Political parties made last-minute tweaks to their lists Thursday – with a few surprises – before the window to submit them to the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset closed in the evening, bringing the total number of parties running in the March 17 vote to 26.
In a surprise move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to appoint former minister and MK Bennie Begin, son of Likud founder and former prime minister Menachem Begin, to the 11th place on the party list. There was an outpouring of praise and support for the move within the Likud. Netanyahu also named terrorism expert Dr. Anat Berko to the 23rd slot.
Likud MKs Ze’ev Elkin, Yariv Levin and Ophir Akunis submitted the party’s list, with Elkin telling Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Salim Joubran: “We have 120 interesting people on our list; I hope they all get in.”
Before the party handed in its list, Levin refused to give the Joint Arab List the requested permission to use the letter “mem” on its voting slip.
The Joint Arab List needed the Likud to acquiesce, because the name on the Likud’s voting slip, Machal, starts with “mem,” and Meretz and the Zionist Union (“Emet”) already agreed. However, Levin said that “unlike Meretz and the Anti-Zionist Union, Likud will not cooperate with a party that includes [Balad MKs] Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka and the Islamic Movement, and will express total opposition to the Central Elections Committee.”
On Thursday morning, former soccer legend Eli Ohana resigned from the Bayit Yehudi list, three days after party leader Naftali Bennett appointed him to it, citing harsh criticism from the party’s MKs and members.
Throughout the day and evening, Bayit Yehudi scrambled to find a new, wellknown candidate to replace Ohana, to no avail, giving in its list at the last possible minute with MK Mordechai Yogev filling the eighth spot.
Koolanu snatched Arad Mayor Tali Ploskov from Yisrael Beytenu Thursday morning, which is when she resigned from her former party’s central committee.
The Moldovan-born mother of two moved to Israel in 1991 and got her master’s degree in psychology before making her first foray into politics on the Arad city council in 2010.
Living in the periphery and working in its politics would be assets to the party, Kahlon said.
But her former party, Yisrael Beytenu, slammed Ploskov’s decision, saying that she was abandoning “a city in crisis” before completing a full term in order to advance herself politically. Ploskov relied on the party’s help in her reelection bid last January, in which 10 Yisrael Beytenu MKs came to the city to assist in the effort. She won by 55 percent.
Koolanu candidates Eli Alalouf, Rachel Azaria, Yifat Shasha-Bitton and Ploskov submitted a 33-member list to the Central Elections Committee.
Despite attempts by the Likud to unite with Koolanu earlier this week, and rumors of a Likud-Bayit Yehudi merger, the only parties to form a joint list in the hours before Central Elections Committee closed its doors at 10 p.m. were Yachad, led by former Shas leader MK Eli Yishai, and the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit.
Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) leader Baruch Marzel did not shake Joubran’s hand, later saying: “I don’t think he should be a judge.”
Netanyahu’s lawyer, David Shimron, met with Kahlon’s brother, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahlon, last week. The Likud said Kahlon offered a joint list as long as candidates from the two parties would alternate. Koolanu said it was Likud that had wanted a joint list and Koolanu did not.
Shas presented its list with two significant changes from the 2013 elections, other than the MKs who left prior to the election period – Eli Yishai, who formed Yachad, and Ariel Attias, who left politics.
MK Amnon Cohen, who had served as the chairman of the Knesset Control Committee, announced on Thursday that he was quitting political life and was replaced on the list by MK Yoav Ben-Tzur.
The other major change is the absence of one of Shas’s founders and longstanding MK, Nissim Ze’ev.
Ze’ev became increasingly critical of Shas chairman Arye Deri in recent months and accused him of behaving like a dictator over the manner in which he leads the party.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday morning, Ze’ev repeated his criticism, saying that the only person who decides anything in the party is Deri. Ze’ev said he refused to sign the forms required by political parties to formally submit a candidate for an election that were sent to him because he was not made aware of which position he was being given.
“I’m not a fig leaf and I’m not decoration,” the MK said, noting that Shas is unlikely to get more than seven or eight seats in the coming election and indicating that he would have been placed outside of the obtainable positions.
Following the submission of the Shas electoral list, Deri said that the candidates were “experienced and successful, that [they] would fight for those who are invisible in Israeli society,” the focus of Shas’s campaign so far for poorer Israelis.
There was no drama at all from United Torah Judaism, which is made up of the hassidic Agudat Yisrael and the non-hassidic Degel Hatorah parties. It presented a list on which the first seven candidates, all currently MKs, was unchanged.
Heading the list is Ya’acov Litzman, followed by Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush, Uri Maklev, Menachem Eliezer Mozes, Yisrael Eichler and Ya’acov Asher in seventh position.
Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin (Degel Hatorah) is at number eight, Shlomo Teitel (Agudat Yisrael) in ninth position and Shimon Hadad (Degel Hatorah) in the tenth position.
A representative of UTJ said on presenting the party’s electoral list that it contained candidates with “leadership and experience,” and added that the party was pleased that there were few changes from the previous election.
Yesh Atid arrived promptly as registration opened at 4 p.m., with MKs Karin Elharar and Mickey Levy giving in their list and proudly claiming that they are the only party in which none of its candidates was investigated on suspicion of a crime.
Shas’s representative to the Central Elections Committee, Yehuda Avidan, interjected several times as Yesh Atid submitted its papers, but then dropped a hint that his party may be willing to sit in a coalition with Yesh Atid, saying: “They expressed regret at their past boycott [of ultra-Orthodox parties], and we accept that.”
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon submitted his party’s 120-candidate list to the panel, with former minister Yossi Sarid in the symbolic last place.
“We don’t have soccer players or models, because I’m both,” Gilon quipped. “We are the most hardworking MKs; we don’t need stars.”
Former United Arab List-Ta’al MK Taleb a-Sanaa registered his own Arab list, separate from the joint one Balad, Hadash, UAL and Ta’al formed and on which they did not give him a spot. He called it “The Arab List.”
Two small parties submitted lists with graphic names Thursday: “Protecting Our Children – Stop Feeding Them Porn,” and “The Greens Don’t Give a F***,” formerly known as The Greens.Niv Elis contributed to this report.