Israeli Mock Election 2003 Descriptions of Political Parties Handout
Security – Led by Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, The Likud is a moderately right wing party. It has taken a strong stance fighting terror and has worked hard to delegitimize Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. The Likud opposed the Oslo Peace Process, but is willing to discuss the idea of a Palestinian state after all violence ends. The Likud has merged with another party called Yisrael Beteynu, led by Avigdor Lieberman. Once a primarily Russian immigrant party, Yisrael Beteynu still fights for rights for immigrants, but has MK’s from all parts of Israeli Society
Religion – Since the establishment of the State there has been a “status quo” arrangement, whereby public transportation and businesses are closed on Shabbat, only kosher food is served in the army, and the rabbinical courts are solely responsible for issues of personal status (marriage, divorce, conversion). The Likud party has a traditional respect for religion, and seeks to maintain that status quo.
Economy – The Likud party believes that for Israel’s economy to thrive it must become more like that of the Western world and move away from the socialist institutions established in its early years. Private enterprise must be encouraged.
Security – Once the natural government party, the Labor party’s strength has diminished. It negotiated the Oslo accords, and its new leader (Shelly Yachimovitz) is interested in reopening negotiations with the Palestinians, even without the cessation of the terror. Labor would withdraw from most of the territory captured in 1967, dismantle many of the settlements, and relocate the Jews living in them. For this election, the Labor party is primarily focusing on social and economic issues rather than security and peace issues.
Religion – Labor would like to make changes in the “status quo” and bring about a secularization o the country, but is hesitant to do so boldly out of fear of alienating a large chunk of traditional Jews. The former Labor Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, mounted an extensive program to secularize the country, and met with stiff opposition.
Economy – The Labor Party established the socialist institutions even prior to the founding of the State, and would be interested in preserving as much of them as possible. Included in this are extensive protections and benefits for workers at the expense of the large companies. Historically, Labor championed improving the plight of the lower economic classes, although it has begun to shift from that in the last decade or so.
Shas is a distinctly Sefardic religious party, which rocketed to play a major role in the Knesset after impressive showing in previous elections.
Security – Shas has joined with both Labor and Likud governments, and has shown willingness to be flexible on the question of security policy.
Religion – Shas is an Ultra-Orthodox party whose decisions are made primarily by former Sefardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Its platform is to restore the glory of traditional Sefardic Jewry, and if the given the opportunity, would divert funds from social and cultural institutions to fund its own network of religious schools. Shas would also like to see more religious legislation, and discourages immigration of Russians who are not halakhically Jewish.
Economy – Shas gained tremendous popularity as the champion of the poor and uneducated masses, many of whom are of Sefardic origin. They provide valuable services to those masses, but always with a religious twist, and at the expense of a variety of social and cultural institutions.
Yesh Atid is a liberal party trying to represent the middle-classes, who are highly taxed, serve in the army and generally feel that they are taken advantage by previous governments. It believes that the rights of the individual are supreme, and that all legislation must be measured against that principle. The state has to strive to provide free education from kindergarten to university, and that education must impart humanistic, democratic, Liberal, Zionist and pluralistic values.
Security – While Shinui has not taken a strong stand either with Likud or Labor, led by chairman Yair Lapid it tends toward a centrist view, believing in the eace process, but also believing in the rights of settlement blocs. .
Religion – Shinui stands out as wanting to “spread the burden” of army service. It would abolish exemptions for military service given to yeshiva students and try to integrate them into the army. Interestingly enough, the No. 2 on the Yesh Atid list is a leading orthodox rabbi.
Economy – Shinui represents the middle classes that are the backbone of Israeli society. In their opinion, the middle class pays too many taxes and receives too little in return. A reduction in taxes will free up investment funds that will start the wheels of the economy turning once again, thereby providing jobs for the unemployed. The rate of privatization has to be accelerated and the state must relinquish its heavy involvement in the business sector.
Another centrist party, founded by Tzippy Livni, previously of the Likud and then the leader of Kadima, also another centrist party. After losing the leadership of Kadima, Livni retired from politics. However she decided to return, believing that she is the only person capable of bringing down Bibi Netanyahu. She believes that Netanyahu is leading Israel into international isolation and he must therefore be stopped. Two previous leaders of the Labor party, Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz left the Labor Party to join her.
Security – HaTnuah strongly believes in resuscitating the peace process, as Israel’s most urgent need. It would be willing to make major concessions to the Palestinians for peace.
Religion – HaTnua is against religious legislation yet wants to maintain the uniquely Jewish character of the State. Hatnua would also overturn the clause allowing yeshiva students to drop out of the army.
Economy – The citizens of Israel deserve a free economy, giving expression to each and every person’s relative advantages. State-owned enterprises should be sold off. At the same time, the government has a responsibility to care for the needy, to offer special aliya and absorption benefits, and to close the social gaps in society.
Meretz is a democratic, peace seeking party, in which Arabs and Jews work together. It is fully committed to human rights, equality for all, and social justice.
Security – Meretz is distinctly left wing. It proposes immediate and unconditional withdrawal from all territory captures in 1967, and would dismantle all settlements, which it regards as illegal. It believes that all of Israel’s difficulties with the Arab world would cease if it were to withdraw immediately and help the Palestinians establish their own state.
Religion – Meretz believes in complete separation of religion and State, and would dismantle all state run religious activities and institutions.
Economy – Meretz believes that Israel should invest heavily in taking care of the disadvantaged and protecting the rights of every individual.
Habayit HaYehudi, the Jewish Home, is the successor the National Religious Party. It is a religious Zionist party, but has non-religious members and believes that all Jews could be comfortable with its platform
Security – Habayit HaYehudi believes that the two state solution will never happen and so believes that Israel must take unilateral action to protect itself, including annexing settlement blocs.. It believes on holding on to all territory captured in 1967 and strengthening our hold on it by building yet more settlements and providing serious financial support to Jews there. Some members of the National Union have supported providing financial incentives for Arabs to move to neighboring countries.
Religion – While it is a religious party, Habayit HaYehudi does not believe in religious coercion. It believes in major reforms of the Chief rabbinate, to make it more approachable to the people. Habayit HaYehudi believes that all Jews should serve in the army, but it does not believe that coercing the Haredim to serve will work. It believes that is more vital for Israel to bring them into the workforce rather than the army.
Economy – Habayit HaYehudi believes in lowering taxes and cutting red tape to businesses. It also believes in breaking the stranglehold that both the Unions and Tycoons have on the Israeli economy. It also believes in reforming the Defense Ministry which has an over-inflated budget.
© The Lookstein Center, 2013.