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The remaining ballots from soldiers and absentees being counted at the Knesset on April 10, 2019, a day after the general elections, (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
The remaining ballots from soldiers and absentees being counted at the Knesset on April 10, 2019, a day after the general elections, (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Countdown to September 17

Round two: ToI’s guide to the 30 parties that want your vote, again

Everything you need to know about the front-runners, the new alliances, the parties in danger of stumbling under the electoral threshold, and the earnest yet hopeless unknowns

When three conflicting exit polls were released with the end of voting on April 9, it was obvious that Israelis would have to wait a bit to find out who had won the hard-fought election.

It was not clear, however, that five months later there would still be no winner, no ruling coalition or government, and Israel would be on its way to an unprecedented second election in the same year… and all with no likely resolution in sight.

On Tuesday, Israelis head to the ballot box in what could herald a repeat of the gridlock after April’s national vote, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition and then sent the country back to the polls in order to prevent his chief rival, Blue and White chair Benny Gantz, from having the opportunity to try and form a coalition of his own.

With public interest in the second election at a record low, parties have largely waited until the final weeks of the campaign to push their message to voters, focusing primarily on dissuading the public from voting for their rivals on both sides of the political aisle.

Sheets of newly printed ballots seen at Palphot printing house in Karnei Shomron, in preparation for Israel’s upcoming general elections, August 28, 2019. (Flash90)

The total of 30 factions is down from the last election cycle, when a record 47 parties registered for the April 9 vote. America somehow gets by with two political parties for its 300 million-strong population. We fewer than nine million Israelis, with our over-abundance of political democracy, evidently need dozens of choices.

The result is a political landscape as diverse and unpredictable as Israel itself.

For voters and observers befuddled about what the parties actually stand for, after several head-spinning weeks of political news, here is The Times of Israel’s look at each of political parties in the race: the front-runners, the new mergers, the well-established parties in danger of stumbling under the electoral threshold into political oblivion, the earnest yet hopeless unknowns, and the quirky provocateurs.

View of voting notes at the central elections committee warehouse in Shoham on March 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Click to learn about a party:

Likud
Blue and White
Yisrael Beytenu
Joint List
Yamina
Democratic Camp
United Torah Judaism
Shas
Labor-Gesher
Otzma Yehudit

Smaller parties

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Likud

Letters on ballot slip: מחל
Seats won in April: 35 (39 including Kulanu) |  Currently polling at: 32-33

After securing its best showing in 16 years in the April elections, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is seeking to replicate that outcome — and then some — on September 17, with eyes on forming the next ruling coalition after failing to assemble a majority government last spring. The national vote comes two months after Netanyahu broke the record for the longest-serving Israeli prime minister, surpassing founding father David Ben Gurion.

The ruling right-wing party has not updated its policy platform in a decade, preferring instead to rest on its past performance. To this end, it has underlined Netanyahu’s strong ties with the Trump administration, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Indian leader Narendra Modi; highlighted the relative security Israel has experienced in the past decade, with no major wars, and economic growth; and stressed its support for the settlement movement and backing for applying Israeli sovereignty to Jewish areas in the West Bank. The election comes as the Trump administration gears up to release its long-awaited peace plan. Netanyahu has said that he is willing to stand up to Trump if the proposal runs counter to Israeli interests — much as he went head-to-head with former US president Barack Obama on Iran.

Israeli workers hang a large billboard with pictures of US president Donald Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of the Likud election campaign, in Jerusalem on September 4, 2019.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu enters the race feeling the heat of a looming criminal indictment: The attorney general has announced he will charge the premier with fraud and breach of trust in three cases, and bribery in one of them, pending a hearing that is to take place in early October. Should he win the race and continue to govern after an indictment has been filed, Israel will enter uncharted territory, legal officials warn, though under the law he may not need to resign unless he is convicted of charges that carry moral turpitude and after all appeals are exhausted.

Netanyahu heads the list for his Likud party, followed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party merged with Likud in May, was placed fifth. Gideon Sa’ar, Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Yoav Gallant and Nir Barkat round out the top 10 for Likud.

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Blue and White

Letters on ballot slip: פה
Seats won in April: 35  |  Currently polling at: 32-33

Formed in February as the result of a merger between former IDF chief Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience (which also includes the Telem faction headed by Moshe Ya’alon) and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, the centrist Blue and White party immediately became the main and only viable challenger to the ruling Likud party ahead of the April elections, and has remained so this time around. Agreeing to join forces in a bid to replace Netanyahu as prime minister, the two leaders reached a rotation deal that would see Gantz serve as premier for two and a half years followed by Lapid for the remaining two years, if they win the election.

During this campaign the party has pitched leading a “secular unity government” that would not include the ultra-Orthodox parties. Gantz has said he would instead reach out to the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor parties to join his coalition.

Blue and White chairmen Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid speak during a campaign event in Kiryat Ono, on August 7, 2019. (Flash90)

On social issues, the party says it “will preserve the Jewish identity of the state alongside the realization of the right of every person and community to shape their way of life in freedom and tolerance,” supporting initiatives blocked by the ultra-Orthodox, such as public transportation on Shabbat and canceling the “mini-market law” prohibiting certain commerce on the Sabbath. Tackling other issues that have irked ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, the platform also vows to pass legislation permitting same-sex civil unions and surrogacy by same-sex couples and includes a commitment to implement a currently frozen deal to expand the pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall and establish a first-of-its-kind body made up of non-Orthodox Jewish leaders to oversee the pavilion.

The diplomatic program set out in the party’s 45-page manifesto includes support for a “united” Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, continued Israeli control over the Jordan Valley, and retaining settlement blocs in the West Bank, along with a willingness to enter negotiations with the Palestinians. While promising that there will be “no second disengagement,” a la the one from Gaza in 2005, the platform also says the party will “initiate a regional conference with the Arab countries that seek stability and deepen the process of separation from the Palestinians while maintaining uncompromising security interests of the State of Israel and the IDF’s freedom of action everywhere.”

In this Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 photo, Blue and White party leader and former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, surrounded by his supporters during an election campaign rally at a mall in Kiryat Ono, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The electoral ticket submitted by Blue and White was almost identical to the one that competed in April’s elections, with changes made only to the order of candidates below number 30 on the slate despite the party saying previously that it would try to increase the number of women in top spots.

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Yisrael Beytenu

Letters on ballot slip: ל
Seats won in April: 5  |  Currently polling at: 8-9

In an ever-crowded field of right-wing parties, Yisrael Beytenu has tried to distinguish itself as the only one that is also unapologetically secular. Chairman Avigdor Liberman has been an outspoken critic of “religious coercion,” promoting public transportation and allowing mini-markets to remain open on the Sabbath in addition to ending the Chief Rabbinate’s control over marriage and divorce. In launching his campaign in January, the tough-talking Liberman stood in front of several large posters with slogans highlighting the individuals and groups that he would stand up to. Included equally on the list along with the Hamas terror group, the BDS movement and Arab MK Ahmad Tibi were the ultra-Orthodox — a message intended to jibe with his base of secular Israelis originally from the former Soviet Union, who have seen their Judaism called into question by the state’s religious authorities. Yisrael Beytenu lawmakers have sparred frequently with ultra-Orthodox MKs during the former’s efforts to regulate the ubiquitous exemptions from military conscription for ultra-Orthodox students, a fight Liberman has vowed to continue in the upcoming Knesset.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on March 19, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The September 17 vote was called after Liberman conditioned joining a Netanyahu-led government on the passage of legislation formalizing exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students, prompting the premier to dissolve the Knesset and call a snap vote rather than have another lawmaker take a stab at forming a coalition. Liberman has since seen a rise in support in the polls and has vowed to force a national unity government between Likud and Blue and White if neither can put together a government without his party.

No less prominently highlighted in Yisrael Beytenu’s campaign has been the issue of security. Liberman boasts having guided Israel to one of its quietest ever periods during his roughly two and a half years as defense minister. He has taken pride in his decision to resign from the position last November in protest of a ceasefire with Hamas to end fighting in the Gaza Strip, which he claimed constituted caving in to terror and abandoning the residents of Israel’s south.

The hawkish ex-minister has also aggressively criticized Israel’s allowing of Qatari payments to Gaza, saying only an uncompromising policy including the death penalty for Palestinian attackers, the demolition of their homes and the expulsion of their families will bring about the defeat of terrorism. While the party fully supports Israeli settlements, and Liberman as defense minister oversaw the approval of tens of thousands of Israeli homes over the Green Line, its platform stops short of calling for annexation of the West Bank. Instead, the party supports a “regional agreement” that would see the swapping of certain Arab Israeli population hubs with settlement blocs.

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Joint List

Letters on ballot slip: ודעם
Seats won in April: 10 (Ra’am-Balad and Hadash-Ta’al)  |  Currently polling at: 10-11

The Joint List is as an alliance of the four largest Arab-majority parties in Israel including the socialist Hadash, the exclusively Arab Ta’al, the Islamist Ra’am and the nationalist Balad. The united party ran in the national elections in March 2015, winning 13 seats in the Knesset, but split into two slates ahead of the last vote in April.

Following a relatively low turnout of Arab Israeli voters in April, the four factions vowed to reconstitute the Joint List and finally reached an agreement to run on a combined slate in late July.

Israeli Arab politician Ayman Odeh (c) of the Hadash party flashes the victory gesture as he reacts at the party’s headquarters in Nazareth in northern Israel on election tonight on April 9, 2019. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The Joint List’s policy platform says that it supports ending Israel’s military rule over the Palestinians, establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, dismantling of all settlements and the security barrier, freeing all “political prisoners” and achieving a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee issue that ensures Palestinian refugees have the ability to return to lands now a part of Israel.

The platform states that the Joint List considers Arab Israelis to be the indigenous inhabitants of Israel and calls for their recognition as a national minority with collective rights including those related to culture, education and religion. It also says the coalition of parties will fight against land expropriation and home demolitions and take action to abolish the nation-state law and legislate a democratic constitution based on the principles of justice, equality and human rights.

Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh filming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a discussion on the cameras bill at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on September 11, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The platform adds that the Joint List will also move to battle poverty and unemployment in Arab society and look for mechanisms to ensure safety and security in Arab communities.

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Yamina

Letters on ballot slip: טב
Seats won in April: 5 (for the United Right-Wing Parties)  |  Currently polling at: 8-9

Save for a few additions and some shifts in the rankings, the gang that made up the core of the Jewish Home less than a year ago is back together in the Yamina party. Ahead of the previous election, former Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett and his No. 2 Ayelet Shaked parted ways from the national religious party in an effort to cater to a right-wing demographic turned off by the hardline religious undertones of their old faction. However, the targeted audience turned out to have been too narrow, and the popular ex-ministers’ New Right party failed to cross the electoral threshold.

In the meantime, the Jewish Home that they left found itself a new chairman in Rafi Peretz, re-signed a merger deal with Bezalel Smotrich’s more hardline National Union and thanks to pressure from Netanyahu teamed up with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party to ensure that no right-wing votes would be wasted; no matter how radical. Their Union of Right-Wing Parties managed to pass the electoral threshold and gained five seats in April, but the leadership recognized that another run in the same formula was too great a risk to take once again. Accordingly, URWP and New Right agreed to merge, and the more popular Shaked was given the party’s top spot, making her the only female chairwoman of a major faction in the September race.

The already crowded slate proved to not have enough room for Otzma Yehudit, opposers of Jewish-Arab coexistence, which opted to run independently due to disagreements with other Yamina leaders, thus making the list of candidates that remained further reminiscent of the Jewish Home of old.

Ayelet Shaked (C), chairwoman of Israel’s Yamina party, poses for a photo while on an election campaign tour at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on August 31, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Yamina insists that without a strong presence in the Knesset, there will be no one to ensure that Netanyahu actually carries out the right-wing policies on which he campaigns. This includes settlement annexation, opposing the Trump peace plan outright, more aggressive military actions to combat Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, giving the Knesset more authority in the appointment of judges and a more vigorously free-market economy.

The main issues that took the brunt of the compromises necessary to create Yamina were those of religion and state. While Shaked insists that her presence at the top of the list demonstrates that the party can still be a home to secular right-wingers, she is one of just two secular candidates in the first 13 spots on the slate. The party has also been marred by scandals in recent months thanks to remarks made by Peretz and Smotrich in favor of a halachic state and of placing greater emphasis on religion in the curriculum for state-funded schools.

Having learned lessons from the previous election, Shaked and Bennett are not making demands for particular government posts, but Shaked has hinted at an interest in returning to the Justice Ministry while Bennett has been highlighting his economic chops on the campaign trail. As for Peretz and Smotrich, both have expressed a desire to remain in their posts, as education minister and transportation minister respectively. However, they will likely have to limit their wish list to three senior posts unless Yamina over-performs on election day.

Rafi Peretz (R) and Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, at a campaign event in Jerusalem on March 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shaked’s placement at the top of the Yamina list gave the right-wing party a jolt of support that surveys suggest will translate to 9-11 seats in the Knesset. However, Netanyahu’s traditional last-minute “gevalt” push may eat away at the gains made by Yamina since the party was formed in July, with right-wing voters concerned that Netanyahu’s continued rule is in jeopardy bolting back into Likud’s arms.

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Democratic Camp

Letters on ballot slip: מרצ
Seats won in April: 5 (as Meretz)  |  Currently polling at: 5-6

The Democratic Camp, a new merger between Meretz, former prime minister Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party and Labor deserter Stav Shaffir, is the only mainstream party that defines itself as left-wing, offering unbridled support for a Palestinian state along with minority rights and religious pluralism within Israel.

As well as calling for immediate negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and the loosening of restrictions on both the Gaza Strip and Palestinians living in the West Bank, the party also has an extensive platform of progressive domestic proposals. The only party to openly call for raising taxes on top earners, the Democratic Camp, which bases its platform largely on Meretz’s, wants to vastly increase both the education and health budgets to provide better facilities and significant hikes in salaries for teachers and nurses. It specifically calls for introducing free education from the age of 1 and for recalibrating the health budget in order to increase investment in public medicine vs growing private healthcare providers.

Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz, right, Israel Democratic Party chief Ehud Barak, left, and MK Stav Shaffir hold a press conference announcing their new alliance, the Democratic Camp, ahead of the September 17 elections, in Tel Aviv on July 25, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A champion of church and state separation, the Democratic Camp calls for introducing full civil marriage for Jews and non-Jews, religious and secular, Orthodox and progressive, opposite-sex and same-sex partners alike. Devoting the longest section of its platform to LGBT rights, Democratic Camp also wants to introduce budgeting for the activities of gay community organizations, financial support for surrogacy arrangements, and adoption services for the transgender community.

Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz leads the Democratic Camp’s list, followed by ex-Labor MK Shaffir, Israel Democratic Party’s Yair Golan and Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg. Former PM Ehud Barak was placed 10th on the list.

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United Torah Judaism

Letters on ballot slip: ג
Seats won in April: 8  |  Currently polling at: 8

United Torah Judaism enters election day in the shadow of a police recommendation that its chief, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, stand trial for bribery and aiding an alleged pedophile. The ultra-Orthodox party — long an arbiter of religion and state issues in successive Netanyahu governments — also heads to the ballot box with fears Netanyahu will drop it — or will be forced to drop it — to form a unity government with its secularist rivals, Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman and Blue and White’s Yair Lapid. Also unresolved is the issue of the ultra-Orthodox military enlistment law, the first item of business when a new government is formed, due to a standing court order. The contentious legislation saw the previous coalition talks crumble after Liberman refused to enter a government unless his Defense Ministry-drafted version of the bill was passed unaltered.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman attends a conference of the ultra-Orthodox Agudath Israel party in the coastal city of Netanya on January 30, 2019. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

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Shas

Letters on ballot slip: שס
Seats won in April: 8  |  Currently polling at: 7

The Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party defied predictions and surged to eight seats in the previous election, becoming Netanyahu’s largest prospective coalition partner. The party led by Aryeh Deri — who is also under investigation on suspicion of corruption and previously was imprisoned for bribery — is hoping to again pull ahead, banking on generally high turnout rates among the ultra-Orthodox community. The party prizes itself on socially friendly economic policies, vows to uphold the Orthodox monopoly on religious affairs, and prevent Shabbat desecration. Deri seeks to retain his position as interior minister.

Supporters of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party celebrate at its Jerusalem headquarters after the publication of exit polls on April 9, 2019. (Flash90)

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Labor-Gesher

Letters on ballot slip: אמת
Seats won in April: 6 (as Labor)  |  Currently polling at: 5-6

Labor-Gesher: The amalgam of Amir Peretz and Orly Levy-Abekasis’s party is one of the only parties to release a detailed economic plan ahead of the September vote. It envisions a minimum wage hike to NIS 40 ($11.50) per hour from NIS 29.12 ($8.40); government construction of 200,000 new housing units; free education from birth; higher monthly pensions for seniors; exemption of 100 basic goods from value-added tax; and higher disability pensions. The center-left party said it would fund its plan by raising marginal tax rates on monthly incomes over NIS 44,000; making the marginal tax rate on capital gains equivalent to income; canceling special earmarked funds in coalition agreements; ending “special budgets” for West Bank settlements outside of the major blocs; and allowing government debt to increase as a percentage of gross domestic product, among other measures.

Co-chairmen of the Labor-Gesher party, Amir Peretz and Orly Levy-Avekasis talk to potential voters in an attempt to convince them to vote for the “Labor-Gesher party” at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, September 15, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Levy-Abekasis, formerly of Yisrael Beytenu, is seeking a comeback after her newly founded Gesher failed to clear the electoral threshold in April. The Peretz-led Labor, meanwhile, is determined to bounce back and restore some of its former power, months after previous leader Avi Gabbay led the party to its worst-ever outcome of six Knesset seats. Speculation has abounded that Peretz could join a right-wing government led by Netanyahu, as Gabbay considered the possibility in the final hours of coalition negotiations in May. Peretz denies it as a baldfaced lie, going as far as sacrificing some long-held facial hair in the process to get the point across.

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Otzma Yehudit

Letters on ballot slip: כף
Seats won in April: 0  |  Currently polling at: 4

The self-described disciples of the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane — whose Kach movement is barred in the US and Israel under anti-terrorism laws — are once again running for the Knesset. This time, they are going at it alone after breaking away from the Union of Right-Wing Parties following the April vote. Placing itself to the right of the already hardline Yamina, Otzma Yehudit supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel, and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and to accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank. It also calls for a termination of the fragile status quo on the Temple Mount.

Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party attends a conference in Jerusalem on September 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Activist-attorney Itamar Ben Gvir has taken over the helm after the party’s former chairman Michael Ben Ari was barred by the Supreme Court ahead of the last election for inciting racism. The top legal body went on to disqualify Kahane’s former adviser Baruch Marzel and anti-miscegenation activist Bentzi Gopstein, who had been added to Otzma Yehudit’s slate ahead of the September vote. Adva Biton, whose daughter Adele was killed as a result of a 2013 West Bank terror attack, is placed at No. 2 on the list followed by Otzma Yehudit director-general Yitzhak Wasserlauf and the party’s Haredi representative, 27-year-old David Cooperschmidt.

Analysts speculate that URWP had Otzma Yehudit to thank for roughly two of the five seats it won in April, meaning crossing the electoral threshold will likely be a tall order for Otzma this time around. Polls have indicated that the party is still hovering below the four-seat minimum. However, its leaders are hoping that enough frustration from right-wing voters disillusioned by the Supreme Court’s disqualifying of an additional two members from their slate will be enough to pull them past the 3.25% of the national vote necessary to make it into the Knesset.

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Smaller parties

Tzomet (זץ): For the April election, after Likud MK Oren Hazan suffered a defeat in the party’s primaries, the scandal-prone lawmaker formed his own party and titled it Tzomet (junction), the name of a small right-wing party that entered the Knesset in 1988 but went dormant after failing to gain a seat in the 1999 elections. This time around, Hazan is gone and the party is campaigning on a “pro settlement and agriculture” platform.

The Kama (קץ) (Advancing Individual Rights) party is headed by four wives of a polygamous cult leader, Daniel Ambash, who was convicted of sadistic abuse of his family members six years ago. Most of the wives have never renounced Ambash, a Bratslav ultra-Orthodox Jew. They still live together, view themselves as his wives and revere him. Aderet Ambash, chair of the new pro-polygamy party, said that the new faction aims to fight to keep the government from intervening in Israelis’ private lives.

Seder Hadash (קך) seeks to change the electoral system to a constituency based representative democracy whereby regions vote for candidates to represent them in the Knesset.

Tzedek (צ) or “Justice” promises to raise payouts for the elderly and subsidies for the disabled, following a years-long protest by disability activists across the country.

Kol Yisrael Achim and L’Shivyon Hevrati (נץ) is a joint party made up of the Ethiopian-Israeli Kol Yisrael Achim (All of Israel are Brothers) headed by former Likud MK Aleli Admasu and the pro-trade union Peula Leyisrael.

Zechuyoteinu Bekoleinu (ק) (“Our Rights Are in our Vote/Voice”) is a party specifically created to represent contract workers, which says it will fight for collective bargaining rights for freelancers and non-permanent contractors.

Pirates (ףז): Some things just don’t change in Israel, like the band of wacky activists who nearly always insist on submitting their candidacy while in pirate costume. What has changed, however, is the party’s official name, from: The Pirates, Led by the Internet, a Ballot to Slip Through a Slot (also means a ballot for Diarrhea), to its current The Pirates, Because We’re All In The Same Boat and It’s All The Same Ship (in Hebrew, shiyet, auditory pun intended). It’s unclear whether the internet, stripped off the ballot, is still its glorious leader. Leaders of the Israeli branch of the Pirate party define their goals as promoting freedom of expression, science, the individual and the right to take copyrighted material, as well as “development and promotion of the pirate sector” and direct democracy.

Ron Cobi (רק): Dubbed the “Donald Trump of the north” by Israeli media over his brash, combative style, Tiberias Mayor Ron Cobi swept into local office last fall on a campaign that focused on the growing ultra-Orthodox community and its influence in the city, highlighted in a series of frequently foul-mouthed and menacing Facebook live videos. He quickly went on to become the bête noire of the Haredi community after launching free bus lines on Saturdays in the city and expanding the entertainment and commerce permitted to open on the Jewish day of rest, while pledging to restrict housing projects for ultra-Orthodox residents. In March, Union of Right-Wing Parties’ Bezalel Smotrich accused Cobi of “anti-Semitism.”

Ron Cobi, mayor of Tiberias, seen outside the city’s municipality building, April 1, 2019. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Since assuming office in late 2018, Cobi has failed a whopping six times to pass the city budget — likely a national record in Israeli history. Despite High Court of Justice extensions, he was again defeated this month and expected to be summoned to the Interior Ministry for a hearing and possible suspension from his position, along with the city council that effectively voted six times to fire themselves rather than pass his budget. Preempting his expected embarrassing ouster as mayor, Cobi launched a campaign for the Knesset, championing right-wing secularist values and vowing to oppose the ultra-Orthodox. The Yisrael Beytenu party has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of encouraging his run to siphon votes away from it.

The Manhigut Hevratit, Social Leadership party (י), headed by veteran unsuccessful Knesset candidate Ilan Meshicha, says that it is committed to “caring for all of the people of Israel based on a commitment to the ideals of our forefathers.” In the 2015 election, the party broke a record for receiving the least ever seats by any faction running in any Israeli election — it scored 223 votes. Amazingly, the previous record was also held by Meshicha who in the 2013 elections won 461 votes — then the lowest ever — with his now-defunct Tradition of the Fathers party.

The much-ran Na Nach Bratslav party won’t be running this time, handing over its ballot and registration paperwork to a party vowing to represent small business owners. The Otzma Calcalit (ך) party seeks to cut government bureaucracy for these businesses, improve financial services and loans, and more. Its list includes startup founders, two lawyers, a vet, and a manager of a veterinarian clinic who is also a diabetes awareness activist.

The Democratura Party (זכ) is running on a platform calling for constitutional and electoral reform — as well as legalizing gambling and prostitution with regulation of the latter by the Health Ministry; turning the Temple Mount into a tourist attraction with all forms of prayer banned and its Waqf custodians outlawed; banning Arabic from street signs; and making adoption illegal.

The Bible Bloc, or Gush Hatanachi (יק), presents itself as the first Jewish-Christian list to run for the Knesset. The slate offers representatives from both faiths, including a Messianic Jew, David Friedman (not the ambassador). The party seeks to preserve “Judeo-Christian values” that it says are under threat from radical Islam and vows to fight for the under-represented Christian population in Israel, including non-Jewish Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

The Da’am: Green Economy – One State (ץ) is a Jewish-Arab party chaired by Yoav Gal Tamir that advocates a binational state and socialism.

Little is known of the Kevod Ha’adam (יף) party, which has registered with the vague aims of advancing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; keeping Israel safe; advancing civil, social and cultural rights; encouraging immigration and a free market; and reducing socioeconomic gaps.

Meetkademet (נ): Disillusioned by the Yisrael Beytenu chairman’s representation of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, a group of Russian immigrants have brought back the Meetkademet party that took a break from the last two elections after running unsuccessfully in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2013. The party demands a constitution be written to replace the lower-status Basic Laws that currently govern the country. In addition, the faction vows to fight for complete separation between religion and state and to more frequently employ public referendums in order to pass legislation.

Liberal Christian Movement (ינ): After receiving the second fewest votes of any party that ran in April, 256, the Union of Bnei Habrith has rebranded as the Liberal Christian Movement and is once again trying its luck on election day. The Christian Israeli party chaired by ship captain Bashara Shalian of Nazareth seeks greater integration of minorities into Israeli society, equality, and an end of discrimination.

Ha’Achdut Ha’Amamit (כי), or National Unity, is a newly established faction that has said it hopes to address several issues facing Arab Israeli society including home demolitions, violence and unemployment. The founder and head of the party is Asad Ghanem, a professor of political science at Haifa University, but he holds the eighth slot on its slate. Ghanem, a staunch critic of the Joint List, has said that while the party wants to resolve the Palestinian issue, other issues important to Arab Israelis should not be neglected in the meantime. Samih al-Asadi, a teacher from Deir al-Asad, is the faction’s top candidate.

Kavod Veshivyon (נך), or Respect and Equality, has said it seeks to advance “the spirit of cooperation and belonging” in Arab Israeli society, strengthen the role of Arab women in politics and society, and support education and end illiteracy. Mohammed al-Sayyed, the head of the party, is the faction’s top candidate.

Adom Lavan (יז)‘s policy platform says the party supports “equality and social justice for everyone who suffers from discrimination in Israeli society.” It also states that it supports full legalization of cannabis and calls for the establishment of a committee to investigate “the Israel Police’s crimes against Israelis of Ethiopian descent.”

Tzafon (צן) has said that it aims to reduce “intolerable gaps between northern Israel and the rest of the country in terms of employment, health, transportation and emergency preparedness.”

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