Israeli Politics Manfred Gerstenfeld



Manfred Gerstenfeld

Most of the attention in the election campaign in the past week was focused on the Likud primaries, which took place on Wednesday, January 1st. Out of Likud’s over 96 000 members, about 55% voted on three particular issues.1

The first vote decided who would be the party’s leader. Prime Minister Netanyahu easily defeated his only challenger, MK Danny Danon. Netanyahu got 75% of the vote, Danon 19%, and the remainder of primary voters abstained. Right-winger MK Moshe Feiglin had withdrawn his candidacy for the leadership, claiming that he would not compete as the primaries for the Knesset list and for the leadership were held on the same day.

The second vote was for the Knesset candidates. Feiglin, however, did not obtain a realistic place on the Likud Knesset list, and besides this fact, there were no major surprises. One problem pointed out by many observers was that within the first 20 places on the Likud list, only two women were elected.

The third issue was whether Netanyahu, as the party leader, beyond the vote for the Knesset candidates, had the right to name the two Knesset candidates meant to fill realistic positions, the 11th and 23rd places. The proposal passed and there is speculation that Netanyahu will name a female candidate in one of these positions.2

Labor and Hatnuah (“The Movement”) announced at a press conference that Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg had joined its ranks and would be the party’s candidate for the Finance Ministry. Trajtenberg had been the head of a commission on social change following the 2011 mass protests concerning social justice. He said that as his recommendations had not been accepted at the time, he had now decided to try to become a MK. At the press conference, Labor leader Isaac Herzog named the three main economic goals for his party: “lowering the cost of housing, decreasing the cost of living, and addressing poverty and economic gaps.”3

There was much unrest within the Shas party. A 2008 video was leaked, in which its spiritual leader at the time, Rabbi Ovadya Yosef, called the present party leader Aryeh Deri a “thief and bribe taker.”4 After the video went public, Deri resigned from the Knesset and so did the other nine Shas MKs. It is unclear whether Deri will be a candidate for the next Knesset.5

Moshe Lion, Israel Beiteinu’s (“Israel is our Home”) unsuccessful candidate for Jerusalem mayor in the last municipal elections, was arrested and questioned by the police in connection to the corruption network. He was released to house arrest.6 Tourism Minister MK Uzi Landau, a veteran parliamentarian, first of the Likud and later of Israel Beiteinu, announced that he would not run for the 20th Knesset.7

Habayit Hayehudi (“The Jewish Home”) which will hold primaries later this month announced that it would reserve a realistic seat on its Knesset list for the editor-in-chief of the Walla website, Yinon Magal.8

Several opionion polls have already been conducted this year. They show a strengthening of both the Labor and the Likud parties to at least 23 seats. The third place is firmly in the hands of Habayit Hayehudi with approximately 16 seats. The corruption scandal has weakened Israel Beiteinu down to about 7 seats. Shas seems to have no problems with passing the election threshold of 3.25%. On the other hand, Haam Itanu (“The People are with Us”) whose leader, Eli Yishai, broke away from Shas, seems to fail to meet this threshold.9

The candidates of Labor, Habayit Hayehudi and Meretz are busy with positioning themselves for the internal elections. The past week was, therefore, a rather quiet one. The country is in a pre-campaign period where there is no continuous flow of propaganda.

From a wider political perspective, the Palestinian Authority is continuing its efforts to be admitted to international bodies, one of which is the International Criminal Court. It may well be that both the increased tension with the Palestinians, as well as the understanding that the American administration is hoping for a more pliable government of Labor/Hatnuah may become two major campaign issues. This despite the fact that polls indicate that the electorate has little interest in foreign affairs.











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