On Tuesday, Israelis will go to the polls to elect a new government. With 34 parties running in the elections, this year presents a political smorgasbord of candidates and parties, with something for everyone.The reality of the matter is that every significant policy decision affecting Israelis – whether it is the conflict with the Palestinians or domestic socio-economic issues like education and the economy – is made in the Knesset, the heart and soul of Israel’s democracy.We are fortunate to have one of the most vibrant and flourishing democracies in the world, where each citizen has the right to freely vote in the election of their government, with a plethora of candidates from every political persuasion to choose from and without fear or intimidation.PEACE PROCESS LIKUD BEYTENU Supports direct negotiations without preconditions and says that Palestinians must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, announce an end to the conflict and reach an agreement with adequate security arrangements for Israel. Jerusalem must remain the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel and the party says it will continue investing and building in Jerusalem for the benefit of all its residents.YESH ATID Party leader Yair Lapid says Israel should not be exploring a “happy marriage” with the Palestinians, but rather a “necessary divorce.” The party believes the only way to achieve this is through negotiations and an internationally recognized agreement.Any agreement must include Israel maintaining the major settlement blocs (including Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim), an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley, and a united Jerusalem under Israeli control.THE TZIPI LIVNI PARTY Believes territorial compromise is necessary to ensure a democratic and Jewish State of Israel.Says that a future Palestinian state will have to be demilitarized, based on a recognition of new demographic realities (Jewish settlement blocs), Jerusalem remaining Israel’s eternal capital, and that the Palestinian state offers a solution to Palestinian refugees.A Palestinian state would then only be established after a trial period (unclear how long) to ensure compliance with the terms of any peace agreement.SHAS Arye Deri says Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef wants a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinians. The rest of Shas is more conservative.BAYIT YEHUDI Believes that a Palestinian state is not only impossible to implement, but moreover would endanger the future of the State of Israel. Has proposed annexing 60 percent of Area C in Judea and Samaria, while granting the 50,000 Palestinians who currently live there Israeli citizenship. Remaining areas of the West Bank would be controlled by the Palestinians, but with a heavy Israeli security presence. Against any division of Jerusalem.LABOR Supports the 2000 Clinton Parameters, territorial compromise and the division of Jerusalem into Jewish and Arab neighborhoods.MERETZ Supports the creation of a Palestinian state in accordance with the 1967 borders, an exchange of territories at a ratio of 1:1 and a division of sovereignty in Jerusalem. A solution to the Palestinian refugee problem would be found within the State of Palestine. The party also supports the adoption of the Arab Peace Initiative in order to bring about a comprehensive peace between the Arab world and Israel.KADIMA Proposes a two-step process whereby Israel would first withdraw from the Palestinian areas of the West Bank via a long-term interim agreement and then withdraw to final borders after negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.STRONG ISRAEL Against the idea of a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and believes Jordan is already the de-facto Palestinian state. Would annex all of Judea and Samaria, while Jerusalem would forever remain solely the capital of Israel. Says Oslo agreements should be canceled.ECONOMY LIKUD BEYTENU Points to the fact that during the recent international recession, Israel was one of the few Western nations in the world to have experienced significant growth, including reduced unemployment, the creation of 350,000 new jobs, raising of the minimum wage and instituting greater tax benefits for working parents. The party adds it has also provided free dental care and free education from the age of three as part of its plan to ease the daily lives of Israeli citizens, and specifically the middle class.YESH ATID Has promised to save hundreds of millions of shekels by ceasing funding to kollel students, ending free electricity services to employees of the national electric company and reducing the size of government, including the number of ministers and deputy ministers from 34 to 18. The party has also identified the small business sector as a key growth engine.THE TZIPI LIVNI PARTY Rejects what it calls the hyper-capitalist, “Tea Party-like” policies of the Likud government that it says benefit only the super-rich, while at the same time rejecting the return to “socialist, government hegemonic/labor-union-driven approach proposed by the Labor Party. Has proposed a series of initiatives to assist the geographic and social periphery and impoverished minorities, while using funding previously designated for West Bank settlements and entitlements for special sectors to fund these programs.Also believes that a sustainable economy can only be based on a sustainable environmental policy.SHAS Favors affirmative action for Sephardim to ease the social gap and wants to prevent budget cuts from harming poor families.BAYIT YEHUDI Committed to improving education, increasing competition, breaking up monopolies and wherever possible cutting taxes for Israel’s middle classes. At the same time, believes Israel must provide a safety net allowing a decent standard of living for those, and only those, who are unable to provide for themselves, especially those living in peripheral regions.LABOR Has made socio-economic issues the central plank of its campaign, with a particular emphasis on improving the welfare of the middle class. Will seek to encourage growth, invest in civil services and legislate a fairer tax burden, including higher taxation on the rich.MERETZ Seeks to create a fair, just and transparent economic policy, based on a strong welfare state and a strong public sector. Has proposed change in the tax policy to reduce the inequality in the economy, de-privatizing former government services and ending the disproportional investment in the settlements and the security budget.KADIMA Says it will strive to build a thriving economy built on free enterprise and competition, but at the same time is committed to protecting the disadvantaged and the intolerable gaps between rich and poor.STRONG ISRAEL Believes the government must do more to collect taxes from the Arab Israeli community, which either does not pay taxes or pays only a minuscule amount.Would increase benefits to immigrants who bring their businesses to Israel. Seeks to increase competition and prevent monopolies.HOUSING LIKUD BEYTENU Will take Housing and Construction Ministry away from Shas and place it in its own hands to implement a major reform of the housing market and ensure that sectoral parties no longer control housing criteria.Intends to build more housing units and promote the construction of more rental units and affordable housing for young couples. Will also encourage investment in pension funds and increase supply in the real-estate market in order to help lower cost of housing.YESH ATID Will construct 150,000 rental units in 10 central cities in the next 10 years. The land will be provided at no cost and will remain under government ownership, enabling young couples to rent apartments at prices 35% lower than the average available rentals today. Will also provide special prices and benefits for specific populations such as policemen, teachers, firemen, social workers and security personnel to enable them to live close to the locations where they serve.THE TZIPI LIVNI PARTY Will provide incentives to builders to create affordable housing, especially in the periphery, designed for young families. Building of new public housing for poorer populations will be integrated in general housing projects to avoid the creation of slums. Will expedite the housing planning process through the expansion of professional staff in the relevant government agencies.BAYIT YEHUDI Laments that Israel has become the State of Tel Aviv; a historic mistake which must be corrected, and will look to promote the settlement of all parts of the country. The party says this will be achieved by “improving transportation, supporting the peripheries, and making this issue a national priority. Additionally, it plans to grant free land in the Negev and Galilee to IDF soldiers who complete their service.LABOR Committed to building 50,000 apartments for young couples on public lands in municipal areas for the price of NIS 600,000 for the apartment.MERETZ Believes it is the responsibility of the state to ensure housing for its citizens. Will encourage building for long-term rentals with government funding. Seeks to establish a “Just Housing Authority,” whose responsibility will be to determine prices and conditions for rental and supervision of the market. Would impose a property tax of 30% of the value of the property for holders of two or more properties. However, owners will avoid this tax if they commit themselves to enabling the Just Housing Authority to determine the rent and conditions of rental for their property.KADIMA Would introduce a bill to temporarily freeze rental prices in small and medium apartments for a period of two years (to be applied retroactively from the date of presenting the bill). Has called for a mass release of tens of thousands of units held in reserve by contractors.Will expand public housing programs in large cities and provide incentives for the building and construction of smaller apartments and rental homes.STRONG ISRAEL Singles out young couples/families and seniors for special consideration. Believes more needs to be done to help young couples and families purchase their first home, while assisting senior citizens retain theirs if they need help or encounter financial hardship.EDUCATION LIKUD BEYTENU Notes that under the current education minister (Gideon Sa’ar of Likud), there have been substantial increases in teachers’ salaries, free education has been introduced for all children from the age of three and Israeli pupils have received some of the highest test results in the world. The current government has also provided official university recognition to Ariel University and the party says it will continue to insert Jewish and Zionist values into the education curriculum.YESH ATID Will increase teachers’ salaries and allow principals and teachers to run their schools, instead of regional boards or the Education Ministry. Will fund extra tutoring and special education assistance, as well as spend at least 26% more on the needs of children in the periphery. Overhaul the matriculation exams system, to have only four mandatory matriculation exams: Hebrew, English, mathematics and one elective.Push for at least half the country’s schools to be technological, vocational schools.THE TZIPI LIVNI PARTY Would require core educational topics (math, English, science, civics) to be studied by all schoolchildren in Israel, with government support to be withdrawn from schools that do not comply. Would establish a non-political “National Council for Education” to oversee national education policy, and create a master plan for preschool education, which will coordinate all four government ministries involved in this educational phase. Would expand technological education in high schools.BAYIT YEHUDI Bayit Yehudi’s education philosophy is centered primarily on the need to strengthen the Jewish-Zionist identity of Israel’s youth and instill values of loving others, the nation and the state.LABOR Will provide free education for all children from age two, and work to improve the status of teachers and encourage teaching in peripheral areas of the country.MERETZ Wants greater focus on developing technological and social skills and values. Will provide teachers with a significant increase in hourly wages. Supports the mandatory teaching of the core curriculum in every public school, and will work to strengthen the study of Hebrew.KADIMA Will legislate to provide for maximum administrative autonomy for schools and educational institutions and strengthen the power of civil society partners in the construction of the educational process.Will insist on the study of a core curriculum set of subjects.STRONG ISRAEL Would provide a serious bonus plan to get highquality teachers into peripheral area. Will act to broaden the scope of learning of Jewish history and heritage and to transmit our culture and values throughout our society.RELIGION AND STATE LIKUD BEYTENU Will act to moderate the Chief Rabbinate. Has used examples of the passing of the Tzohar Law, strengthening the religious Zionist rabbinate, and standing up for Rabbi Haim Druckman against an ever-increasing extremist rabbinical leadership, as examples of action taken by the members of the joint list in support of the religious Zionist sector.YESH ATID Believes that religion and politics should be separated while maintaining the Jewish nature of Israel and its government, and that government should not be mandating things which interfere with people’s personal lives. Believes there should be freedom of religion in Israel. Says the government should either fund all streams of Judaism or none.THE TZIPI LIVNI PARTY Will officially recognize all streams in Judaism to deepen Jewish identity and enable Jewish life to thrive in Israel by choice and not coercion. Support government recognition of alternative marriage frameworks, allowing couples to choose the type of ceremony they wish. Will create an official government agency overseeing kosher certification, including strict price controls. A general belief that religious services should be provided through local communities based on the sociological and cultural orientation of residents.SHAS 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.BAYIT YEHUDI Believes that religious coercive legislation should be avoided, as should coercive secular laws, while the status of Hebrew Law must be elevated. Sees the role of the Chief Rabbinate as a devoted provider of services to the entire population and in order to achieve this goal, says that the status of the Zionist rabbis must be improved.LABOR Supports “the freedom of worship and the right of every citizen to choose the way in which they want to marry, divorce or be buried.”MERETZ Believes in freedom of religion and freedom from religion and the right of each citizen and resident, including Jews and non-Jews, to live their lives according to their own beliefs. Will act to abolish the Orthodox religious monopoly and act against what it sees as discrimination against women, secular Jews, and Jews with pluralistic religious approaches.KADIMA Believes there is a need to re-formulate and regulate the relations between the state and the religious institutions so that defining one’s own desires and values can be expressed as appropriate.STRONG ISRAEL Against a separation of Church and State. Would protect the rights of Jews to pray on Temple Mount.Supports eliminating Arabic as an official language.ELECTORAL REFORM LIKUD BEYTENU Says there is an urgent need to improve and reform the electoral system, which does not lend itself to stability and governability. Believes the current system, in which more and more small parties are running in each election, helps create political paralysis and works against having a long-term strategic vision.Supports a bigger party system (with fewer parties running), greater separation of powers and stronger checks and balances.YESH ATID Has proposed raising the Knesset election threshold from 2% to 6%. Will legislate that the party winning the most Knesset seats should form the new government.Believes that the government must not exceed 18 ministers and all must have specific portfolios.THE TZIPI LIVNI PARTY Would like to see the electoral system allow for citizens to elect some of their representatives in the Knesset based on geographic association and would work for increased accountability among elected officials.BAYIT YEHUDI Does not have a policy on this issue.LABOR Believes the current system of government is generally good and there is no need to make far-reaching reforms.MERETZ Says there is no need to alter the system of government, only to change the parties in the government.KADIMA Believes the system of government must be changed in order to strengthen the representation of the various sectors of Israeli society and improve the level of governance and stability.STRONG ISRAEL Believes it is no secret that there has long been a need for electoral reform. Supports raising the electoral threshold, but that this needs to be done in such a way that minority opinions can still be heard and taken into account.AMENDMENT OF TAL LAW LIKUD BEYTENU Believes this is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Supports universal service, whether military or national/civil, for all Israelis, including the ultra-Orthodox and Arab Israelis. Says Israel needs to move toward a more equitable system, where those Israelis who contribute more will receive more and those who contribute less will benefit less.YESH ATID Has proposed a plan for equal service for all in which for the next five years, the doors will be opened for 18-year-old haredi men to work with no requirement to serve. During these five years, the National Authority for Civilian Service and the IDF will identify the differing needs throughout Israeli society and the army. Says those who refuse to serve will forfeit all government funding with the exception of basic social security, and that 1,000 exceptionally gifted Torah scholars will be exempt from service.THE TZIPI LIVNI PARTY Supports the requirement of every citizen at age 18 to serve in the IDF or National Service, with brief deferrals only for a small group of gifted (“genius”) Torah scholars. Citizens who do not serve in the army will be sanctioned.BAYIT YEHUDI Considers the study of Torah a vital and basic interest and value of the State of Israel, but at the same time will act to include haredi citizens in the workforce and in national service in a gradual manner and with the introduction of incentives. Will also seek to increase funding for additional haredi slots in the IDF.LABOR Supports the drafting of haredim into the IDF, however, believes this must be done by agreement, while in conjunction with their integration into the workforce.MERETZ Supports an egalitarian national service law, military or civilian, that will enable every citizen to serve – in the military or civilian service – according to his or her conscience.KADIMA Believes extensive reform necessary to equalize the national burden of military, national and civil service, while being sensitive to the uniqueness and differences that exist between the various sections of Israeli society.STRONG ISRAEL Believes there must be an equal sharing of the burden in order to share equally in the benefits provided by the state. Says that all citizens must serve in some capacity, either in the military or national/civilian service, including those who currently receive exemptions, such as gifted scholars and athletes.Our neighbors across the Arab Middle East are not so fortunate, with many fighting, and dying, for this very same privilege. The right to vote should therefore not be taken for granted and every Israeli citizen should exercise their democratic right to have their voice heard.We have become accustomed to being told that each election is the most important in a generation. Yet, with a host of national security threats looming ever closer on the horizon and a host of socio-domestic issues like amendment of the Tal Law – exempting fulltime yeshiva students from military service – ready to implode, the outcome of this vote may well have longer-term implications beyond even our generation.With only days before the election, many polls are still indicating that as many as one quarter of voters are still undecided.So to help you, The Jerusalem Post spoke with all the major parties and has prepared the following information showing where they stand on the key issues.