The Players and Parties as Israel Votes

Yaacov Benmeleh

(Bloomberg) -- Polls ahead of Israel’s Sept. 17 election suggest a tight race between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and former military chief Benny Gantz’s Blue and White. But in Israel’s fractured political landscape, it takes more than a single party to rule, so the real tension will be over who can line up the biggest bloc of parliamentary seats.

The election is the second in five months after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following April balloting. The key decider may be former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, who last time refused to join Netanyahu's government. Other potential players include Israel's ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas. They command roughly 15% of parliamentary seats between them and have been mainstays in Netanyahu governments, while the Joint List, which represents Israel's Arab minority, has signaled some support for Gantz.

Netanyahu’s political survival has dominated a campaign largely bereft of issues, though corruption allegations dogging the premier remain solidly in the background. The once-central question of peace with the Palestinians barely registers on the radar because many Israelis doubt it’s possible at this time. On security matters, Gantz and Netanyahu both see a need to retain war-won territory the Palestinians seek for a state. But Gantz has become a magnet for many desperate for a change after a cumulative 13 years of Netanyahu rule.

Here are the parties and leaders making their case before Israeli voters.

Likud

Description: Israel’s leading right-wing party, places primary importance on securityLeader: Benjamin NetanyahuMajor policies:– Pushing agressive military and diplomatic campaigns against Iran, which poses Israel’s biggest strategic threat– Continuing occupation of West Bank amid skepticism that direct negotiations with current Palestinian leadership can work– Unilaterally annexing Jewish settlements and key security areas in the West Bank, as well as supporting a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital– Free-market economic policiesFinal polling: 33 seats How it fared last election: 35 seats

Blue & White

Description: Centrist party led by three ex-military chiefs and a former finance ministerLeader: Benny GantzMajor policies: – Willingness to enter peace negotiations with Palestinian leadership– Annexing Jewish settlements, a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, security control over key West Bank areas in any future settlement with Palestinians– Weakening religious influence in Israel’s social and commercial laws– A blend of free-market economic policies and a marked increase in social spendingFinal polling: 32 seatsHow it fared last election: 35 seats

Joint List

Description: Alliance of ideologically diverse Arab partiesLeader: Ayman OdehMajor policies: – Dismantling all Jewish settlements and ending Israel’s occupation in the West Bank – Creating a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in 1967– Increasing investment in Israel’s Arab communitiesFinal polling: 12 seatsHow it fared last election: Didn’t run as presently constituted

Yamina

Description: Bloc of right-wing groups that want to strengthen Jewish character of the stateLeader: Ayelet ShakedMajor policies: – Opposing the creation of a Palestinian state, instead favoring the annexation of most of the West Bank– Weakening the High Court’s ability to strike down laws passed in parliamentFinal polling: 9 seatsHow it fared last election: Member parties didn’t run under this configuration

Yisrael Beiteinu

Description: Secular right-wing party that seeks to weaken religious influence over the stateLeader: Avigdor LibermanMajor policies: – Forcing the rapidly growing ultra-Orthodox minority to contribute more to Israeli society, such as by doing compulsory military service– Settling the conflict with Palestinians as part of an overall peace deal with the Arab world, which would include population transfers– More stringent rules of deterrence against terrorism, such as death sentences for those convictedFinal polling: 8 seatsHow it fared last election: 5 seats

United Torah Judaism

Description: Grouping that favors strengthening religious influence in Israel’s social and commercial lawsLeader: Yaakov LitzmanMajor policies: – Rejecting compulsory military service for ultra-Orthodox men and seeking higher benefits for its community– On matters of security and diplomacy, generally aligning with right-wing stancesFinal polling: 7 seatsHow it fared last election: 8 seats

Shas

Description: Party that seeks to redress discrimination against Jews of North African and Middle Eastern descentLeader: Aryeh DeriMajor policies: – Calling for more settlement construction in the West Bank, and a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in a future agreement with the Palestinians– Increased religious involvement in domestic mattersFinal polling: 8 seatsHow it fared last election: 8 seats

Democratic Union

Description: Left-wing bloc that wants to unseat Netanyahu, preserve Israel’s democratic principlesLeader: Nitzan HorowitzMajor policies: – Defending the current powers of Israel’s High Court– Negotiating with the Palestinians to reach a two-state solution– Full separation between religion and state– Stopping privatization and other social-democratic economic policiesFinal polling: 6 seatsHow it fared last election: Member parties didn’t run under this configuration

Labor-Gesher

Description: Alliance focused on reducing Israel’s economic inequalityLeader: Amir PeretzMajor policies: – Increased spending on poorer communities, massive government housing projects and raising the minimum wageFinal polling: 5 seatsHow it fared last election:  6 seats (as Labor Party)

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Poll data based on survey carried out between the night of Sept. 12 and the morning of Sept. 13; voter opinions may have changed. Smith Consulting polled 650 people, and its finding were published by the Jerusalem Post and Maariv newspapers on Sept. 13. The margin of error was 3.9%.

 

To contact the author of this story: Yaacov Benmeleh in Tel Aviv at ybenmeleh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anne Swardson at aswardson@bloomberg.net, Amy TeibelPaul Sillitoe

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