: 16 seats

Ultraorthodox bloc_18th knesset

The Ultra Orthodox Bloc- According to Polls: 

Ultraorthodox bloc_polls

The Arab bloc

There are three Arab parties in the Knesset: Hadash (a mixed Arab-Jewish Communist party), Balad and Raam-Taal.

Balad may be disqualified from running due to its support of terrorist organizations such as Hamas. If Balad is not disqualified, polls do not predict any changes in the Arab bloc.

The Arab Bloc- 18th (current) Knesset- Total: 11 seats 

Arab bloc_18th knesset

The Arab Bloc- According to Polls: 

Arab bloc_polls


When Israelis head to the polls next month, their decision will not be very complicated. Most Israelis identify with one of the four blocs, and the decision which needs to be made is between the parties within a bloc. The decision may be based on some of the finer differences between the parties, on the people in the party’s list or on “strategic voting” considerations, in other words, voting for a party because it is the largest or because it may not pass the 2% threshold, etc.

For a party to get into the Knesset, it must receive at least 2% of the votes, which is equal to 2.4 seats (which would be rounded down to 2, according to the system).

Who becomes Prime Minister? How does a group of 12 or 14 parties form a coalition? Wait for my next post…


Read previous updates on the Israeli elections:

44 days to the election- 34 party lists(Dec 9th)

 The Labor Party and the Center (Dec 4th)

Rollercoaster Politics (Nov 28th, 2012)

This Sunday (11.11)- Primaries in Meretz (Nov 9th)

Naftali Bennet is the new leader of HaBayit HaYehudi (Nov 7th)

Speculation (Nov 2nd)

Updates: Likud- Yisrael Beiteinu Mega Party * More Politicians Flock to Where the Seats Are * The Race Heats Up in Habayit Hayehudi (Oct 25th)

What’s new on the Israeli election front? (Oct 21st)

Israeli General Election this January (Oct 10th)

Also, this might help figure out the different Israeli parties:

 Israeli Parties and Politics- Part 1

Israeli Parties and Politics- Part 2



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One comment

  1. […] discussed the topic before (Here, here and here), but here’s a quick […]

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