Election 2015

J Street's one-stop resource on the 2015 Israeli Election.

J Street's one-stop resource on the 2015 Israeli Election. All the information, news and analysis you need to keep track of Israel's upcoming election.

ISRAEL'S POLITICAL PARTIES

Jump To: Yesh Atid | LaborMeretz | HatnuahKulanu | Likud | Jewish Home | Yisrael Beiteinu | Shas | United Torah Judaism | Ha'am ItanuHadash | Ra'am Ta'al | Balad

Left/Center-Left

Yesh Atid (there is a Future)

Yesh Atid Ballot Symbol

Yesh Atid Ballot Symbol

Founded: 2012
Current Seats: 19
Date of Primary Election: None
Notable Members: Yair Lapid, Yaakov Peri, Shai Peron | See full party list
Left the Coalition

Background

The surprise winner of the second most Knesset seats in the 2013 elections, Yesh Atid was founded by popular television anchor Yair Lapid to appeal to middle-class voters who were frustrated with Israel’s political system. However, as finance minister, Lapid has seen his popularity plummet, perceived by voters as having failed to deliver on his economic promises. The upcoming 2015 elections were triggered after Netanyahu and Lapid were unable to agree on a budget and the prime minister pushed Lapid out of his coalition. Lapid has accused Netanyahu of being “out of touch” with the average Israeli.

Views on Two States

Lapid has stressed that “there’s no other game in town but the two-state solution,” and one of his deputies, former Israeli security chief Yaacov Peri, is a major proponent of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks based on the Arab Peace Initiative. As a member of the Netanyahu coalition, Lapid threatened to topple the government over settlement expansion and the prime minister’s resistance to negotiate with the Palestinians. At the same time, Lapid announced his 2013 candidacy in the settlement of Ariel. He has said, “I don’t think that the Arabs want peace,” and that the status of Jerusalem is not up for negotiation.

Views on Democracy

Lapid opposed the Jewish State Bill on the grounds that it would make non-Jewish Israelis “second-class citizens.” He was criticized in 2013 for making derogatory remarks about Palestinian-Israeli Members of Knesset.


Labor

Zionist Union Symbol

Zionist Union Symbol

Founded: 1968
Current Seats: 15
Faction alliances: Running on joint 'Zionist Union' list with Hatnuah, in a vote sharing agreement with Meretz
Date of Primary Election: January 13, 2015
Notable Members: Isaac Herzog, Shelly Yachimovich, Stav Shaffir | See full Labor/Hatnuah list

Background

Iterations of Israel’s founding party dominated Israeli politics for the first 29 years of the state’s existence, but it has struggled to remain competitive. It has cycled between eight different party leaders since 2001, when Labor last held the prime ministership. Former Minister Isaac Herzog defeated MK Shelly Yachimovich for the Labor leadership in 2013 after the party’s poor showing at the polls, which some supporters blamed on Yachimovich’s emphasis on economic, rather than diplomatic issues. For the 2015 elections, Herzog has announced a joint slate with Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni.

Views on Two States

Herzog has argued that “it is possible, absolutely possible still, to make peace with the Palestinians,” has met repeatedly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and has called on the Israeli government to propose its own plan for a two-state solution. On settlements, Herzog supports a freeze outside the “main blocs,” while new Labor MK Stav Shaffir has launched a crusade to increase transparency and cut government funding over the Green Line.

Views on Democracy

Herzog has attacked the Jewish State Bill as “provocative, irresponsible and unnecessary” and criticized Netanyahu for “fanning the flames” against Palestinian citizens of Israel.


Hatnuah (The Movement)

Zionist Union Symbol

Zionist Union Symbol

Founded: 2012
Current Seats: 6
Faction alliances: Running on joint "Zionist Union" list with Labor, in a vote sharing agreement with Meretz
Notable Members: Tzipi Livni | See full Labor/Hatnuah list
Date of Primary Election: None
Left the Coalition

Background:

Former foreign minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni founded Hatnuah and campaigned on the idea that peace with the Palestinians was necessary and possible. After the 2013 election, she was the first to join the Netanyahu coalition as justice minister and chief peace negotiator. In the wake of the collapse of the Kerry initiative and the coalition, Livni has announced a joint slate with Labor, and if tapped to form the next government. This partnership was originally intended to feature a rotating premiership between Livni and Herzog, but Livni has since relinquished the rotation, leaving Herzog to be sole PM or to form another rotating agreement should Zionist Union be chosen to form a government.

Views on Two States

Livni has played a major role in past peace negotiations and has argued that only a two-state solution can allow Israel to keep its “values as a Jewish, democratic state.” She has blamed Israeli settlements for “preventing [Israel] from reaching a resolution" and “[making] it impossible to defend Israel around the world."

Views on Democracy

Hatnuah joined with Yesh Atid in opposing the Jewish State Bill, and Livni has instead called for “a constitutional framework that deals with the character of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic, and anchors the components of the identity in a balanced way, integrating these values – the Jewish and the democratic.”


Meretz (Energy)

The Meretz Ballot Symbol

The Meretz Ballot Symbol

Founded: 1992
Current Seats: 6
Faction alliances: In a vote sharing agreement with the Zionist Union
Date of Primary Election: January 19, 2015
Notable Members: Zehava Gal-On, Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Zandberg | See full party list

Background

The progressive Meretz party was a key player in the Labor coalitions of the 1990’s, and has recently seen its popularity rise after struggling over the past decade. Meretz is one of the last Israeli factions to consider itself leftist, campaigning on issues of social justice, equality and peace with the Palestinians. It was the only Zionist party to oppose the summer 2014 escalation in Gaza.

Views on Two States

Faction leader Zehava Gal-On is fiercely critical of Netanyahu’s diplomatic policies, attacking him for expanding settlements and refusing to negotiate with the Palestinians or use the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for talks. Meretz has expressed its support for Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood at the United Nations.

Views on Democracy

Meretz came out strongly against the Netanyahu coalition’s Jewish State Bill, with Gal-On calling it a “crime against democracy.”


Right/Center-Right

Kulanu (All of Us)

Kulanu's ballot symbol

Kulanu's ballot symbol

Founded: 2014
Current Seats: 0
Date of Primary Election: None
Notable Members: Moshe Kahlon, Yoav Galant, Michael Oren | See full party list

Background

Popular Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon resigned from the Knesset three months before the 2013 elections, and announced in 2014 that he would form a new political party of “clean” lawmakers to focus on reducing the cost of living in Israel. Although he has yet to unveil his party list, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Israeli economist Manuel Trachtenberg are rumored candidates. As welfare minister, Kahlon gained notoriety for helping to reform the Israeli communications market, which led to a decrease in the price of cell service packages.

Views on Two States

Kahlon recently said that “the real Likud knows how to make peace, to give up territory, and on the other hand is conservative and responsible… My world view is that of the real Likud that truly came and safeguarded the Land of Israel. When it needed to make peace with the greatest Arab nation (Egypt) it did so, and when it needed to compromise, it compromised.” In 2011, Kahlon reportedly said that if the Palestinians achieved statehood at the United Nations, “we must annex all the territories that same day."

Views on Democracy

To be determined. 


The Likud

Likud Ballot Symbol

Likud Ballot Symbol

Founded: 1973
Current Seats: 18
Date of Primary Election: December 31, 2014
Notable Members: Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Ya’alon, Tzachi Hanegbi, Danny Danon | See full party list
Member of Coalition

Background

Israel’s ruling conservative party is headed by Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu, who is running for his third consecutive term by appealing to his right-wing base on issues of security and national identity. Netanyahu initiated early elections in December 2014 with the hope that his “natural partners,”--the far right and ultra-orthodox--would replace the centrist Yesh Atid and Hatnuah parties in his coalition. However, the prime minister faces a growing “Anyone but Bibi” movement.

Views on two states

Though Netanyahu publicly endorsed a two-state solution in 2009 and entered into US-led peace negotiations in 2010 and 2013, he has said that security threats prohibit any Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory and blamed the collapse of recent peace talks on Palestinian rejectionism. Other than Netanyahu, few Likud lawmakers openly support two-states and several have called for Israel to formally annex the West Bank.

Views on democracy:

Advancement of Likud’s version of the Jewish State Bill, which emphasized Israel’s Jewish character over its democratic principles, was a primary catalyst for the Netanyahu coalition’s collapse. However, the prime minister has insisted that he “will never agree to legislation that undermines Israel’s democratic values.” In response to recent violence in Jerusalem, Netanyahu suggested that Palestinian-Israeli protesters should move to the Palestinian Authority, and Likud MKs have proposed harsh measures to crack down on demonstrators.


Jewish Home Ballot Symbol

Jewish Home Ballot Symbol

HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home)

Founded: 2008
Current Seats: 12
Date of Primary Election: January 6, 2015
Notable Members: Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Ayelet Shaked | See full party list
Member of Coalition

Background

The far-right party most often associated with the religious Zionist settler movement, HaBayit HaYehudi has seen its popularity rise since former Special Forces officer, tech millionaire and Netanyahu chief of staff Naftali Bennett swept its online primary and took over the party in 2012. The party joined Netanyahu’s coalition in 2013, winning Bennett the economics ministry. His deputy, Uri Ariel, secured the housing ministry, which controls much of the settlement process. 

Views on two states

Bennett is adamant in his opposition to the two-state solution and any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. He has instead proposed offering full Israeli citizenship to Palestinians living in Area C, which represents 60 percent of the territory. As housing minister, Ariel has made it his mission to expand settlements across the West Bank, and has been blamed by US officials for contributing to the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative.

Views on democracy

Bennett conditioned his presence in the previous Netanyahu coalition on the passage of the Jewish State Bill--one version of which, proposed by party MK Ayelet Shaked, would give the right to national self-determination in Israel exclusively to Jews. During the Gaza war, Shaked was widely condemned for writing that all Palestinians should be considered “enemy combatants,” and referring to Palestinian children as “snakes.”


Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home)

Yisrael Beiteinu Ballot Symbol

Yisrael Beiteinu Ballot Symbol

Founded: 1999
Current Seats: 13
Date of Primary Election: None
Notable Members: Avigdor Lieberman, Yair Shamir, Uzi Landau | See full party list
Member of Coalition

Background:

The secular, nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu was founded by Moldovan emigre Avigdor Lieberman as a home for Soviet-born Israelis. Lieberman became foreign minister in the 2013 Netanyahu coalition after running on a joint slate with Likud. Lieberman split from the Likud in the summer of 2014, citing “differences of opinion,” which were reportedly focused on his criticism of the prime minister’s restraint in handling the Gaza escalation.  Now considered to be a part of the "anyone but Bibi" camp, Israel Beiteinu has seen its popularity plummet in the wake of an investigation into alleged corruption by party officials.

Views on two states

Lieberman recently amended the Yisrael Beiteinu party platform to include a call for a regional peace agreement based on the establishment of a Palestinian state. While the platform does not detail positions on core issues of borders or the status of Jerusalem, Lieberman affirmed his willingness to give up territory for peace, stating that “the unity of the [Israeli] people” must take precedence over “the unity of the land.” Traditionally, Lieberman’s approach has included swapping Palestinian-Israeli villages in Israel’s triangle region for a peace agreement.

Views on democracy

Lieberman has been criticized for demanding loyalty oaths from Palestinian citizens of Israel and has proposed bills to deny funding to institutions that question Israel’s status as a Jewish state.


Ultra-Orthodox

Shas (Sephardic Guards)

Shas' Ballot Symbol

Shas' Ballot Symbol

Founded: 1984
Current Seats: 11
Date of Primary Election: None
Notable Members: Aryeh Deri | See full party list

Background

Founded as a political party for ultra-Orthodox Sephardim, Shas has played “kingmaker” in right, center and left coalitions over the past two decades. However, it has struggled over the past year since being left out of the Netanyahu coalition and in the wake of the death of its founder and spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Shas now faces a significant political challenge from former faction leader Eli Yishai, who has announced that he will form a new party after clashing with current leader Aryeh Deri.

Views on Two States 

Unlike Yishai, Deri has endorsed an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians and said, “Time isn't on our side… we need to push the Palestinian issue hard and bring everyone into it.” He has also said that “there's no chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians at this point in time without first solving the problem of Hamas.” Rabbi Yosef’s son, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has reaffirmed the views of his late father, saying that Jewish law permits a process of trading land in return for “real peace.”

Views on Democracy

Deri has a reputation for having close contact with Palestinian-Israeli leaders. He has spoken out against anti-Arab hate crimes, saying, “As a people that was persecuted for thousands of years for being a minority, we should understand how serious such acts are better than most.” He has said that “Shas is the only party that cares about the Arab public, the public – regardless of race or ethnicity.”


United Torah Judaism

Ballot symbol for United Torah Judaism

Ballot symbol for United Torah Judaism

Founded: 1992
Current Seats: 7
Date of Primary Election: None
Notable Members: Yaakov Litzman, Moshe Gafni | See full party List

Background

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) is a loose alliance of Hasidic rabbis and interest groups. It works primarily to win funding for Haredi institutions and maintain Israel’s status quo regarding the relationship between state and religion. The party is non-Zionist and does not accept cabinet positions in the government.

Views on Two States

Party leader Yaacov Litzman proposed a bill in 2013 that would require approval from a supermajority of the Knesset before Israel could hold any negotiations on the status of Jerusalem. UTJ draws much of its support from Israelis in West Bank settlements, particularly the Haredi settlements of Modi’in Illit and Beitar Illit.

Views on Democracy

Before the collapse of the Netanyahu coalition in December, 2014, UTJ considered joining the government and supporting the Jewish State Bill. UTJ does not permit female candidates, and a senior party rabbi recently threatened excommunication to any Haredi women who choose to vote for another political party.


Yachad (Together)

Ha'am Itanu's ballot symbol

Ha'am Itanu's ballot symbol

Founded: 2014
Current Seats: 0
Factional Alliances: Formed a joint list with far-right Otzma LeYisrael
Date of Primary Election: None
Notable Members: Eli Yishai | See full party list

Background

In December 2014, Shas MK Eli Yishai broke from the ultra-orthodox faction that he once led to found Ha’am Itanu, a new party that he said would honor the legacy of late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. 

Views on Two States

Yishai has argued that “as long as there is no significant change on the Palestinian side, there should be no advancement in talks." He opposes any settlement freeze in the West Bank, saying, “The Land of Israel needs to build and be built, period.” During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, he said that Israel would not enjoy calm until it sent “Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

Views on Democracy

As interior minister, Yishai called deportation and repatriation of migrants a “national mission” and referred to children of foreign workers as “a demographic threat.” He has said, "We have one goal… and that is to maintain the Jewish majority in this country.”


Arab Parties

Hadash (Democratic Front of Peace and Equality)

Ballot Symbol for Hadash

Ballot Symbol for Hadash

Founded: 1977
Current Seats: 4
Date of Primary Election: None
Faction alliances: Joined the United List with other Arab parties.
Notable Members: Dov Khenin, Mohammad Barakeh, Hana Sweid | See full joint list

Background

Hadash comprises the remains of the Israeli Communist Party and is Israel’s only Jewish-Arab party. It has formed a joint list with Balad, Ra'am and Ta'al ahead of the 2015 election. 

Views on two states

Hadash advocates for a Palestinian state based on ‘67 borders and for Israel not to define itself as a ‘Jewish state.’

Views on democracy

Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh has said that the Jewish State Bill would make Israel the first racist country in the 21st century. Faction chair Dov Khenin accused Netanyahu of “pouring fuel into the bonfire of hate."


Ra’am-Ta’al (United Arab List, Arab Movement for Renewal)

Ballot Symbol for Ra'am Ta'al

Ballot Symbol for Ra'am Ta'al

Founded: 2006
Current Seats: 4
Faction alliances: Joined the United List with other Arab parties.
Date of primary election: None
Notable Members: Ibrahim Sarsur, Ahmad Tibi | See full joint list

Background

As Israel’s only Islamic party, Ra’am has endorsed the use of Sharia courts, the unification of state and religion, and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Arab countries. It has joined forces with the smaller Arab party Ta’al, which focuses on Israeli-Palestinian peace and equal rights for Palestinian-Israeli citizens. Ahead of the 2015 election, they have formed a join list with Balad and Hadash. 

Views on Two States

Ra’am Ta’al supports a Palestinian state based on the ‘67 borders. Faction MK Ahmad Tibi said recently that “supporting a Palestinian state is a moral act that will promote the peace process, not the other way around… The old way of negotiating is over and the Netanyahu government is doing everything to sabotage the vision of two states, mostly by building settlements."

Views on Democracy

Tibi has denounced the Jewish State Bill and said that “Jewish and democratic, the definition of the State of Israel for the last thirty years, is an oxymoron… You cannot be democratic, believing in equality between all citizens, and define yourself as an ethnic definition, ‘Jewish.’”


Balad (Nation)

Ballot Symbol for Balad

Ballot Symbol for Balad

Founded: 1995
Current Seats: 3
Faction Alliances: Joined the United List with other Arab parties.
Date of primary election: None
Notable Members: Jamal Zahalka, Hanin Zoabi | See full joint list

Background:

Balad is secular, anti-Zionist and supports Arab nationalism. Balad MK Hanin Zoabi has been banned from the Knesset for calling Palestinian terrorists “people who see no other way to change their reality.” Ahead of the 2015 election, the party has formed a joint list with Hadash, Ra'am and Ta'al.

Views on two states

Balad supports abolishing Israel’s Jewish character and ceding all territory captured in 1967.

Views on democracy

Party leader Jamal Zahalka has insisted that “in the long term, there is no chance for democracy, peace and freedom without ending the Zionist regime.”

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