Israeli Politics: The insider’s guide for the politically perplexed

A look at how the parties made out in the quest to draft the best lists possible, before the election finally shifts to policies and platforms – one hopes.

(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thursday night’s deadline to submit lists of candidates to the Central Elections Committee at the Knesset marks the end of the portion of the race that is inevitably about the candidates, and not about the issues.
The reality show-style contests to get on Knesset lists were more intense than previous elections, due to the increase in party leaders with reserved slots to give away to candidates of their choosing.
Each party tried to make sure it had enough security figures, women, Sephardim and celebrities who could bring votes on Election Day. Some parties had more success than others in that key contest, which polls show will have a serious impact on how people vote.
What can already be said about the next Knesset – at least based on the polls – is that it will have more women than ever, fewer factions than in decades and probably the fewest number of immigrant MKs since the exodus from the former Soviet Union began.
It remains to be seen whether there will be more than one immigrant from an English-speaking country, Koolanu’s Michael Oren, and whether there will be an Ethiopian immigrant in the Knesset at all. There will apparently be two immigrants from a country that has been in the news: Argentina.
Two candidates who are Argentinian- born have realistic slots: economist Manuel Trajtenberg, in the recently renamed Zionist Union; and Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin, in Yesh Atid. There could have been a third, had Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria former chairman Danny Dayan done better in the Bayit Yehudi primary.
What there will also not be in the next Knesset is the faction that was the parliament’s largest until just two years ago: Kadima. The same week that the first anniversary of party founder Ariel Sharon’s death was marked, current chairman Shaul Mofaz announced he would not run.
The party will live on in the next Knesset via former Kadima MKs Tzipi Livni, Tzachi Hanegbi, Ze’ev Elkin, Yoel Hasson, Nachman Shai, and perhaps Avi Dichter and Robert Tibaev. But only Livni and Hanegbi will be there among Sharon’s initial draftees from the Likud.
One former Kadima MK who surprised many by not seeking a seat in the next Knesset is former president Shimon Peres, who is not making a political comeback – at least not yet.
Now that the lists are closed, it is at least theoretically time to focus on the issues in the election and not on the personalities. But before then, it is important to sum up how the parties made it through this somewhat shallow yet crucial portion of the race.
With less than seven weeks left before March 17, The Jerusalem Post presents the second edition of its insider’s Guide For The Politically Perplexed about the parties, polls, and personalities. Platforms will follow in the next installment, but meanwhile, the current edition includes English websites for parties that cared enough to build them (thus far).
Likud Poll position: 25
Top five: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gilad Erdan, Yuli Edelstein, Israel Katz, Miri Regev
Anglo candidate: US-born Yehudah Glick, No. 33
English website:
Analysis: Netanyahu tried every possible candidate for the two slots available to him, before making the right choice by bringing back former minister Bennie Begin. Erdan and Edelstein both have good reputations, and Katz was arguably the most accomplished minister in the outgoing cabinet. Regev’s high placement and the third woman on the list only being 20th embarrassed Netanyahu, and harmed the party politically.
Zionist Union Poll position
: 24
Top five: Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yacimovich, Stav Shaffir, Itzik Shmuli
Anglo candidate: US-born Eytan Schwartz, No. 33
English website: None
Analysis: Yacimovich’s first-place finish in the primary and the promotion of the young Shaffir and Shmuli gives the party a socioeconomic emphasis that could have helped win supporters on the other side of the map on the Palestinian issue. But they and others on the list are far Left on that issue, which will scare centrist and moderate right-wingers away. Given this week’s security situation in the North, the failure to put a security figure high on the list looks to have been a mistake. The last-minute decision to add retired Maj.-Gen.
Eyal Ben-Reuven instead of Livni confidante Shlomo Molla could leave the Knesset with no Ethiopian MK.
Bayit Yehudi Poll position
: 14
Top five: Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Ayelet Shaked, Eli Ben-Dahan, Nissan Slomiansky
Anglo candidate: None higher than 27 on the list
English website: None
Analysis: Bennett overstepped his bounds by trying to reserve a slot for soccer legend Eli Ohana, who supported the Gaza disengagement, and in trying to promote his former boss Dayan. The backlash created bad press from which it will be difficult to recover. But at least Shaked won the top slot, which will help Bayit Yehudi woo secular voters, and he was able to promote former Peace Now activist Anat Roth to a realistic slot ahead of more extreme female candidates, who could have scared voters away.
Joint Arab List
: Hadash, United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad
Poll position: 12
Top five: Ayman Odeh, Masud Gnaim, Jamal Zahalka, Ahmed Tibi, Aida Touma-Sliman
Anglo candidate: None
English website: None
Analysis: The last Post Guide to the Politically Perplexed said the Arab parties should “unite or bust.” Unite they did, putting aside ideological differences, at least until after the election. Now, attention will be turned to the Central Elections Committee – where seventh candidate Haneen Zoabi could be disqualified.
If so, the list will still have a woman in Hadash’s Touma-Sliman, a Christian.
It will be interesting to see whether the joint list keeps Hadash’s Jewish voters; its Jewish candidate, MK Dov Henin, is No. 8.
Yesh Atid Poll position: 11
Top five: Yair Lapid, Shai Piron, Yael German, Meir Cohen, Yaakov Peri
Anglo candidate: US-born MK Dov Lipman, No. 17
English website:
Analysis: This may be the only party with the same top five as last time. But more of the same may not be bad for a party that ran on a platform of change last time, and now says this election is intended to continue what its ministers started.
Lapid’s decision not to place Lipman higher is a disappointment for Anglo voters, who he served with dedication in the outgoing Knesset. But the party is doing events for Anglos almost every night, and its English website is extensive; moreover, this Sunday, Lapid is hosting a Super Bowl party – the first Israeli party leader ever to do so. Lapid’s decision to move up former student leader Boaz Toporovsky, who embarrassed himself with a shirtless selfie, and not Ronen Hoffman, who changed the electoral system, was puzzling.
Koolanu Poll position: 8
Top five: Moshe Kahlon, Yoav Galant, Eli Alalouf, Michael Oren, Rachel Azaria
Anglo candidate: US-born Oren, No. 4.
English website: None
Analysis: Kahlon was hit hard by his top female candidate, Ethiopian immigrant journalist Tsega Melaku, being prevented from running due to a technical legal issue.
He recovered nicely by bringing in Arad Mayor Tali Ploskov, who rose from folding hotel towels to running a development town. Kahlon has a security figure in Galant and a diplomat in Oren; now, he has to persuade people of his platform – which is hard to understand.
United Torah Judaism Poll position
: 8
Top five: Ya’acov Litzman, Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush, Uri Maklev, Menahem Eliezer Moses
Anglo candidate: Litzman, who lived in New York for many years, No. 1
English website: None Analysis: As has been written before, UTJ’s success depends little on the makeup of the list and more on the Ashkenazi haredi community continuing to have many children and grow in population. The threat of a serious rival list came and went.
A list of courageous haredi women is running just to make a statement; it poses no serious political threat.
Although the top seven candidates on the list are the same as before, the number eight candidate Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin - the brother-inlaw of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau - may be a star in the next Knesset because of his ability to communicate with secular Israelis. An effective spokesman is something that UTJ has lacked since the death of former MK Avraham Ravitz.
Shas Poll position:
Top five: Arye Deri, Yitzhak Cohen, Meshulam Nahari, Ya’acov Margi, David Azoulay
Anglo candidate: None
English website: None
Analysis: Former Shas chairman and current Yachad Ha’am Itanu leader Eli Yishai will probably not win too many votes away from his former party with a list full of far-right religious Zionists. Deri was smart to reveal his list on the final day permissible in order to try to avoid defections to Yishai.
It looks like the toughest times for Shas in the campaign may have already passed.
Meretz Poll position:
Top five: Zehava Gal-On, Ilan Gilon, Esawi Frej, Michal Roisin, Tamar Zandberg
Anglo candidate: None
English website: (mostly in Hebrew)
Analysis: Frej, who is Arab, winning the third slot could help Meretz win the support of Arab voters upset about the union of the four Arab parties. There are plenty of Arab voters who do not like the candidates of the parties they opposed in previous elections, and do not want to vote for them.
Other than that, this list is more of the same – and Meretz missed out by not putting an energetic young candidate like Uri Zaki, who is 10th, in a higher slot.
Yisrael Beytenu Poll position:
Top five: Avigdor Liberman, Orly Levy-Abecassis, Sofa Landver, Ilan Shohat, Sharon Gal
Anglo candidate: Ashley Perry, No. 20
English website:
Analysis: Putting Levy-Abecassis second on the list is smart, because she appeals to people voting on socioeconomic issues.
Many current Yisrael Beytenu MKs found out at their party’s campaign launch that they were not in realistic slots – a cruel procedure.
It is ironic that the party responsible for the raised electoral threshold, in an effort to try to keep Arab MKs out of the Knesset, is now teetering close to the threshold itself.