THIS WEEK: LISTS OF CANDIDATES ARE FINALIZED
January 29 is the deadline for parties to submit their list of candidates to the Central Elections Committee. Some additional parties published their list this past week. The extreme left-wing Meretz re-elected its current parliamentarians as the first five candidates on its list.1
The Israel Beitenu list of candidates, selected by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has also been published. Besides the five Knesset members who had announced that they did not seek re-election, Lieberman demoted various other sitting MKs to unrealistic places. Newcomers on his list include Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat, in fourth position, and journalist Sharon Gal in fifth.2
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Koolanu leader Moshe Kahlon held a meeting about the possibility of these two centrist parties running together. Subsequently, it was announced that they would run separately.3 Yesh Atid still has to announce its list. Three of its MKs have announced that they will not run again. According to the polls, several other current parliamentarians will not return to the Knesset, as the party is likely to lose seven or more of its nineteen seats. With religious MK General (Res.) Elazar Stern joining Yesh Atid, the party hopes to attract additional religious voters.4
In the Likud, the problems regarding the recount of votes from the party’s primaries have not abated. The head of the Likud’s Supreme Court, former MK Michael Kleiner, recommended that Netanyahu appoint either Dichter or Hotovely to one of the two realistic slots which have been reserved for a candidate of his choosing. The remaining candidate would then get the 20th position, around which the recount issue has been focused. According to Kleiner, the only other alternative would be to recount all votes. 5 It was thereafter decided to recount all votes.6
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz turned down the offer of the Zionist Camp to join its list and be its candidate for the Ministry of Defense. Mofaz had wanted Kadima to join the Zionist Camp and be given two realistic slots. He considered the offer made by the Zionist Camp to be insulting. The Zionist Camp has announced that Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin will be its candidate for the Ministry of Defense. Yadlin will not run for the Knesset.7 Even if the Zionist Camp does win control of the next government, it will probably not be able to retain for itself more than two of the four major cabinet positions, i.e., those of the prime minister and of the ministers of foreign affairs, defense and finance.
The ultra-Orthodox lists have yet to announce their candidates. The four Arab parties have finally decided to run together on one list. The four parties are Raam (United Arab List), Taal (Arab Movement for Renewal), Balad (National Democratic Assembly), and the Arab-Jewish party Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality). Most polls give this joint list 11 seats, the same number as they currently hold in 19th Knesset.8
There has been some discussion between the Zionist Camp and some Arab Knesset members about whether the Arab parties could join a coalition led by the Zionist Camp. The Arab representatives said that they could, under certain circumstances, support a Zionist Camp government from the outside, provided they were given budgets for their constituencies. 9
Netanyahu has excluded a unity government between the Likud and the Zionist Camp after the elections. He said that, “Labor picked an extreme leftwing and anti-Zionist list. There is a gaping chasm between the Likud, led by me, and Labor.” 10
Lieberman, who has made an effort to move his party from the right to the center, has said that Israel Beitenu will not sit in a coalition government with Meretz. He did not rule out, however, the possibility of entering a government led by Herzog and Livni. Lieberman stressed, however, “What we are obligated to is basic policy: will there be an effort to destroy Hamas? We can’t progress on the peace process without kicking out [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] or destroying Hamas.”11
The week’s major political events were of different natures. Israeli helicopters struck in Syria, killing the terrorist Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a slain Hezbollah military leader, as well as an Iranian general. Israel has not officially announced its responsibility for this action, yet has explained that it did not know that the Iranian general was in the vehicle.12 Later in the week, a Palestinian Arab terrorist stabbed at least 10 people on a Tel Aviv bus. Several of the wounded are in severe condition.13
These events were drawn into the elections sphere by the opposition parties. Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant of Koolanu suggested, regarding the killing of Mughniyeh that, “you can learn that sometimes the timing is not unrelated to the subject of elections.”14
The main controversial issue by far, however, was that Netanyahu accepted the invitation of John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to address the US Congress in a joint session to speak on Iran and Islamist extremism. The White House, which had not been informed, voiced its disapproval about this break of protocol. Neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Kerry will meet Israel’s prime minister on the occasion of his visit.15 The speech has been scheduled for March 3rd, when Netanyahu will be in the US to address the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. In Israel many consider such a speech, made a mere two weeks before Election Day, to be election propaganda.
Various polls have been published over the past week. The large number of parties and the small voter sample size has led to sizable variations between the polls. A large number of voters remain undecided. Currently, Likud and the Zionist Camp seem to be leading, both with around 25 seats.16 In the center Yesh Atid seems to be getting more seats than Koolanu. Among the ultra-Oorthodox Shas seems to be gaining popularity.
1 “Israel elections updates /Lieberman presents Knesset list: Four women in top 10,” Haaretz, 19 January 2015.
2 Lahav Harkov, “Yisrael Beytenu list reshuffled – MKs bumped to unrealistic spots,” The Jerusalem Post, 19 January 2015
3 Ido Ben-Porat and Tova Dvorin, “It’s Official: Yesh Atid, Kulanu Running Separately,” Israel National News, 21 January 2015.
4 Gil Hoffman, “Yesh Atid aims to woo Orthodox voters,” The Jerusalem Post, 21 January 2015.
5 Gil Hoffman, “Likud court recommends Netanyahu intervene in legal mess,” The Jerusalem Post, 20 January 2015.
6 Moran Azulay, “Recount in Likud primary votes ordered as Internal battle continues,” Ynetnews, 23 January 2015.
7 Gil Hoffman, “Yadlin joining Labor after Mofaz made ‘not serious’ offer,” The Jerusalem Post, 19 January 2015.
8 Dan Williams, “Israel’s Arab parties unite, could help Netanyahu rivals,” Reuters, 23 January 2015.
9 “Arab parties said to reject Herzog’s coalition invitation,” Times of Israel, 17 January 2015.
10 Lahav Harkov, “Netanyahu rules out unity government with Herzog and Livni,” The Jerusalem Post, 16 January 2015.
11 Jonathan Beck, “Liberman says ‘no chance’ he’ll sit in coalition with Meretz,” Times of Israel, 18 January 2015.
13 Robert Tait, “Mass stabbing on Tel Aviv bus by Palestinian ‘terrorist,’” The Telegraph, 21 January 2015
14 Gil Ronen, “Galant Implies Mughnieh Hit Timed for Elections,” Israel National News, 18 January 2015.
15 Herb Keinon and Michael Wilner, “Netanyahu to address US Congress in February,” The Jerusalem Post, 22 January 2015.
16 “New poll finds Likud, Zionist Camp neck and neck,” Times of Israel, 23 January 2015.