Pomp and circumstance are generally hard to find in Israeli elections, but the ritual submission of party lists to the Central Elections Committee provided plenty, along with a glimpse at some of the more colorful parties running.
The process began Tuesday night, with parties rushing to stake a place on line.
Twelve were registered to give in their lists, but only nine did on Wednesday: The Zionist Union, Green Leaf, Democratura, Pirates, We Are All Friends Na Nach, Or, Yisrael Beytenu, the Joint Arab List, and Ubezchutan.
Other parties running will be able to submit lists and request letters for voting slips on Thursday from 4-10 p.m.
Labor Party secretary-general Hilik Bar was first to enter the Central Elections Committee’s headquarters, a conference room in the Knesset. He sat in front of the panel’s chairman, Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, and its director-general, Orly Ades, along with Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud), MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu), and Shas representative Yehuda Avidan, who made snarky comments at nearly every party.
“We are honored to be first,” Bar said, Army Radio reported. “Throughout this election process, we were the most organized and transparent.”
“No campaigning!” Joubran warned.
“I’m glad you internalized the idea of transparent people,” Avidan said, referring to Shas’s campaign, which says the poor are ignored by the government.
Bar pointed out that the Zionist Union list starts with Isaac Herzog and ends with Isaac Navon, and asked for the letters spelling out the Hebrew word for truth (emet) to appear on its voting slips, as is traditional in Labor.
Then, referring to Wednesday’s Likud vote recount, Bar said to Levin: “Good luck. I hope you’ll be able to give in your list by 10 p.m. tomorrow. You’ve been counting votes for a month.”
Green Leaf was next in line, but was delayed. One cameraman said they must be in the Knesset cafeteria with munchies, but the party representatives informed The Jerusalem Post they were on the smoking balcony.
When Green Leaf eventually gave in its list, calls of “good luck” could be heard from the press area.
Green Leaf leader Oren Leibowitz said that, while other parties make sweeping promises about war and peace that they can’t keep, his party has an easy-to-implement plan for police to stop chasing after cannabis smokers.
Leibowitz also complained that, although the party has come close to the electoral threshold in the past, pollsters do not ask about them, which is why they do not appear in polls.
Meanwhile, Yehuda Haglili, of the We Are All Friends Na Nach Party, the Breslov hassid party, protested against the Koolanu Party’s name, which means “all of us,” and claiming that they took his party’s name. However, Koolanu, whose representatives were not in the Knesset Wednesday, said the Central Elections Committee ruled that they can both use the word in their names.
Haglili explained that, although it is not registered as such, the party’s full name is “We Are All Friends Na Nach Led By Rabbi Nachman King of Israel,” and that he expects 120 seats in the next Knesset.
“We want to bring Rabbi Nachman [of Breslov] to Israel and want to reveal his teachings and Torah to Israel,” Haglili said, excitedly. “We want a full redemption, to be a light unto the nations and bring happiness, faith, and renewal to Israel.”
When he and a colleague submitted their list, Haglili, who wore a white robe and a large white kipa with “Na Nach Nachman of Uman” written on it, mugged for the cameras, making a sideways V for victory that looked like a gang sign.
A representative of the Pirate Party, sporting long hair and a beard, wore a black T-shirt with a skull-and-crossbones tie printed on it and a hoodie.
His look was far less colorful than that of the Pirates last time they ran, when they came with eye patches and hooks. At the time, they were told to remove the more costume-like elements of their getups while submitting their lists.
Despite the lack of peg-legs or tricornered hats, Levin had trouble holding back his laughter at the Pirates, and was visibly shaking.
The Joint Arab List and Yisrael Beytenu arrived at the same time, bringing some tension to the hallway outside the Central Elections Committee.
As MKs Orly Levy-Abecasis and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) gave interviews in front of the television cameras, MK Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) interjected, thanking Yisrael Beytenu for raising the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent, because now the Arab parties united in one list for the first time and will have more seats than ever before.
When Yisrael Beytenu gave in its list, Avidan asked whether they regret raising the threshold in light of polls bringing them close to it – last week they averaged 5.8.
“We stand up for our beliefs. We always wanted a higher threshold,” Ilatov replied.
“We can’t have an election every two years.”
The Joint Arab List brought all of its members in to the Central Election Committee, with seven of them sitting in front of the panel.
Ayman Odeh called it an historic moment, because the Arab parties united for the first time.
“There’s a Zionist Union, and we call ourselves the ‘Democratic Union.’ We are not against Israeli society; we are for equality,” Odeh said.
UAL MK Masoud Gnaim said that the unity among his party, Hadash, Balad, and Ta’al is “not just good for the Arabs, it is good for the whole country, because it will be more egalitarian and just.”
Avidan wondered aloud where MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) was, and whether she didn’t join the rest of the list because she knows she would be disqualified from running.
Several MKs in Yisrael Beytenu and Likud plan to submit petitions to ban Zoabi from running for the next Knesset in light of her admitted pro-Hamas stance.
MK Bassel Ghattas (Balad) wore a keffiyeh to the proceedings, explaining that he wears it when he wants to make a statement.
The final party submitting a list was Ubezchutan - Haredi Women for Change, led by Ruth Korian, who approached the panel and began to cry.
“Don’t be nervous,” Joubran told her, pouring her a cup of water.
Korian said her 10-year-old daughter was pulled out of class in a haredi school in Petah Tikva earlier Wednesday and questioned about the party, which has raised the ire of many in ultra-Orthodox communities.
“I know this isn’t the place to ask, but I need protection. My daughter can’t be thrown out of school,” she pleaded.
Still, after giving in her list, Korian expressed confidence that, although some rabbis have spoken out against and even threatened her, she has enough support to make it in to the Knesset.