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National Unity, Religious Zionism and Yisrael Beytenu submit final candidate lists

Religious Zionism adds anti-LGBT party Noam to its roster just before submitting slate; most parties to finalize their lists on Thursday

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

MK Itamar Ben Gvir and MK Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit register their party for the upcoming elections at the Knesset, September 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
MK Itamar Ben Gvir and MK Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit register their party for the upcoming elections at the Knesset, September 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Three major parties submitted their final candidate rosters for the November 1 election to the Central Elections Committee on Wednesday, closing out the first of two days of slate submissions.

There was only one last-minute surprise in Wednesday’s filings: Bowing to pressure from right-religious bloc leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the fringe anti-LGBT Noam party reignited its alliance with Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit for a far-right joint run currently polling to be the third largest party in the Knesset.

The centrist National Unity party and right-wing anti-Netanyahu Yisrael Beytenu also submitted their lists on Wednesday, without changes from the candidates they had announced in the past week.

The majority of parties expected to enter the Knesset will present their slates on Thursday evening, including several parties that have yet to finalize their candidates — and in some cases, their fundamental structure. The final deadline is 10 p.m. on Thursday.

Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit shared its list after submission and leading it are sitting lawmakers Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben Gvir, Ofir Sofer and Orit Strock, followed by newcomer and Otzma Yehudit Director-General Yitzhak Wasserlauf in the fifth spot.

MKs Simcha Rothman and Michal Waldiger are in the sixth and eighth slots, with Otzma Yehudit’s new politicians Almog Cohen, Amichai Eliyahu and Zvika Fogel in the seventh, ninth, and 10th spots. Fogel is a former IDF general who once headed its Southern Command.

MK Avi Maoz speaks during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

The Noam party’s sole sitting lawmaker, Avi Maoz, is in the 11th spot.

Further down on the list in spot 13 is Limor Son Har-Melech, a former Homesh settler and pro-settlement activist who first made headlines as a victim of a West Bank terror attack in which her husband was killed.

Otzma Yehudit’s firebrand leader Ben Gvir told reporters that he will push the state to “back up” its soldiers, secure the streets and promote a Jewish character.

“For too many years the right, even though it ruled, did not implement things,” said Ben Gvir.

The lawmaker has pushed controversial and at times racist positions, and has recently said he would support expelling Arabs who attack IDF soldiers.

National Unity and Yisrael Beytenu also submitted their candidate lists on Wednesday, with minimal fanfare and no changes from the slates presented at campaign events in the past week.

National Unity is the banner under which Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope joined hands for the 25th Knesset. The party also onboarded political newcomer and former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, as well as Yamina defector and former minister Matan Kahana.

Members of National Unity register their party for the upcoming elections at the Knesset, September 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

“We hope that the next time we meet will be in four years, and that we won’t continue this cycle of elections,” Blue and White faction chair MK Eitan Ginsburg told members of the Central Elections Committee while submitting the list.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu is ideologically right wing, but politically opposed to Likud leader Netanyahu’s return to power. Presenting the list, party MK and Finance Committee chair Alex Kushnir said the party would continue to block the opposition leader’s return to the premiership while continuing to press for liberal economic reforms.

Several major parties’ lists are still outstanding, as are questions about their final makeup.

Right-wing stalwart Likud is projected to continue its reign as the Knesset’s largest party. Netanyahu has five discretionary spots to dole out, three of them in realistic positions given the party’s current polling at around 33 seats. The Likud leader has yet to announce who will occupy those seats, although Hebrew media reports indicate Yamina defectors Amichai Chikli and Idit Silman will claim two of them.

On the opposite side of the political map, Prime Minister Yair Lapid has been pressuring left-wing Meretz and center-left Labor to link up before Thursday’s deadline, as both float at around 4-6 projected seats. Meretz leader Zehava Galon has been amenable, but Labor’s Merav Michaeli has been adamant that she will run independently. Lapid said he fears that if one slips below the four-seat minimum to enter the Knesset, his bloc — struggling to find a path towards forming a government — will be paving Netanyahu’s return to power.

As the most uncertain and unformed party set to submit a list on Thursday, Jewish Home is expected to fold Ayelet Shaked’s Yamina under its banner and place her at the top of its list, ahead of party leader and Givat Shmuel Mayor Yossi Brodny.

Jewish Home’s central committee has yet to approve the unification, according to party sources, who hoped it will be finalized later on Wednesday. The party did add Nitsana Darshan-Leitner to its ranks on Wednesday. Darshan-Leitner is a lawyer who founded Shurat HaDin, which sues terrorists and their supporters.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, chairwoman of Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center. (Courtesy: Shurat HaDin)

Lapid’s Yesh Atid, ultra-Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism and Shas, and Islamist Ra’am are also expected to submit already-finalized lists on Thursday. United Torah Judaism resolved a brewing split earlier this week, also brokered by Netanyahu, which shored up his bloc in exchange for undercutting the Education Ministry’s efforts to enforce the teaching of core curriculum in Haredi schools.

The majority-Arab Joint List faction quelled uncertainty earlier on Wednesday when it came to an agreement to once again run as an alliance of three parties: Hadash, Balad and Ta’al.

Fifteen smaller parties also submitted their candidacies on Wednesday, though none of them are expected to make the Knesset. Leading the colorful among them was the Pirate Party, which donned captain’s hats and fuzzy vests to tell the Central Elections Committee that it is in favor of canceling the electoral threshold to enable small parties to enter Knesset.

“We are the party of undecided votes. We came to make our voices heard more than to rake in votes,” said party member Dan Biron.

Founded in 2012, the Pirate Party is the Israeli branch of an irreverent international political movement. It has never won any seats in the Knesset or come close to crossing the electoral threshold.

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