Politics: 'Post' guide to the 2009 elections

Confused about what each party stands for? The following should help you manage the maze that makes up our political system and process.

ballot box 88 (photo credit: )
ballot box 88
(photo credit: )
The election campaign that culminates when voters cast their ballots Tuesday has had its share of surprises, ups and down in the polls and the usual political mudslinging. But the intensity of the public's involvement in the political process has taken a step back in this election, with far fewer people attending political events, placing bumper stickers on their cars and hanging posters from their porches and rooftops. Yet what is most glaringly absent from this election is a debate among the three people running for prime minister. There has not been a full debate of all prime ministerial candidates since 1996, which has allowed the politicians to make it through an entire election campaign without clarifying their policies on key issues. That's why The Jerusalem Post is presenting a guide to the 33 parties seeking your vote on Election Day and a synopsis on what they stand for. LIKUD Security: Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons must be the government's top priority, whether it involves rallying world public opinion to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions, or preparing for an appropriate military response should all other efforts fail. Favors toppling Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, promises to combat every terror offensive with a clear and decisive response. Diplomatic: Prepared to make concessions in exchange for a true and reliable peace agreement, but negotiations will focus at first on developing the Palestinian economy to create an environment in which they could succeed. Promises to maintain a united Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and Judean Desert, and keep maximum territory with minimum Palestinians. Rules out further unilateral withdrawals. Party leader Binyamin Netanyahu does not want to govern a single Palestinian, but would ensure that some powers associated with statehood would remain under Israel's control to preserve its security. Economic: Advocates a free, competitive economy with social awareness and budgetary discipline. Promises a cutback in taxes, an efficiently run capital market and growth in the private sector. Will create economic opportunities for the entire populace, and provide for those who are unable to work. Will invest in education and national infrastructure. Calls for rapid development of trains and roads to connect the North and South to the center of the country. KADIMA Security: Favors forming an international and regional alliance to handle the Iranian threat. Will take determined action to combat the threats from Hamas and Hizbullah. Favors toppling Hamas in the long-term, via diplomatic, economic and military means. Diplomatic: Maintains that the Jewish people has a national and historic right to the entire land of Israel, but has an interest to craft its final borders to end the conflict with the Palestinians and remain a Jewish and democratic state. Will continue negotiations with the Palestinians that Tzipi Livni has led since the Annapolis conference, while advancing ties with moderate regimes in the region, in an effort to create two states for two peoples, while maintaining areas needed for security, religious sites and as many settlers as possible. Seeks peace with Syria, but Damascus must leave axis of evil first. Economic: Favors a long-term strategy that includes increasing the workforce to 60 percent of the population, expanding the negative income tax to the entire country, incentives for small businesses to hire more workers, and a tax write-off for child care. Opposes child welfare payments. Wants to invest more in the Negev and the Galilee. ISRAEL BEITEINU Security: Israel will use any means at its disposal to defend its citizens and ensure that terrorists pay a heavy price for attacking. If Sderot is attacked, upper-class areas in the Gaza Strip will be attacked in at least the same measure. Touts a plan to provide national security, personal security, economic security and educational security. Diplomatic: Favors replacing land-for-peace approach with a mutual exchange of territories and populations, via the principle of peace for peace, land for land. In an eventual land swap, when there is a Palestinian partner for peace, Israel would keep more of the West Bank and would give the Palestinians land in the Triangle that was part of the state before 1967, but is heavily populated by Arabs. Israel will cut all ties with Gaza as it did with Sinai. NATO and the European Union must assume responsibility for Gaza. Israel should join the EU and NATO. Economic: Favors financial incentives, tax discounts and the reduction of bureaucracy, along with governmental assistance in the setting up of factories and research-and-development programs to attract foreign investment. Wants to strengthen the public health care system to provide the most advanced treatments available to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic class. Supports real estate reforms that would limit bureaucracy and encourage more construction. LABOR Security: Will use all legitimate means to ensure Iran's international isolation and the removal of its nuclear threat. Will determinedly fight violence and terror to ensure the security of Israel and its citizens. Diplomatic: Views the Saudi initiative as a basis for negotiations with Arab countries on a regional and comprehensive peace, with a goal of reaching a binding agreement within two years. Aspires to end the conflict with Syria with a peace agreement based on territorial concessions and security arrangements. In return, Syria would have to change its regional policies, normalize relations with Israel and end its support for countries and organizations that seek to undermine its existence. Economic: Believes in an equitable economy that combines a free market and private initiative on the one hand, and the determination to reduce inequality and eliminate poverty on the other. Will promote social-economic policies that will combine equality and growth, work to reduce unemployment, halt the slide into economic slowdown and recession and take steps leading to economic growth. Will work on behalf of senior citizens by increasing pensions and providing a security net for long-term savings. SHAS The party's main goals are to fight for social justice and to restore Sephardic Judaism to its glory days. Its campaign has focused on keeping Jerusalem united and raising child welfare benefits for poor families. The party also supports expanding religious facilities across the country, and enacting a "welfare basket" of benefits for children, senior citizens, handicapped and poor families. UNITED TORAH JUDAISM Believes in maintaining the status quo on matters of religion and state, and fighting against Sabbath desecration and secular coercion. It wants its education system to receive more funding. The party's election ads have focused on the role of Ashkenazi haredim in founding several top charities and organizations that help people of all backgrounds around the country. MERETZ Wants to end the occupation and create two states for two peoples with Jerusalem as a shared capital, on the basis of the Geneva Initiative and Saudi Plan. Israel should withdraw from nearly the entire West Bank and Golan Heights in return for peace. Will also work for equality between Jews and Arabs, men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals and the religious streams in Judaism. NATIONAL UNION Calls for the IDF to be allowed to prevail militarily. Opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, the relinquishing of any part of the land of Israel and the uprooting of Jewish communities. Sees every agreement signed with the Palestinians as null and void due to the other side's violations. Will act to safeguard the stability of the Israeli economy, while striving to reduce Israel's economic dependence on the United States. HABAYIT HAYEHUDI Promises to work on behalf of education, the Jewish character of the State of Israel, and to strengthen greater Israel while fighting the sociological gaps. Wants the Oslo accords repealed and an end to the freeze on building in Judea and Samaria. Will oppose any decision to relinquish parts of the land of Israel, but believes that the fight must be waged from inside the government. Will strive to increase Israel's Jewishness by influencing non-religious citizens through deeds, education and by serving as examples of what religious Judaism has to offer. ARAB PARTIES Hadash believes in equality between Jews and Arabs and has extensive platforms on helping workers and improving the environment. The United Arab List and Ta'al will work for the creation of a Palestinian state, the advancement of the Israeli Arab minority and the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel's final borders. Balad is a secular party that works on behalf of the Palestinians and wants Israel to be a democratic state of all of its citizens, regardless of their religion and background. PENSIONERS Promises to guarantee the savings of pensioners, despite the economic crisis, to ensure that every pensioner couple will be guaranteed at least the minimum wage, and to limit the costs of medicines of every pensioner to no more than NIS100 a month. The party also will fight for the rights of Holocaust survivors. GREEN MOVEMENT-MEIMAD The Green Movement/Meimad calls for reduction of air pollution by 50% over the next four years, public conservation policies to reduce energy consumption by 25%, more funding for public transportation, empowering teachers, fighting social gaps and promoting Jewish identity through education instead of coercive legislation. THE GREEN PARTY Will struggle against air and water pollution, cellular antennas and the destruction of Israel's beaches. It will work to expand recycling, to better use natural resources and for urban development that better protects the environment.