Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Israeli Election Primer

(Chart via IsraelMatzav – the number is number of seats projected)

Here’s your Mystical Paths Israeli election primer for 2013!  I know you’ve been waiting patiently, so here it is…

The big news in this year’s Israeli election is the new faces.  A generation of politicians, what might be termed the second generation of Israeli politicians, have mostly retired, aged, or had their political careers fail, and have left politics.

It takes 61 seats in the Israeli parliamentary system to win outright control of the parliament (the Knesset). The biggest Israeli parties have been getting progressively smaller over the years, such that they win about 25% of the seats and have to put together the other 26% of a mix of smaller parties.

Here’s your Israeli party primer:

Likud+Yisrael Betaynu – A merger of the long term center-right conservative-ish-very-very-lite Likud party and the Russian immigrant strong-right-in-talk-only secularist party Yisrael Betaynu (Israel Our Home Party).  Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister for the past 3 years, plays the middle ground, centrist, fiscal conservative, and slightly respective of religious balance except half the time when courting the leftists and the peace agenda.  #2 Avigdor Leiberman, Foreign Minister for the past 3 years, has played the bad rightist boogeyman with his frequent extreme nationalistic statements, but has been all talk.  The Israeli legal system goes after him before every election for mild corruption charges, which seems to gain him support.  (The charges disappear about 6 months later.)

Analysis – Rightists who were supporting them before no longer feel obligated to do so (to guarantee that a right leaning party forms the government), nor do moderate religious.  But centrists positions may gain support.  They have a solid lock as the largest party and Prime Minister position, but could have expected 45 seats before the war.  They’ll get a little less than the polls show, maybe 35.

Avoda (Labor) – Labor is the party that has ran most Israeli governments.  Unfortunately for Labor as a party, whenever a party leader wanted to do something with which the party disagreed, he'd leave taking a chunk along.  This eviscerated Labor, leaving them with only 8 seats in the last Knesset.

Yet with the collapse of the last round of Leftist insta-parties (ex. Kadima), Labor is starting to recover as the only stable thing on the left still standing.

New party leader Shelly Yachimovich has energized at least a segment of the left and gathered a few centrists by bringing a bunch of new (bad) ideas.  I give her significant credit for having a series of ideas for the public good (even if they’re bad ideas) rather than for her own bank account (as most previous Labor leaders).

Analysis – Any leftists who actually believe in anything are headed here.  They’re also picking up some centrists with their new economic positions (less personal taxes, more corporate taxes).  The polls are believable at 20.  Likud will offer them to join the government coalition.  The question will be if they make reasonable or excessive demands.

Shas – Shas is an ultra-orthodox party masquerading as an ethnic party.  Poorer as well as being traditionally religious (not ultra), Shas has used their support to authorize government funding of their own educational network and poor support institutions.  This has helped the poor…oh and also built up an institutional empire for Shas (minor side effect?)

The previous chairman Aryeh Deri was extremely popular among their ethnic segment, and was convicted on corruption charges, imprisoned and banned from politics (not for life).  Heeeeeeeeeeeeee’s back.

The person moved down to co-chair Eli Yishai actually has been doing a pretty solid job as Minister of the Interior.  Shas has also been a force in pushing for more government services (such as health clinics and government service offices) in poor and outlying communities – including Arab Israeli villages.  Somehow the meetings with the local leadership includes commitments to vote Shas, but good for them for getting government services. 

And hey, a party actually creating and servicing constituents, maybe I should convert to sephardi?

Analysis – The inclusion of their old party leader will hurt them more than it helps.  They’ll hold their own, staying around their current 11.  Likud will offer them to join the coalition, they’ll accept.

HaBayit HaYehuda (The Jewish Home) – An insta-party!  New(ish) and proud of it (one of their lines is “something new is starting!”), they’re a combination of a series of right wing settler zionist moderate religious parties that split, joined, died, came back, split, and have joined again.

They have a new charismatic start-up millionaire (every Israeli’s dream) leader, Naftali Bennet and an actual mix of younger and older people on their party list. 

As the party is drawing rightists, disgruntled Likud-niks, people upset by the results of the Gaza war, they’ve grown from a tiny 5% settler segment to perhaps receive 10-15% of the seats – making them a real player.  The news media is taking a laser like focus as they try to get the leader to fall on his face and come out as either an idiot or extremist (almost got him once so far).

He’s taken the most extreme position in the election – namely that Israel should annex the Jewish towns (but not Palestinian areas) of the West Bank.  (That’s as extreme as a politician can be on the right.  The left can call for all the settlers to be killed and the religious to be spayed and neutered, that’s ok.)

Analysis – Assuming the media doesn’t hang the party leader or burn him at the stake, they’ll get their 10-14 seats.  But Likud will refuse to include them in the government coalition as too rightist and nationalistic. 

The Movement – An insta-private-party!  Created to give Tzipi Livni a party she could lead (having failed to take over Likud and being thrown out of Kadima), as far as I can tell the party has no positions other than Tzipi should be part of the government.

Analysis – She’ll get less seats than the polls show and won’t be included in the government.  Members on the list will abandon the party and join with Labor within a year, if Labor will take them.

Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) – Yet another insta-party!  Party Leader Yair Lapid was a leading Israeli media personality and son of historical hyper-anti-religious insta-party Shinui (Change), though he doesn’t profess an anti-religious position and has an orthodox rabbi, an American immigrant from Beit Shemesh, on his list at position 10 (unlikely to get a seat).

As best as can be determined, this party is an experiment to determine if media ego can be translated into political support.  The party may have a position, “fairness”.  That’s all, move along.

Analysis – He’ll get his seats that the polls show, maybe one less.  The party won’t be included in the government and will disappear with the next election.

Meretz – The perennial ultra-secular post-zionist party, Meretz seems to be on it’s last legs.  Not necessarily because nobody subscribes to such positions anymore, but they may be more comfortable in The Movement or Yesh Atid, where they don’t stand out. 

That said, they’re the only one who’s online ads are showing up on sites I browse.  At least somebody there knows how to use Google Adsense (and they’re the only party doing so.)

Analysis – They’ll get their few seats, won’t be included in the government,   and will recover in the next election to continue to give the ultra-secularists a home.

Yahadut HaTorah (United Torah Judaism) – UTJ is the ultimate ultra-orthodox charedi party.  The rabbis (who are not sephardi) will instruct their constituents to vote UTJ, and the vast majority will follow the instruction. 

The appeal of the party remains very narrow and their growth has been somewhat below charedi population growth as some of the votes go elsewhere (Shas?) 

They tend to be included in governing coalitions and never want a ministerial position due to the segments of the charedi population that don’t officially support a secular government in Israel (making them that much more desirable as the coalition doesn’t have to give a minister position to get their support – just money to their educational institutions), taking deputy positions only.

Having been in the last few governments, they have learned to govern and operate ministries… when they’re not trying to destroy each other inside the party or having disagreements between their rabbinical overseers.

Analysis – Their 6 seats are solid, they’ll be invited to join the governing coalition and will accept.

Arab Parties – Yes, anyone can run for the parliament in Israel.  You can even declare that Israel should be destroyed and run (technically and factually illegal to run when saying so, but not if a leftist attorney general decides not to take action because it would be anti-democratic to enforce the law…this time, but it was required enforce the law when it was Rabbi Meir Kahane who’s statements were judged anti-democratic.)

In truth these parties are not providing any political influence for their constituents as with extremist positions they’ve never been included in a governing coalition.  But they maintain the right to stand at the Knesset podium and throw insults.

Good for them.  Glad to have them choose to express themselves verbally and rather than otherwise.

Little Guys – Otzma and Am Shalem are tiny insta-parties that might, if they’re lucky, cross the threshold and be 2 seat parties.  One is moderate religious the other moderate zionist (whatever that means).

They’ll join famous parties of the past such as the Pensioners Party, The Third Way, The Civil Rights Party, The Progressive List for Peace, and One Nation.  (Never heard of those? Hmm.)


(Chart via 972mag)


  1. Do Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad have their 75,000 voters yet? The poll numbers in this article are old. Bennett may have as few as 15 seats. A Syrian War and he will have 20 seats and maybe Otzma will finally have its threshold. Barring a World War in Syria, hmm, one has to go with Bennett until Ben Ari can come up with his list of 75,000 supporters. G-d bless. Just curious. I know that Bennett is Tet Bet. What is Otzma's letters??

  2. Are the letters for Otzma Nun Tzadee Sofit?

  3. Beit HaYehudi, the more moderate of the two National-Religious parties, is currently in Netanyahu's governing coalition. Bennett is considered on the moderate side. So isn't it conceivable that he would join the next Likud coalition? Some have speculated that this could result in a dati leumi rabbi being appointed Chief Ashenazic Rabbi, which would bring Tzohar to power and foster better relations between chilonim and the Rabbanut. They might also decide to end the charedi draft exemption. The only thing, accomplishing such big things (which would ultimately bring the country together, even if they are hard at first) would seem impossible with Shas or UTJ in the coalition.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Otzma is Nun Tzadee sofit. I just made sure. Bayit Yehudi is Tet Bet, which happens to be the two letters in both the word Tov and in Bennett's last name. He is pretty clever. G-d keeps giving him more votes. Friday it was leaked that Netanyahu is already telling Obama that he is going to hold back on planning and building E-1.

    More votes for Bennett and more votes for people who want to live by G-d's rules of military and diplomatic engagement. Isolation from this dying world is good for the soul.

  6. Two thumbs up from me. Good job.

    Just a few comments:
    Shas is Haredi. On wikipedia, we've managed to remove almost every instance of ultra-o under the reason that it is a pejorative.

    You should update Yesh Atid - number 2 is Rav Shai Peron who has already managed to say some controversial things about homosexuals (controversial to religious people). Another thing is that Yesh Atid includes the 'Yesh' from his father's Shinui party, but he could not get to use the letters in on the ballot.

    Meretz - I think that they are the secular Haredim meaning, they have a core following that will automatically vote for them no matter what. They will never manage to bounce back, the ultra-left tag has stuck, and leftists are more comfortable elesewhere.

    Yahadut Hatorah. Will get 5. Haredim are sick of their second rate party and do not like to take back seat. Their party in fact 'does nothing'. Never takes a stand on political issues, always stays behind, on the fence, and also took part of the expulsion government. Like Meretz, the hard-core will vote, the others might vote for Shas, maybe for Otzma, but the rest will stay at home.

    Bennet has stated in the past, before he was in election mode, that he will not be dependant on rabbis for his decisions, sort of like Army rabbi Weiss who went to rabbis which told him not to participate, yet wnet ahead to cooperate on the expulsion. Many national-religious rabbis have come out in favour of the unity of Mafdal and Tkuma (the more Torani faction that broke off over ten years ago) and less worrying now about what the true party positions will be (Bennet already saying he will give autonomy to Arabs on Area A and B).

    Otzma LeYisrael is the only true right-wing party that won't compromise to look good in public. You vote for Otzma so your conscious is clean, not because you care what your friend's think). The true Jew does not compromise for his feelings. In the elections, Hashem decides who wins and with how many seats, but he is testing us if we vote true to ourselves or be pragmatic.

  7. I am a member of a mislabeled group, the "Ultra-Orthodox".

    Here's what I have to say in my defense:

  8. Josh: Areas A and B in Yesha have a population between 1.4 to 1.7 million Arabs. Annexing those areas would automatically enfranchise them with citizenship and voting rights. Yes, it would be great if they just ran away, or if Mashiach would expel the 80% of them that approve of murder to achieve their "political" goals. Yet, until such point where such a solution will be worked out, A and B cannot be annexed. And rather than sending Israeli troops to patrol their streets, what other option is there except least until Mashiach ben David comes?

    By the way, don't worry. If Bennett gains control of Bibi's Yesha policy the entire world will be down on us like a ton of bricks in less than three months after the World War in Syria reaches some sort of conclusion. And we know that only good things will come from that when they gather against Jerusalem. But we must proceed one step at a time. We do our part, and G-d will control the timing.

  9. In short, in this game of chess, our most strategic and moral move "at this time" is full sovereignty over Area C which is over 60% of Judea and Samaria anyway, and includes control of the high points in the Shomron and in the border with Jordan in the Jordan Valley. Of course this insures building around Yerushalayim. Just building in E-1 will push this process forward toward its conclusion. Personally, I will vote for Otzma though, if it is clear that they will have at least three seats. I can't expect Ben Ari to come up with a list of 75,000 people who will surely vote for him, guaranteeing that he will reach the threshold. Yet, if it seems like he has at least three seats, then he is over the threshold too.

    Bennett is a MB Ephraim type figure. In this process it is MB David that brings us back to the Torah. The proof will be when the nations come against Jerusalem, it is Bennett's head that they will seek. I wonder if he knows what role he is playing?

  10. Two things:
    - Annexing land does not come with citizenship for the non Jews, we dictate that and not the UN.
    - Moshe Feiglin's article about the current polls is much more accurate in my opinion:


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