Meet the parties


Top 10: Ehud Olmert, Shimon Peres, Tzipi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Avi Dichter, Marina Solodkin, Haim Ramon, Shaul Mofaz, Tzahi Hanegbi, Avraham Hirchson First timers: Most of Kadima's top 50 candidates are unknown. The only new comer among the party's top 10 is former Shin Bet chief Dicther Key subtractions: MK Omri Sharon - not running for re-election, Kiryat Shmona Mayor Haim Barbivai - suspended himself from party when police pressed charges against him for allegedly taking bribes Platform: Drawing Israel's borders according to the road map while maintaining settlement blocs, electoral reform Campaign slogan: Israel wants to go forward (kadima) Previous positions: 2006 will be Kadima's first elections Current MKs: 19; Kadima ministers Shaul Mofaz and Tzahi Hanegbi are not MKs Poll position: 35-45 mandates The bottom line: Kadima, newly established by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in mid-November, started as a "cult of personality" party with Sharon at its helm. From its inception it swept the polls, but its standing became precarious when Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke. However, it appears that Kadima has withstood the initial shockwaves generated by the prime minister's illness, as it maintains a consistent lead in the polls. Whether its experienced team can stick together in the long run, while adhering to Sharon's legacy, remains to be seen. Leading up to the elections, Kadima leader and acting PM Ehud Olmert enforced the evacuation of an illegal outpost in Amona, apparently to prove his allegiance to Sharon's legacy of unilateral withdrawals.


Top 10: Chairman Amir Peretz, MK Issac Herzog, MK Ophir Paz-Pines, former Ben-Gurion University of the Negev President Avishay Braverman, MK Yuli Tamir, former Shin-Bet chief Ami Ayalon, party General Secretary Eitan Cabel (secured), MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former broadcaster Shelly Yehimovic, MK Rabbi Michael Melchior First timers: Avishay Braverman, Ami Ayalon, Shelly Yehimovic Key subtractions: MKs Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Dalia Itzik- joined Kadima; MKs Avraham Shochat and Ilana Cohen - retiring from politics; Amram Mitzna and Avraham Burg - quit Knesset Platform: Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Two state solution, pro-fence, pro-unilateral withdrawals, evacuation of settlements (likely to support hanging onto major settlement blocs in any future deal). Social-economic: With the former union leader at its head, Labor will move left on the social-democratic scale. Peretz wants to raise the minimum wage and enable a free market economy but with certain constraints that would ensure that the competition won't turn the market into a "jungle." Campaign slogans: "Olmert, what are you afraid of? Why don't you fire Hanegbi?" "Because the time has come" (ki hegia hazman) Memorable campaign slogans: Israel is waiting for Rabin (1992), Israel is strong with Peres (1996), Israel wants a change (1999) Previous results: 2003: 19 mandates (with Meimad); 1999: 26 mandates; 1996: 34 mandates; in the 2001 elections for PM only in 2001, its leader Ehud Barak lost to Ariel Sharon by a wide margin Current MKs: 18 Poll position: 19-24 mandates The bottom line: After a steady fall in the polls since Peretz's election, the party jumped back following the primaries and the emergence of its attractive top 10 list. The party should focus on the strength of its team and not on Peretz as an individual, otherwise Labor could fall in the polls back into the teens


Top 10: Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, Silvan Shalom, MK Moshe Kahlon, MK Gilad Erdan, MK Gideon Sa'ar, MK Michael Eitan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, MK Dan Naveh, MK Yuval Steinitz, MK Natan Sharansky First timers: None Key subtractions: Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Tzahi Hanegbi, Gideon Ezra, Avraham Hirchson (moved to Kadima) Platform: Under Netanyahu, Likud turned to the right, focusing on its opposition to unilateral withdrawals from Palestinian territories. It is not likely to give up any territory except, possibly, several isolated settlements. Netanyahu said he would be willing to make "real" concessions but did not elaborate. The party stresses Palestinian reciprocity, fighting corruption. Campaign slogans: Strong against Hamas [Hazak mul haHamas], The Likud is renewing itself (haLikud mithadesh) Memorable campaign slogans: Netanyahu is good for the Jews (Netanyahu tov layehudim; 1996); Only the Likud can (Rak ha'likud yachol; 1996) Peres will divide Jerusalem (1996); No peace, no security, there is no reason to vote Peres (1996); I am secure with Sharon's peace (Yesh lee bitahon ba'shalom shel Sharon; 2001) Previous positions: 2003: 38 mandates; 1999: 19 mandates; 1996: 32 mandates (with Gesher and Tzomet). In special 2001 prime ministerial elections then-Likud leader Ariel Sharon beat Ehud Barak in a landslide. Current MKs: 26 Poll position: 11-16 mandates The bottom line: Netanyahu's repeated message that Kadima and Labor would set Israel's borders, more or less, along the 1967 borderline, could generate quite a bit of votes. He may also benefit from Hamas's rise to power. His relatively unattractive team, however, could harm the Likud's performance.


Top players: Yossi Beilin, Haim Oron, Ran Cohen, Zehava Gal-On, Avshalom Vilan, ultra-Orthodox author Tzvia Greenfield, Farij Isawi First timers: Tzvia Greenfield, Isawi Farij Key subtractions: MK Yossi Sarid - retiring from the Knesset; MK Roman Bronfman - running with Democratic Choice party Platform: Return to 1967 borders with minor adjustments involving territorial exchanges; division of Jerusalem, solving the refugee problem without a right of return to Israel; liberal social agenda Campaign slogan: Meretz - the left wing party that puts people in the center Other slogans (literal translation from Hebrew): Detached left-wingers - detached from southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank Arab lovers - and lovers of gays, lesbians, senior citizens and university students Memorable campaign slogans: We have Meretz (vigor) to act (yesh lanu Meretz la'asot) Previous results: 1992: 12 mandates; 1996: 9 mandates; 1999: 10 mandates; 2003: 6 mandates Current MKs: 6 Poll position: 4-7 mandates The bottom line: Meretz-Yahad, according to most polls, will lose many voters in the coming elections, mainly in favor of Kadima. Also, Beilin is viewed by many as an elitist and capitalist who is therefore unable to attract voters from the lower classes.


Top players: Chairman Zevulun Orlev, MK Nissan Slomiansky, Eliyahu Gabbay, MK Gila Finkelstein, MK Shaul Yahalom First timers: None Key subtractions: MKs Effi Eitam and Yitzhak Levy - joined National Union Party Platform: Religious Zionist education and religion. Despite the fact that its official platform highlights the importance of preserving the Land of Israel, party leader Orlev is trying to emphasize its dovish approach to differentiate it from the hawkish National Union. In a recent interview, he said that the NRP would be willing to make territorial concessions. He didn't elaborate. Memorable campaign slogan: Looking after our home (shomrim al ha'bait shelanu; 2003) Previous results: 2003: 6 mandates; 1999: 5 mandates; 1996: 9 mandates Current MKs: 4 Poll position: 3-6 mandates The bottom line: Orlev wants to bring in a big name and he will have to do it soon or polls could show the party falling below the voter threshold.


Top players: MKs Benny6 Elon, Tzvi Hendel, Effi Eitam, Yitzhak Levy, Uri Ariel and Aryeh Eldad, Karnei Shomron Regional Council Chairman Udi Lieberman, Hebron activist Orit Struck, Moledet Executive chairman Uri Bank, Alex Epstein First timers: Effi Eitam and Yitzhak Levy, Orit Struck, Udi Lieberman Key subtractions: Former minister Avigdor Lieberman; MKs Yuri Stern and Eliezer Cohen - running with Israel Beiteinu; MK Michael Nudelman - running with Kadima Main issue: Holding on to all of Judea and Samaria Current MKs: 6 Poll position: 5-9 mandates Bottom line: Elon talked about winning as many as 20 mandates but most polls show the party winning just five, which would leave the party's rising star, Aryeh Eldad, out of the Knesset. All of the top five candidates on the list are religious and all are Ashkenazi settlers except Levy. The party might want to consider moving up candidates who are less homogeneous like the secular Eldad, the female Struck, the Anglo Bank or the Russian immigrant Epstein.


Top 10: Chairman Eli Yishai, Yitzhak Cohen, Amnon Cohen, Meshulam Nahari, Ariel Atias, MKs Shlomo Benizri, David Azulai, Yitzhak Vaknin, Nissim Ze'ev, Ya'akov Margi Platform: Helping the poor, supporting Sephardi ultra-Orthodox causes Previous results: 2003: 11 mandates; 1999: 17 mandates Current MKs: 11 Poll position: 7-12 mandates The bottom line: The party lost the potential to attract new voters on social or ethnic issues when Labor elected Peretz and on right-wing issues when Likud elected Netanyahu. Yishai wants to bring in a dynamic new name to refresh the list, but as long as his name is not Arye Deri, the party will fall in the polls.


Top players: Ron Loenthal, MK Ehud Ratzabi, MK Ilan Leibovitch, MK Arela Golan Key additions: None Platform: Political corruption, separation of religion and state, centrist when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Current MKs: 15 Poll position: 0-2 mandates The bottom line: The resignation of the man most associated with Shinui, Yosef "Tommy" Lapid, is the nail the party's coffin. The party has been in shambles since the primaries and subsequent ousting of Poraz by Loenthal. Shinui is heading towards the biggest loss a political party in Israel has ever sustained.


Hadash-Ta'al, Balad, United Arab List Apparent top 5: If the three parties run together, they might run in the following order: Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh, Balad MK Azmi Bishara, Hadash MK Issam Mahoul, Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur or Dehamshe, Balad MK Jamal Zahalka Platform: Advancing equality, helping Israeli Arabs Key subtractions: MK Abdel Malik Dehamshe might be replaced by Sarsur Current MKs: 8 Poll position: 8-10 mandates if the parties run together, three for Hadash and none for other parties if they don't. The bottom line: The Arab parties disagree on many crucial issues relating to Islam, economics and their attitude to the state. But because the voter threshold was raised, they must get past their differences and run together as one party or there might not be any Arab MKs in the next Knesset. Hadash was the only party that received enough votes last time to pass the threshold in this election.


Top players: MKs Ya'acov Litzman, Avraham Ravitz, Shmuel Halpert, Moshe Gafni, former MK Yisrael Eichler Key additions and subtractions: None Platform: Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox causes Previous results: 2003: 5 mandates; 1999: 5 mandates; 1996: 4 mandates Current MKs: 5 Poll position: 5-6 mandates The bottom line: As long as Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox women continue to have many children, UTJ will continue to get more votes every election. Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael have smartly decided to run together. Degel has denied rumors that Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski could replace the ailing Ravitz. But there is apparently a deal that MK Meir Porush will run for Jerusalem mayor instead of Lupolianski next time.


Top players: Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, MK Yuri Shtern, former deputy Shin-Bet chief Yisrael Hason, Yosef Shalgi, Esterina Tartman First timers: Yisrael Hason Key subtractions: MK Michael Nudelman Platform: Trading the Palestinians land in the Galilee heavily populated by Arabs for expanded settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria The bottom line: Lieberman has an original platform and he hasn't started marketing it yet in a serious way. If he handles the campaign smartly, he could steal many votes from his political mentor, Netanyahu. Lieberman's aides believe that many people who tell pollsters that they are voting for the National Union really intend to vote for Lieberman but don't know that he is running separately.


Jewish National Front, Herut, Tzomet, Green Leaf, Democratic Choice First timers: Tafnit, founded by former IDF deputy chief of general staff Uzi Dayan; Lehem, founded by social activist Vikki Knafo Platform: These parties represent everything from extreme-right wing politics, to social affairs to legalizing Marijuana. Current MKs: Just Bronfman of the Democratic Choice party. Former MK Michael Kleiner is leaning toward running again with Herut despite Baruch Marzel's departure from the party, which would make it even more unlikely for the Jewish National Front party to enter the Knesset. Poll position: Zero The bottom line: It is extremely unlikely that any of these parties will obtain the 80,000 votes necessary to enter the next Knesset. In the last election, 36,000 people wasted their votes on Herut, which did not enter the Knesset. Had those same voters instead voted for the National Union, it would have received another seat at the expense of the Arab nationalist Balad party.