A lot has happened since my last update, a lot of it quite sensational. January 29th was the last date for parties to submit their lists of candidates for the elections, so I decided to wait with the sensationalism and post my update after the picture was a bit clearer.
26 parties are running in the elections this time. During the previous elections, I wrote a post which included all 34 parties that ran (link). How does one choose from 34 or 26 parties?
First of all, a lot of these parties are anonymous and have no chance of passing the threshold of minimum amount of votes required to be elected. The threshold was raised during the recent Knesset term, from 2% to 3.25%, so that there cannot be a party smaller than 4 of the 120 Knesset seats. The raising of the threshold has had two main effects, so far:
- Small parties must either merge or be wiped out. This effect has brought the three Arab parties represented in the Knesset to merge into one party. Individually, they were each on the verge of the threshold with 3-4 seats each. Together, polls are predicting 11-12 seats, which will make the joint Arab party one of the largest in the coming Knesset.
- The number of parties has dropped. This has to do with parties merging, but also with many ‘anonymous parties’ realizing that if they didn’t succeed in the elections with a 2% threshold, there’s no point in running with a 3.25% threshold. The drop in anonymous parties could also have to do with the elections being held two years early, because of the financial difficulties in raising enough money for a campaign on short notice. Either way, every election, tens of thousands of votes get wasted on these hopeless parties, and a drop in their number is a good thing, democratically speaking.
So, if we exclude the 15 anonymous parties, how does one choose from the other 11?
The Knesset is made up of blocs of parties with similar ideology. Many of the Knesset parties were formed by disgruntled members of other parties to begin with, and therefore are not very different from the ‘mother party’.
There are five main blocs of parties in the Knesset:
The rightwing bloc: includes Likud, Jewish Home, Yisrael Beiteinu, Yachad (Eli Yishay’s new party, which is not currently represented in the Knesset)
The leftwing bloc: includes the Labor party and Meretz
The center bloc: includes Yesh Atid and possibly Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon’s new party, which is not currently represented in the Knesset. Kahlon left Likud, but claims to be in the center).
The Ultra-Orthodox bloc: includes Shas and Yahadut Hatora (United Torah Judaism)
The Arab bloc: includes the three Arab parties which have merged into one list.
There you have it- 11 parties grouped into blocs. Once you’ve figured out what bloc your views are closest to, you’ve narrowed it down to 2-3 choices. From here on, it’s about the nuances between the views of the parties and the question of which politician seems more trustworthy to you.
Another point that should be taken into account is that only some of the parties hold primary elections either by the entire membership or by an electorate. The parties that don’t- are basically run by one man or a small committee, meaning that the individual Knesset members have very little say in what they do or vote as MKs.
The parties that hold open primaries: Likud, Jewish Home, The Labor Party.
The parties that hold primaries by electorate: Tkuma (a faction within Jewish Home), Meretz and some of the Arab parties.
The parties that are a one-man show: Yisrael Beiteinu (Avigdor Lieberman), Yachad (Eli Yishay & Yoni Chetboun), Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid), Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon), Shas (A small committe of rabbis), Yahadut Hatora (A small committee of rabbis).
So back to my updates:
Party leader- Naftali Bennet
Right wing bloc
Current seats: 12
Polls from the last week: 12-16
Method of composing the party list: Jewish Home- open primaries, Tkuma- committee.
The party held its primary election on January 14th. Over 40 candidates competed, many of them new players, but only two of the new players made it into the top 16. This is due to the fact that one slot was reserved for a candidate elected by the party center, one in every five slots was reserved for a woman, one in every five was reserved for a candidate chosen by the party leader, and another slot in every five was reserved for a member of “Tkuma”, a smaller rightwing party, led by Uri Ariel which continued its merger with Jewish Home.
Bennet reserved his first slot for a former news reporter Yinon Magal. He then attempted to garner support from the traditional Sephardic population, by reserving a seat for a former soccer player, Eli Ohana. That backfired badly, and got a lot of criticism from every possible direction. Within 48 hours, Ohana left the list of his own accord. While the party’s supporters were busy criticizing Bennet for bringing Ohana in, he also brought in a third candidate, Anat Rott, a former “Peace Now” (extreme left organization) activist, who supposedly ‘saw the light’ and ran in the right-wing party’s primary elections. She did not succeed in the primaries, but is now reserved in the party list anyway. One theory says that the whole stink with Ohana was meant to distract the public from Anat Rott being brought into the party list through the back door.
Meanwhile, Tkuma’s fourth reserved candidate for the 18th slot, MK Zevulun Kalfa decided to drop out of the party list. He was later dissuaded by Tkuma’s leader, Uri Ariel, but apparently, once he handed in his resignation letter, it was too late and the next person on the list had already taken his place. So Kalfa is out.
Another candidate who quit is Danny Dayan, the former head of the Yesha Council- the council which represents the Jewish towns and settlements in Judea and Samaria. Dayan ran in the primary elections but did not achieve a realistic place on the list.
Uri Orbach, a high ranking member of Jewish Home and well-liked MK by all parties, is very ill. Last night, special prayers were held across the country for his recovery. Orbach is a former journalist and the liberal champion of Jewish Home. For the past six years he has been an important voice in the Knesset. He is currently serving as Minister for Senior Citizens affairs. His loss would be a blow for all of Israeli politics.
The scandal that has rocked Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party may also affect Jewish Home, according to rumors that have been circulating, claiming that two senior members of Jewish Home are involved in the scandal and may have to step down.
Jewish Home’s List:
1- Naftali Bennet- Party leader
2- Uri Ariel- Leader of Tkuma
3- Ayelet Shaked
4- Rabbi Eli Dahan (deputy minister of religious affairs)
5- Nissan Slomiyansky
6- Uri Orbach
7- Yinon Magal (Journalist, reserved by Bennet)
8- Motti Yogev
9- Betzalel Smotrich (Tkuma)
10- Shuli Mualem
11- Avi Vortzman (deputy minister of education)
12- Nir Orbach (reserved by party center)
13- Rabbi Avichay Rontzky (former Chief Rabbi of IDF, new candidate)
14- Orit Struk (Tkuma)
15- Anat Rott (former leftwing activist, reserved by Bennet)
16- Ronen Shoval (founder of rightwing student organization, new candidate)
Party leader- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Right wing bloc
Current seats: 18
Polls from the last week: 23-27
Method of composing the party list: open primaries.
In my last election update (link) I wrote about the two MKs who found themselves out of the list after the primaries, Tzipi Hotovely and Moshe Feiglin. Hotovely appealed to the court and got a recount of the votes, which changed the outcome, putting her in the 20th slot instead of Avi Dichter, who got pushed down to the 26th slot. Feiglin, who got pushed down to a slot in the 30s has left Likud and has announced that in the next elections he will be running in his own party.
In an attempt to counter the ‘stars’ being reserved in Jewish Home’s list, Likud went searching for some big names of their own. One name that came up was that of Linor Abergil, who was Miss Universe of 1998. She is an activist for women’s rights and against violence against women, after being raped herself during the beauty contest. She did not accept Netanyahu’s invitation. Later, Netanyahu announced that he would use his two reserved slots for two women (after only three women were elected to the first 20 slots on the list), Dr. Anat Berko and Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash. Both women have done research in security related issues. The latter was my professor last year in the Hebrew University.
But later on, Netanyahu changed his mind and announced that the first reserved seat would be going to former MK Benny Begin. Benny Begin is the son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and was ousted from the party list in the previous primary election. He is considered a moderate and a member of the ‘true Likud’ (the Likud that is not populated by members who are also supporters of Jewish Home). Begin effectively pushed Dr. Samimian-Darash out of the list.
1- Benjamin Netanyahu (Party leader)
2- Gilad Erdan (Minister of Interior)
3- Yuli Edelstein (Knesset Speaker)
4- Yisrael Katz (Minister of Transportation)
5- Miri Regev
6- Silvan Shalom (Minister for development of the Negev and Galilee)
7- Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon (Defense Minister)
8- Ze’ev Elkin (Coalition chairman)
9- Danny Danon
10- Yariv Levin
11- Benny Begin
12- Tzachi Hangebi
13- Yuval Steinitz (Minister of Secret Services)
14- Gila Gamliel
15- Ofir Akunis
16- David Bitan (new candidate)
17- Haim Katz
18- Jacky Levy (new candidate)
19- Yoav Kish (new candidate)
20- Tzipi Hotovely (deputy minister of transportation)
21- David Amsalem (new candidate)
22- Mickey Zohar (new candidate)
23- Anat Berko (new candidate, reserved by Netanyahu)
24- Ayub Kara (former MK, Druze)
25- Nava Boker (new candidate)
26- Avi Dichter (former MK for Kadima- Tzipi Livni’s party and former Chief of Shin Bet)
27- Avraham Nagosa (new candidate)
Labor Party + Hatnua
Party leader- Yitzhak (Buzhi) Hertzog
Current seats: 15 + 6
Polls from the last week: 24-26
Method of composing the party list: Labor- open primaries. Hatnua- one woman show.
After Tzipi Livni merged her party, “Hatnua” (literally meaning “the movement”) with the Labor party, the merged party has taken to calling itself “Hamachane Hatzioni” (the Zionist camp), a name which traditionally has been used to describe all the Zionist parties in the Knesset, and includes all the parties except the Ultra-Orthodox and Arab ones. Likud, of course, is against the use of the name, and has appealed to court against it.
The Labor party had its primaries on January 13th and elected a list that is characterized by its many young candidates as well as extreme leftwing candidates. Meanwhile, four of the other five members of Tzipi Livni’s “Hatnua” have all quit. One of them, Elazar Stern, has switched parties and joined Yair Lapid’s “Yesh Atid” party.
The last remnants of Kadima have dispersed- Shaul Mofaz, the leader of the two-man party, which was originally founded by the late Ariel Sharon, after implementing the disengagement from Gaza, decided not to join the Labor party after all, and has left politics. Since its foundation in 2005, the party has also been led by Ehud Olmert, who became Prime Minister and is now facing a jail sentence for multiple corruption crimes and Tzipi Livni who managed to trash the party and bring it down from 28 seats to 2 in just one term.
The Labor party list:
1- Yitzhak (Buzhi) Hertzog- party leader
2- Tzipi Livni- Hatnua party leader
3- Shelly Yechimovitch (former party leader)
4- Stav Shafir (young candidate, former social protest leader)
5- Itzik Shmuli (young candidate, former social protest leader)
6- Omer Bar Lev
7- Hilik Bar
8- Amir Peretz (Hatnua)
9- Merav Michaeli
10- Eitan Cabel
11- Manuel Trajtenberg (new candidate, economics professor)
12- Erel Margalit
13- Mickey Rosenthal
14- Revital Sweid (new candidate)
15- Danny Atar (new candidate)
16- Yoel Hasson
17- Zoheir Bahalul (new candidate, Arab sports announcer)
18- Eitan Broshi (new candidate)
19- Michal Biran
20- Nachman Shay
21- Xenia Svetlov (new candidate)
22- Ayelet Nachmias Varbin (new candidate)
23- Yossi Yona (new candidate, extreme leftwing professor)
24- Eyal Ben Reuven (new candidate)
25- Yael Cohen Faran (new candidate)
26- Saleh Saad (new candidate)
Party leader- Yair Lapid
Current seats: 19
Polls from the last week: 8-11
Method of composing the party list: one man show.
Lapid’s party was one of the interesting phenomena of the 19th Knesset. An entirely new party made up mostly of anonymous non-politicians surprised everyone and took over almost one sixth of the Knesset seats. Hopes were high for seeing new, cleaner politics, but Lapid’s party didn’t supply the goods and the polls predict a steep drop in the elections. Since the drop in the polls, some of the party’s MKs have taken the hint and dropped out. Others are still on the list, but will most likely not make it into the 20th Knesset. The list is compiled entirely by one man- Yair Lapid.
1- Yair Lapid- party leader
2- Rabbi Shay Peron- former Minister of Education
3- Yael German- former Health Minister
4- Meir Cohen- former Welfare Minister
5- Yaacov Perry- former Minister of Science and Technology
6- Ofer Shelach
7- Haim Yalin (new candidate)
8- Karin Elharar
9- Yoel Razbuzov
10- Aliza Lavi
11- Mickey Levi
Party leader- Avigdor Lieberman
Current seats: 13
Polls from the last week: 4-7
Method of composing the party list: one man show.
After a major police investigation has implicated a Minister in the party, as well as many party officials, many of the party’s MKs have dropped out of politics, including Uzi Landau, a senior politician who has been an MK in Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu since 1984 and Yair Shamir, the son of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Lieberman has renewed the party’s list, as he quite often does, and has removed most of the old MKs, replacing them with new candidates. Nevertheless, the party has dropped sharply in the polls.
1- Avigdor Lieberman- Party leader
2- Orly Levy Abecassis
3- Sofa Landver (Minister of Immigration Absorbption)
4- Ilan Shochat (new candidate)
5- Sharon Gal (news reporter, new candidate)
6- Hamed Ammar
7- Robert Ilatov
Party leader- Eli Yishay
Current seats: 0
Polls from the last week: 0/4
Method of composing the party list: unknown.
Yachad is a party formed by Eli Yishay of Shas (coming next). He was joined by Yoni Chetboun from the Jewish Home. They were later joined by the extreme rightwing party “Otzma Leyisrael”, which was previously led by Michael Ben-Ari, who did not get into the Knesset in the previous elections. The new party is currently teetering on the verge of the 3.25% threshold.
1- Eli Yishay
2- Yoni Chetboun
3- Makhlouf Ayash
4- Barukh Marzel (Otzma Leyisrael)
Party leader- Arie Deri
Current seats: 11
Polls from the last week: 6-9
Method of composing the party list: Committee of five Rabbis.
After the split in the party, and the scandal involving the video of the party’s founder, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, badmouthing the party leader, Arie Deri, the party dipped in the polls. At least two of the party’s MKs have left the party.
Recently, the party has changed tactics, attempting to distract attention away from internal Ultra-Orthodox politics and to focus instead on the party’s other main flag- the representation of the lower classes.
The party list is nothing new, except for number 9, a new candidate:
1- Arie Deri- Party leader
2- Yitzhak Cohen
3- Meshulam Nahari
4- Yaacov Margi
5- David Azulay
6- Yoav Ben Tzur
7- Yitzhak Vaknin
8- Avraham Michaeli
9- Haim Biton
Yahadut Hatora (United Torah Judaism)
Party leader- Yaacov Litzman
Current seats: 7
Polls from the last week: 6-8
Method of composing the party list: Committee of Rabbis.
I have literally heard nothing about this party since the election campaigns began. The party has made no headlines outside of the Ultra-Orthodox world, whatsoever.
The party list is also old news- the same people as before:
1- Yaacov Litzman
2- Moshe Gafni
3- Meir Porush
4- Uri Makleb
5- Menachem Eliezer Moses
6- Yisrael Eichler
7- Yaacov Asher
8- Eliezer Sorotzkin
United Arab Party (Raam+Taal+Balad+Hadash)
Party lead by- Ayman Awda
Current seats: 3+1+3+4
Polls from the last week: 12
Method of composing the party list: each of the individual parties has its own method.
As I wrote above, because of the higher threshold, the Arab parties represented in the Knesset have agreed to run as one united list:
1- Ayman Awda (Hadash, new candidate, party leader)
2- Mas’ud Ghanaem (Raam)
3- Jamal Zahalka (Balad)
4- Ahmed Tibi (Taal)
5- Aida Tuma-Suleiman (new candidate)
6- Abd-El-Hakim Haj-Yihya (new candidate)
7- Hanin Zuabi (Balad)
8- Dov Hanin (Hadash)
9- Taleb Abu-Arar (Raam)
10- Yusef Jabarin (new candidate)
11- Basel Ghatas (Balad)
12- Osama Saadia (new candidate)
Besides the United list of Arab parties, there are two other Arab parties running on their own. One party is led by former MK Taleb A-Sana, who was against uniting the existing Arab parties, because the new party has a Jew in it (Dov Hanin of the Communist Hadash party) and therefore, according to A-Sana’s views, does not represent Arabs. The second is “Al-Amal L-Taghyir” (hope for change), led by Atef Karnawi, which ran in the previous elections but did not pass the 2% threshold. Karnawi claims that the existing parties are too busy representing Palestinian interests to deal with Israeli Arab interests and that his party is the answer. Neither of the two parties is expected to pass the 3.25% threshold.
Kulanu (“All of Us”)
Party lead by- Moshe Kahlon
Current seats: 0
Polls from the last week: 6-9
Method of composing the party list: one man show.
The party’s list is finally closed. Earlier, the first woman on the list, an Ethiopian immigrant, was disqualified from running because she had not quit her job in the civil service in time, according to election laws.
Kahlon, a former member of Likud, has spent the past two years, since he left the party before the 2013 elections, gathering funds and people for his new party.
A disturbing article published in an independent blog recently has claimed that during that time, Kahlon has been employed as the head of a think-tank in the Netanya College, founded specifically in order to employ Kahlon. The think-tank has not published any publications and the funding for the think-tank has been kept secret, but may involve Israeli tycoons such as Yitzhak Tshuva.
One more piece of sensationalism: there is another party by the name of “Kulanu Haverim” (“All of us are friends”), which is led by a group of Breslev Hassids, an Ultra-Orthodox sect which is known for being happy happy and quite high. How high? A candidate on the list was photographed last week blowing bubbles in the Knesset and the party attempted to list their Rabbi, who has been dead for 200 years, as the party leader. If there is enough confusion at the election booths, we might have a rather amusing Knesset term ahead of us…
1- Moshe Kahlon- Party leader
2- Yoav Galant- former General. Was a candidate for IDF Chief of Staff
3- Eli Alaluf- winner of the Israel prize. Has been active in fighting inequality.
4- Michael Oren- Former Ambassador to the US
5- Rachel Azarya- Feminist activist and deputy Mayor of Jerusalem
6- Tali Fluskov- Mayor of Arad, formerly of Yisrael Beiteinu
7- Yifat Biton-Shasha- former deputy Mayor of Kiryat Shmona
8- Eliyahu Cohen
9- Roi Folkman- Social Activist
Party lead by- Zehava Gal’on
Current seats: 6
Polls from the last week: 4-6
Method of composing the party list: 1000 member Electorate.
The party list is mostly the same as before, except for the addition of Mossi Raz and Gabi Lasky, two former leaders of the extreme-left organization “Peace Now” in the 6th and 7th places.
1- Zehava Gal’on
2- Ilan Gil’on
3- Isawi Frige
4- Michal Rozin
5- Tamar Zandberg
6- Mossi Raz
Besides the parties listed above, there are 15 other small parties running. None of them have any chance whatsoever of getting into the Knesset. Many of them have run in previous elections and know that they have no chance, but they run anyway. It seems that at least some of them are crazies, which one would have to be in order to spend money on a pointless campaign.
Who are they?
- The supporters of “Democratura”– The party doesn’t seem to have any internet presence, but over the past two weeks, posters with a list of their principles have been posted in my neighborhood, which would suggest that some of the members live nearby. Their principles seem rather jumbled and utopic. The list seems to be largely made up of family members, with the last name of Hakimi.
- Kulanu Haverim– the Breslev party, mentioned above.
- Vebizchutan- Haredi women make a change- You may have noticed that all three Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) parties are made up entirely of men. The Haredi community has not looked favorably on the involvement of women in politics. Meanwhile, various feminist movements have become very popular over the past years, especially among the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities, which have frowned upon the idea of feminism as a concept which is supposedly foreign to Judaism. This new party is a natural expression of the strengthening of these feminist movements.
- Social Leadership- the party ran under a different name (Moreshet Avot) in the previous election. Their website says that the party platform is currently being revised.
- Protecting Our children- stop feeding them porn- This party also ran under a different name (Atid Echad) in the previous election. The party’s only candidate is once again Yechezkel Steltzer.
- Perach (Flower)– the party’s full name is: Perach- Plenty, Blessings, Life and Peace, Netz (Hawk)- the revolution in education, housing, the IDF and true peace.
- The Arab List- led by Taleb A-Sana (mentioned above).
- Kalkala (finance) party- Led by the Goldstein brothers. The party ran in the previous election as well. Only one of the Goldstein brothers is at the top of the list, the other is in 6th place.
- Ale Yarok (Green Leaf)- The party has been attempting to get into the Knesset for many years. Its main platform is the legalization of marijuana. In the previous election, they added free market principles to their platform. Of the 15 small parties, Ale Yarok is the best known and has the best chance of passing the 3.25% threshold.
- The Pirate party- the blank ballot- In the previous election, the party called for lifting of copyright restrictions.
- Or (light)- This is the party’s third attempt to get into the Knesset. The party’s main platform is secularism.
- (The temporary) People’s electorate- The party ran with a different list and different name in the previous election. The party is now acting for fighting against political corruption.
- Schirut Bechavod (Rent with dignity)- Ran in the previous election under the name of “Haim Bechavod” (Living with dignity). The party is an offshoot of the social protest of 2011.
- Alamal Le-Taghyir (Hope for change)- An Arab party calling for representing Israeli Arabs’ rights, instead of Palestinian’s rights. Mentioned above.
- Hayerukim- Lo Samim Z’ (The Green Party- Don’t give a F*)- The Green party has never passed the threshold. That may explain the spicing up of the party’s name.
In an ideal world, the various parties would now debate various issues and policies and try to convince the public that their policies are better for Israel. Instead, the parties are busy slinging mud at each other and circulating videos, hoping that they may become viral and gather likes. It’s all rather pathetic, really, especially since most of the videos just aren’t really that good.
One of the better ones is a new video by Netanyahu. His previous video was disqualified because it featured children, which is against the law. In the new video, Bibi Netanyahu shows up at a family’s doorstep as the bibi-sitter. The video is full of barbed humor and puns aimed at the party’s main rivals, Tzipi Livni and Buzhi Hertzog. Link (with English subtitles).
Read my previous election posts:
More updates to follow, either here or on my Facebook page. You can see current posts on my FB page in the righthand panel on this page.
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