Guide to the parties in Israel’s Knesset election
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Guide to the parties in Israel’s Knesset election

Your party-by-party, bite-sized guide to the runners and riders as Israelis head to the polls again

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in the Knesset in 2016
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in the Knesset in 2016

There are 13 major parties expected to be represented in the next Knesset.

Click one to learn more:

Likud
Yesh Atid
New Hope
Yamina
Yisrael Beiteinu
Joint List
Shas
United Torah Judaism
Labour
Meretz
Religious Zionist
Blue & White
United Arab List


Likud

Leader: Benjamin Netanyahu
Polling prediction: 29 seats

The modern mainstay of Israeli politics, Likud is almost certain to top the polls again. It would be the sixth successive election in which it won more seats than any other party. Together with the strictly-Orthodox parties and perhaps a small number of far-right MKs, it will most likely lead the largest bloc in the next Knesset. But that does not automatically mean victory: it will be Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to divide his opponents, rather than marshal his supporters, that will determine whether he remains prime minister. His many years in power have shown he can create opportunities out of any situation.


Yesh Atid

Leader: Yair Lapid
Polling prediction: 20 seats

Led by a one-time TV host, this party is one of the few centrist movements that has outlasted a single election cycle in Israel’s often brutal political scene. Yesh Atid owes its survival in no small part to the fact it has not stood alone in an election for six years: since then, it was part of the Blue & White alliance. But that arrangement disintegrated with Benny Gantz’s decision to join a Netanyahu government. Yair Lapid is often portrayed by the Israeli right as a left-wing figure of hate, but he’s on course to become the main opposition leader at least. He may even be back in government.


New Hope

Leader: Gideon Saar
Polling prediction: 9 seats

A new entrant on Israel’s political scene, this party by disgruntled former Likud star Gideon Saar and his associates was founded barely three months ago. As with Yamina’s Naftali Bennett, Saar has hopes of being a unifying force for the Israeli centre-right after – or if – Netanyahu’s reign comes to an end. Several other big Likud names defected along with Saar, who has ruled out a post-election deal with Netanyahu. But he wouldn’t be the first Israeli politician to go back on his word.


Yamina

Leader: Naftali Bennett
Polling prediction: 11 seats

Bennett’s Yamina is largely run as a co-leadership with Ayelet Shaked: the two have between them have held some of the biggest ministries in the cabinet, including education, justice and defence. In terms of ambition, though, Bennett stomps on similar ground to Gideon Saar’s New Hope. Both parties are angling to lead the Israeli centre-right after Netanyahu. But Yamina is much less moderate and has flirted with more extremist end of conservative Israeli politics in recent years. Few believe Bennett’s claims that he won’t sit in a Netanyahu government either.


Yisrael Beiteinu

Leader: Avigdor Lieberman
Polling prediction: 7 seats

Another right-wing movement led by another former Netanyahu ally, Yisrael Beiteinu largely courts immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But Avigdor Lieberman was pivotal in preventing an automatic victory for the Israeli prime minister after the two elections of 2019 and hasn’t shifted tack ahead of this election either. His longstanding vow not to sit in government with the strictly-Orthodox parties complicates the post-election arithmetic.


Joint List

Leader: Ayman Odeh
Polling prediction: 8 seats

Israel’s four main Arab parties represent a diverse spectrum that includes secular voters, Arab nationalists and Islamists, but they discovered in 2015 that they can become one of the biggest electoral forces in the country when they run together. Agreement between the rival camps is never easy, though: this year Hadash, Taal and Balad are running together but the fourth, the United Arab List, is going it alone.


Shas

Leader: Arye Deri
Polling prediction: 6 seats

Shas is the Sephardic one of Israel’s two strictly-Orthdox parties and a longstanding partner of Benjamin Netanyahu. Although it has sat in government under Labour in the past, it’s a sure bet to back Likud this time.


United Torah Judaism

Leader: Moshe Gavni
Polling prediction: 7 seats

United Torah Judaism is the main Askhenazi ultra-Orthodox party in Israel.

Like Shas, seems certain to support Benjamin Netanyahu’s candidacy for prime minister after the election.


Labour

Leader: Merav Michaeli
Polling prediction: 6 seats

The once-mighty party that founded Israel is now a minnow. It has not won an election since 1999 and elected so few MKs in recent years that they could share an UberXL on the ride to the Knesset. The new leader, its third in as many years, is Merav Michaeli, who has likely done enough to avoid the catastrophic fate of winning no seats at all. But a long, uphill struggle awaits.


Meretz

Leader: Nitzan Horowitz
Polling prediction: 4 seats

The closest thing Israel has to a mainstream Green movement, Meretz is the furthest to the left of all the parties in the Knesset. It is far away from the heady heights of the early 1990s, when it boasted 12 seats; these days, some fear it won’t win enough votes to enter the Knesset at all.


Religious Zionist

Leader: Bezalel Smotrich
Polling prediction: 5 seats

This far-right alliance is new, although its components are not. The nationalist Bezalel Smotrich ran as part of Yamina in previous elections; this time, he has joined forces with the Jewish Power party. Otzma Yehudit, to use its Hebrew name, is the movement of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane’s followers — which, its detractors say, makes it a racist, Jewish supremacist party. It seems likely to win seats for the first time.


Blue & White

Leader: Benny Gantz
Polling prediction: 4 seats

Breaking campaign promises does matter: Benny Gantz is living embodiment of that. The former IDF chief’s decision to join Benjamin Netanyahu in government did make him defence minister, but it irretrievably tore apart his alliance with Yair Lapid. It means that while Lapid’s supporters are heralding him as a candidate for prime minister, Gantz’s party might not win enough votes to enter the Knesset at all. A crashing finale for a movement that once vowed to end the era of Netanyahu.


United Arab List

Leader: Mansour Abbas
Polling prediction: 4 seats

Known in Israel by its Hebrew acronym Raam, this conservative Arab party is running alone because of policy differences with the other three parties that make up the Joint List. There’s a very real risk that it will not win enough votes to cross the electoral threshold.

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