Politics: A political guide for the perplexed

With a quarter of voters undecided, the ‘Post’ maps out party platforms on key issues.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Pool / Haim Zach)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Pool / Haim Zach)
There was good news and bad news this week for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. On the one hand, a failed effort by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to begin a process intended to unite the three parties on the Center-Left after the January 22 election helped Netanyahu’s Likud Beytenu stop its tailspin in the polls and win back two seats it had lost to its satellite parties.
Ironically, Livni helped Netanyahu by persuading voters that it is not a foregone conclusion that he will form the next government.
President Shimon Peres’s criticism of Netanyahu’s policies also made it less farfetched that Peres could ask one of the Center-Left’s leaders to form the government instead of Netanyahu. This could happen if the three parties together win five more Knesset seats than Likud Beytenu and the haredi parties get a better offer from the Left than they do from the Right.
But on the other hand, assuming that Netanyahu will still form the next coalition, that task became much harder this week due to statements by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. He said he would not join Netanyahu’s coalition without at least one other Center-Left party, and he hinted that he might not join a coalition with Shas at all.
Since Labor has ruled out joining any Netanyahu-led government, the only other Center- Left party guaranteed to pass the 2- percent electoral threshold is The Tzipi Livni Party, which is unlikely to join a coalition with Bayit Yehudi because of the stark difference between the parties on the Palestinian issue.
The best way to solve this problem is for Kadima to win the estimated 70,000 votes needed to pass the threshold and join the coalition with Yesh Atid. Kadima’s aggressive campaign advertisements, which started this week, could help.
Other ways are for Shas to make compromises on haredi service or for Bayit Yehudi to not obsess over the Palestinian issue. Shas triumvirate leader Arye Deri and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett both revealed surprising flexibility to The Jerusalem Post over the past week.
But with all due respect to the coalition conundrums, there are still 11 days left before the election, and much can still change. Polls have indicated that as many as one quarter of the voters are still undecided.
To help such voters, The Jerusalem Post has compiled the following Guide to the Perplexed about the 14 parties that have passed the threshold in at least three polls. Much of the information comes from the Israel Democracy Institute, which compiled platforms of all the parties for its Election Compass, which can be found on JPost.com.
Previous Performance: 42 mandates (27 Likud, 15 Yisrael Beytenu)
Poll position: 33-36
Candidates on cusp: Alex Miller, Leon Litinetsky, David Bitan, Uri Farej
Anglos: Highest on the list is Daniel Hershtal, Toronto, 73rd
Diplomatic platform: Netanyahu supports a demilitarized Palestinian state; the Likud does not. Yisrael Beytenu supports demographic separation via a territory and population exchange.
Socioeconomic platform: The Likud boasts creation of 350,000 jobs, cellular reform; wants housing reform. Yisrael Beytenu embraces both social compassion and the notion of a free economy.
Religion/State platform: Yisrael Beytenu wants universal service for all Israelis, including Arabs.
Previous Performance: 13
Poll position: 16-18
Candidates on cusp: Danny Atar, Ghaleb Majadle, Nadia Hilu
Anglos: Chili Tropper, New York, 23rd
Diplomatic platform: Favors immediate return to peace talks without preconditions based on the 2000 Clinton plan, strengthening relations with the West and rehabilitating and initiating new connections with moderate Muslim countries.
Socioeconomic platform: Favors increasing public expenditures by collecting more tax revenues from the rich; will work for fairer wages for employees, lower cost of living.
Religion/State platform: Supports civil marriage, wants to help haredim be able to work but not force them to serve; opposes opening businesses on Shabbat because wants workers to have a day off.
Previous Performance: 3 (+2 in National Union)
Poll position: 13-16
Candidates on cusp: Hillel Horowitz, Jeremy Gimpel, Naci Eyan, Rachamim Nisimi
Anglos: Jeremy Gimpel, Atlanta, 14th; Uri Bank, Chicago, 19th
Diplomatic platform: Supports annexing Area C in Judea and Samaria; would create geographic continuity between the remaining areas of the West Bank that would be controlled by the Palestinians in an entity that would either be autonomous or confederated with Jordan.
Socioeconomic platform: Committed to lowering prices, including price of housing.
Religion/State platform: Wants religious Zionists to take back Chief Rabbinate; to expand national service for haredim; and encourage Jewish pride.
Previous Performance: 11
Poll position: 10-13
Candidates on cusp: Nisim Ze’ev, Avraham Michaeli, Yoav Ben-Tzur, Lior Edri
Anglos: None
Diplomatic platform: Arye Deri says Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef wants a longterm interim agreement with the Palestinians. The rest of Shas is more conservative.
Socioeconomic platform: Favors affirmative action for Sephardim to ease the social gap, wants to prevent budget cuts from harming poor families.
Religion/State platform: Supports the right for those studying Torah to continue to do so, while encouraging incremental changes that have brought more haredim into service, academic programs, and the workforce.
Previous Performance: New
Poll position: 9-12
Candidates on cusp: Adi Kol, Karin Elharar, Mickey Levy, Shimon Solomon
Anglos: Dov Lipman, Maryland, 17th
Diplomatic platform: Favors diplomatic negotiations with Palestinians on an agreement in which Israel keeps settlement blocs; undivided Jerusalem; and Jordan Valley IDF presence.
Socioeconomic platform: Sees helping middle class, small businesses as key to economic growth; has a plan to reduce monthly utility costs.
Religion/State platform: Demands equal service for all while taking the needs of the haredim into account via a plan that will be implemented over five years. Backs religious pluralism, taking power away from haredim.
Previous Performance: New (7 MKs shifted from Kadima)
Poll position: 7-11
Candidates on cusp: Yoel Hasson, Shlomo Molla, Merav Cohen, Orit Zuaretz, Aharon Valensi
Anglos: Alon Tal, North Carolina, 13th; Rumi Zonder-Kislev, Ontario, 31st
Diplomatic platform: Would revive the peace process and the hope of reaching a lasting accord with Israel’s neighbors on a two-state peace.
Socioeconomic platform: Has plan to reduce social inequities and restore equality of opportunity to the country. Supports increased minimum wage and public housing; backs differential value-added tax, canceling subsidies for West Bank and haredim.
Religion/State platform: Seeks to reestablish Israel as a free society respectful of different approaches to Jewish life and offering equal support to all streams in Judaism.
Previous Performance: 5 Poll position: 5-7 Candidates on cusp: Menahem Moses, Yisrael Eichler, Ya’acov Asher Anglos: None Diplomatic platform: Will ask its rabbis when the questions are practical and no longer theoretical.
Socioeconomic platform: Boasts passing dozens of laws on socioeconomic issues.
Religion/State platform: Calls for maintaining status quo on all matters of religion and state.
Previous Performance: 3
Poll position: 4-6
Candidates on cusp: Michal Rozin, Isawi Freij, Tamar Zandberg
Anglos: None
Diplomatic platform: Wants immediate de facto recognition of a Palestinian state, diplomatic negotiations on a comprehensive deal on core issues to replace the Oslo Accords to be guaranteed by a new regional quartet of Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, which would also work on a peace initiative with the Arab world.
Socioeconomic platform: Backs changing taxation system to ease inequality; deprivatizing formerly government services; stopping favoritism to settlers and haredim in the state budget.
Religion/State platform: Calls for freedom of religion and freedom from religion and passing legislation to ensure religious pluralism and prevent religious coercion.
Previous Performance: 4
Poll position: 3-4
Candidates on cusp: Masun Gnaim, Taleb Abu-Arar
Anglos: None
Diplomatic platform: Demands Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders; creation of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital; dismantling all settlements in Golan Heights and in the West Bank.
Socioeconomic platform: Wants more funding for Muslim religious sites and for Arab constituency.
Religion/State platform: Muslim religious party advocates protecting Muslim religion and Arab minority; giving Islamic religious courts greater freedom.
Previous Performance: 4
Poll position: 3-4
Candidates on cusp: Dov Henin, Afo Agbaria
Anglos: None
Diplomatic platform: Wants Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories, help establish a Palestinian state and make peace with the rest of the world via the Saudi plan. Would recognize the Arab population of Israel as a minority group with protected rights.
Socioeconomic platform: Would set a minimum wage of 60 percent of the average wage, raise child welfare payments by 40% and cancel privatization.
Religion/State platform: Wants a constitution that would guarantee the secular character of the state and the equality of its citizens.
Previous Performance: 3
Poll position: 3-4
Candidates on cusp: Basel Ghatas, Juma Azbarga
Diplomatic platform: Champions turning the State of Israel into a “state of all of its citizens” with an Israeli withdrawal from all of the contested territories; granting the right of return to all Palestinians to a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Socioeconomic platform: Favors a just tax policy aimed at the equitable distribution of social resources, including a capital gains tax and a policy of tax cuts in general, and particularly for low-wage workers.
Religion/State platform: Advocates separation of religion and state; demands recognition of Israeli Arabs as a national minority and preserving their national, cultural and ethnic uniqueness.
Previous Performance: 28
Poll position: 0-3
Candidates on cusp: Shaul Mofaz, Israel Hasson, Yohanan Plesner
Anglos: None
Diplomatic platform: Would withdraw from Palestinian areas of the West Bank via a long-term interim agreement and then withdraw to final borders following negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Socioeconomic platform: Emphasizes easing social gaps between the haves and have-nots.
Religion/State platform: Calls for equalizing the salaries of IDF soldiers, who make NIS 352 a month, with those of kollel students, who the party claims make up to NIS 3,400 from governmental benefits.
Previous Performance: 2 (as part of National Union)
Poll position: 0-4
Candidates on cusp: Arieh Eldad, Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel, Aryeh King
Anglos: Baruch Marzel, Boston, Aryeh King, New York
Diplomatic platform: Wants to annex all of Judea and Samaria, cancel the Oslo agreements and dismantle the Palestinian Authority police.
Socioeconomic platform: Would increase benefits to immigrants who bring their businesses to Israel. Wants to increase competition and prevent monopolies, while limiting tycoons.
Religion/State platform: Would protect rights of Jews to pray on Temple Mount, favors eliminating Arabic as an official language.
Previous Performance: New (Haim Amsalem used to be in Shas)
Poll position: 0-3
Candidates on cusp: Haim Amsalem, Moshe Tzarfati, Reuven Agassi
Anglos: Ariel Konstantyn, New York, 8th
Diplomatic platform: Consider itself right-wing.
Socioeconomic platform: Focuses on enabling the poorest sectors to remove themselves from the endless struggle to survive.
Religion and State: Aim to restore moderate Judaism to Israel by transforming the Chief Rabbinate to reflect a lenient and Zionistic Judaism; educating and inspiring all citizens to serve in the IDF; demanding at least national or civil service; creating haredi yeshiva high schools and joint yeshiva and college programs as preparation for entrance into the workforce.
Offers moderate plan for resolving conversion crisis.
Previous Performance: Did not pass threshold
Poll position: 0
Candidates on cusp: None
Anglos: Keith Lawrence Goldstein, Northbrook, Illinois, 14th in Pirate Party; Daniel Goldstein, New York, 2nd in Calcala; Benny Goldstein, Skokie, Illinois, 3rd in Calcala.
Diplomatic platform: Varied
Socioeconomic platform: Varied