Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The Contenders

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Israel's election line-up

By AIJAC staff

Israelis go to the polls on March 28 in what will clearly be a watershed election. This poll not only features an unprecedented re-alignment of the political spectrum into three major parties, but will also help determine Israel’s approach to the extraordinary challenge of Hamas gaining control over the Palestinian Authority. What follows is AIJAC’s exclusive guide to the most significant parties, their platforms and their prospects:

 

Kadima's Ehud Olmert

Kadima

New centrist party created under the leadership of Ariel Sharon after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. Party composed of centrist members of Likud who left with Sharon, and centrist members of the Israeli Labor Party, including Shimon Peres. With Sharon incapacitated by a stroke, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stepped up to lead the party

PHILOSOPHY: Established by Sharon as a result of internal opposition to the Gaza withdrawal by hawkish members of Likud. Believes that there is no genuine peace partner on the Palestinian side, and Israel must move unilaterally to establish defensible borders.

PLATFORM:

• The Jewish People have a historical national right to settle the entirety of the Land of Israel;

• In order to achieve the supreme goal of a sovereign Jewish and democratic nation that constitutes a national home for the Jewish People, it is necessary to ensure a demographic Jewish majority within Israel;

• The clash between the Jewish right to all of the Land of Israel, and the perpetuation of Israel as the national Jewish homeland requires us to forsake part of the Land of Israel;

• This is not a concession of our ideology, but a recognition that the fulfilment of our ideology requires us to guarantee the existence of a Jewish democratic nation in the Land of Israel.

• Israel will attempt to pursue negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the Roadmap agreement;

• The security barrier will be expeditiously completed;

• Permanent borders will be drawn in such a way that it will secure the national security interests of the State of Israel;

• Israel’s agreement to a two state solution is unequivocally dependant upon recognition that the creation of a Palestinian state constitutes the end of the conflict;

• There will be no entry of Palestinian refugees into Israel.

CURRENT NUMBER OF MKs – 14
PROJECTED NUMBER OF SEATS – 38+

 

Labor's Amir Peretz

Labor-Meimad

Venerable party that ruled Israel for its first 29 years of existence as a state. Currently led by former union official and small town mayor Amir Peretz, who took the helm of the party after an upset election that unseated longtime leader Shimon Peres, who subsequently defected to Kadima.

PHILOSOPHY: Centre-left social democratic. Peretz is vowing to place economic and social issues at the forefront of the campaign, promising to roll back the neo-liberal economic reforms implemented by former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

PLATFORM:

• Fairer distribution of national resources in a way that will narrow the gaps between the poor and wealthy;

• Lowering unemployment and increasing the minimum wage;

• Free public education up to and including university level;

• There is a close interaction between Israel’s national security and its socio-economic cohesion;

• In a period of diplomatic stagnation, Israel shall act independently to secure its vital security interests;

• The security barrier will be completed and steps to ensure continued Israeli military superiority will be taken;

• Smaller Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be dismantled;

• Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, along with all the Jewish holy sites, will perpetually remain under Israeli control.

CURRENT MKs – 21
PROJECTED SEATS – 15-20

 

Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu

Likud

Party founded by Menachem Begin on the principles of Jabotinsky’s philosophy of Revisionist Zionism. Came to power in the ‘upending’ of 1977. Led by Sharon from 1999 until late 2005, when right-wing opposition to his Gaza disengagement policy led him to form the Kadima party. Centrist Likud MKs left with Sharon and party leadership was won in a bitter contest by Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister in the 1990s and Israel’s immediate past Finance Minister

PHILOSOPHY: Sceptical of a willingness on the Palestinian side to make peace. Opposition to further territorial withdrawals. Free market economic orientation.

PLATFORM:

• Opposed to an independent Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan, but pragmatic enough to recognise its ultimate inevitability;

• No negotiations with the Palestinians ‘under fire’;

• Palestinian terror organisations must be disarmed and dismantled;

• Increasing the number of Jews living in the West Bank;

• No division of Jerusalem;

• Growing the Jewish population of Israel to a figure of 7 million persons through immigration and the absorption of returning residents by the end of the decade, thus obviating demographic pressure on Israel’s Jewish majority;

• Continuing free market reforms instituted by Benjamin Netanyahu as Finance Minister, while working to reduce poverty.

CURRENT MKs – 27
PROJECTED SEATS – 15-19

 

National Union - Mafdal

An amalgamation of two right-wing parties that share a strong modern orthodox/settler component.

PHILOSOPHY: The Jews are engaged in a battle of will with the Arabs over control of the Land of Israel. Victory will come to the side that shows the most determination.

PLATFORM:

• Total opposition to a withdrawal from any part of the historic Land of Israel;

• Voluntary resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the Arab world;

• Autonomous self-government for the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza within a zone with contiguous borders;

• Demilitarisation of the Arab areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza and the forcible disarming of Palestinian terrorist groups.

CURRENT MKs – 9
PROJECTED SEATS – 5

 

Meretz's Yossi Beilin

Meretz-Yahad

An amalgamation of two left-wing parties that espouse a platform at the left-most wing of the Zionist political spectrum.

PHILOSOPHY: Secular/Leftist view that Israel should be a secular state with a Jewish majority that will withdraw from the occupied territories.

PLATFORM:

• Opposition to the current route of Israel’s security barrier along the West Bank;

• Israel should withdraw to the 1967 border with minor territorial adjustments based on reciprocal exchanges of land;

• Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and Palestine;

• A solution to the Palestinian refugee problem that does not involve their settlement in Israel;

• Joint Israeli-Palestinian security agreements;

• Ethnic and gender affirmative action in the selection of Israel’s peace delegation to the Palestinians;

• Separation of religion and state;

• Abolishing the Israeli rabbinate as an official government-funded institution;

• Civil marriages and divorce.

CURRENT MKs – 6
PROJECTED SEATS – 5

 

Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Leiberman

Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home)

Right wing party with an electoral base within the Russian immigrant community.

PHILOSOPHY: Hawkish on defence and foreign affairs, populist on economic and domestic policy. Promotes a state that will maintain a strong Jewish demographic majority that will reflect progressive Western democratic values.

PLATFORM:

• Final demarcation of Israel’s border with the Palestinians will be drawn with an eye to maintaining Israel’s demographic Jewish majority;

• Border arrangements must guarantee Israeli security;

• Border must take Jewish West Bank settlements into account, and should include major settlement blocks within Israel’s frontier lines;

• Some of the large Israeli Arab communities adjacent to the West Bank border (Wadi Ara) should be transferred to the Palestinian state in order to create two states with ethnically homogenous populations;

• Abolition of deferment from military service for ultra-orthodox.

CURRENT MKs – 3
PROJECTED SEATS – 6

 

Shas' Eli Yishai

Shas

Ultra-orthodox Sephardic Party

PHILOSOPHY: Government should be based strictly upon Jewish law. In the past evinced a willingness to relinquish land in a peace deal, but is now increasingly cynical towards the Palestinians in light of violence and terror. Shas has traditionally catered to poor Sephardic Jews and sees itself as an alternative to exclusive Ashkenazi ultra-orthodox parties.

PLATFORM:

• No sovereign Palestinian state, but peace deal should be based on autonomy for Palestinians;

• No division of Jerusalem;

• Need to save lives trumps control over Land of Israel, so territorial withdrawal in some instances is justified.

CURRENT MKs – 14
PROJECTED SEATS – 10

 

United Torah Judaism

Joint list of two Ashkenazi ultra-orthodox parties, Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah.

PHILOSOPHY: Neutral on Zionism. Dedicated to the protection of privileges and funding given to the ultra-orthodox community, such as deferrals from military service.

PLATFORM:

• No Palestinian state between the Mediterranean and Jordan River;

• Access to Jerusalem Jewish holy sites for all Jews;

• Jews have a right to live anywhere in the Land of Israel;

• Supports continued economic support for yeshiva students;

• Strongly in favour of increased Jewish religious observance and application of Jewish law.

CURRENT MKs – 5
PROJECTED SEATS – 5

 

Hadash/United Arab List/Arab Renewal Party

Three independent predominantly Arab parties – Hadash is the former Israeli Communist Party and has marginal Jewish membership, the United Arab List (UAL) and Arab Renewal Parties (ARP) are explicitly Arab nationalist parties.

PHILOSOPHY: Hadash espouses traditional Marxist party line while UAL and ARP reflect more traditional Arab culture. All parties are explicitly anti-Zionist.

PLATFORMS:

• Opposed to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state;

• Support right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel-proper;

• Desires to abolish private property and implement communist state (Hadash);

CURRENT MKs – 5
PROJECTED SEATS – 5

 

Shinui

Secular party dedicated to preventing ultra-orthodox incursion into personal privacy rights. Big winner in 2003 election, but centrist role now likely to be usurped by Kadima.

PHILOSOPHY: Single issue party founded amid widespread resentment towards the privileges granted to the ultra-orthodox.

PLATFORM:

• Israel should be a secular state;

• No religious coercion;

• No exemption from military service for ultra-orthodox yeshiva students;

• Support for peace process with ‘moderate Palestinians’.

CURRENT MKs – 9
PROJECTED SEATS – 0

 

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