Left to Right Avigdor Lieberman, Yair Lapid, Moshe Kahlon

Election analyst JAMES MARLOW who has been covering Israeli elections since the eighties will bring news briefs, reports, analysis and polls based on surveys conducted and commissioned for Israel’s news networks and newspapers each week for The Jewish Weekly.


Despite 3 months to go before the April 9 general election, some trends are already emerging after Israel witnessed the dramatic breakup of the Bayit Yehudi party when Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli formed a new list called Hayemin Hehadash (the New Right). Jerusalem Post journalist Caroline Glick has since joined the new religious-secular party headed by Bennett and they are polling around 12 seats with the Bayit Yehudi struggling to reach 4.

We also saw the stark dismissal by Labor leader Avi Gabbay of Tzipi Livni, head of Hatnua, ending the merger between her party and Labor that was known as the Zionist Union. The ZU who received 24 seats in the 2015 election were polling at just 7 seats last month and now they have returned to the Labor name, the party is still polling at 7 seats.

Former chief of staff Benny Gantz announced his new Hosen L’Yisrael (Israel’s Resilience) party while former defence minister and another former chief of staff Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon declared his new party, Telem.

It almost doesn’t matter what official name the parties choose for themselves because they will inevitably be known by the people who lead them. The parties currently enjoying media coverage are driven by political egos rather than a solid platform. Indeed, it has become a joke that Gantz has managed to remain around 14 seats without saying one word on any issue whether it be on social and economic policies or defence and religion.

On the surface, it would appear that the large number of parties is a sign of a healthy democracy, offering voters a variety of choices. But deep down it makes the country harder to govern with several smaller parties making their demands within a fragile coalition that is barely functional because they threaten to bring down a government if their demands are not met.

Similarly, for the opposition to be effective, it also needs to be able to unite and provide a credible political threat in the event of a vote of no-confidence.  But the disproportionate amount of small parties this time round whether they are on the right, left or centre will likely cause infighting within parties to intensify and make it harder for a prime minister to build a coalition through deal-making. In addition, some of these smaller parties are unlikely to pass the electoral threshold resulting in wasted votes when every vote should count. 

It has also been a trend for disappointed MKs to hop between parties. Tzipi Livni has so far been an MK with the Likud, Kadima, Hatuna, Zionist Union and may still join another party in order to remain in the Knesset as polls show her own Hatuna list will not receive the minimum 3.25% to gain Knesset entry.

In the last week there have been 9 requests to register new parties whilst 111 parties have been registered since the state was founded.


  • Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay admitted on Wednesday that Benny Gantz and his new party will not unite with Labor in a bid to oust the prime minister and his Likud party

  • Moshe Kahlon who heads the Kulanu party says Likud is his home but he cannot accept their social and economic policies and will continue to run with his own list but indicated he will form a coalition with Likud

  • MK Rachel Azaria announced she is leaving Kulanu as she felt it was moving to the right without her. Housing Minister and fellow Kulanu MK Yoav Galant announced he was leaving the party to seek a position on the Likud list when they hold their primaries on 5 February. And Kulanu MK Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the US, quit the party after reportedly been told by Kahlon that he would not be given a realistic spot on its electoral slate.

  • Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon of the new Telem party reportedly met amid growing speculation over the possibility of a political unification. But reports also suggested Ya’alon’s party could join with Benny Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael. Ya’alon, a hawkish former Likud member, has been vowing to challenge Netanyahu since he was ousted from the Defence Ministry in 2016 by the prime minister, to be replaced by Avigdor Liberman. He subsequently quit the ruling Likud party and the Knesset and vowed to stand against Netanyahu.

  • Recent polls have indicated Ya’alon would fail to clear the minimum vote threshold needed to enter the Knesset. Reports have said he is also in talks with former chief of staff Benny Gantz to form an electoral alliance.

  • Labor MK Miki Rosenthal announced he will not run in the upcoming Knesset election

  • A new centrist Arab party “New Horizon” has been registered by 62-year-old engineer, Salman Abu Ahmad, from Nazareth. The candidates will include Arab Israelis from across the country and focus on the housing shortage in the Arab sector. Asked if New Horizon would attempt to merge with the Joint (Arab) List who received 13 seats in the 2015 election, Abu Ahmad said his party would be open to any possibility.

  • Former advisor to Yassar Arafat and MK Ahmad Tibi who heads the Ta’al faction (Arab Movement for Renewal) has broken away from Joint List.

  • Arab MK Hanin Zoabi who called for the dissolution of Israel, sailed on the Mavi Marmara in a bid to break Israel’s security blockade of Gaza, openly supports Gaza terror group Hamas and has labelled IDF soldiers murderers, will not seek another Knesset term. Zoabi has been a Knesset MK for 10 years and admits many hate her and her beliefs. In July 2014, she was banned for 6 months after she said that the killers of 3 Israeli teens in 2014 were not terrorists. Zoabi who is a member of the Balad party within the Joint List faction is really stepping down due to internal party regulations and therefore would not receive a realistic position on the list.

  • Fellow MK and Balad party head Jamal Zahalka also announced he would not run in the elections.

  • Nissan Slomiansky takes over as chairman of Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home party) after Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and left to form a new party called Hayemin HeHadash meaning The New Right.

  • Dov Henin of Hadash (Communist party which joined with the Arab parties known as Joint List to become the third largest faction in the Knesset) announced he will not stand for another term. Dov Henin was the only Jewish member within Hadash.

  • Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg has said the entire left should unite as one behind her faction.

  • Former IDF Chief Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon who left the Likud after being moved on from Defence Minister announced the name of his new party will be called Telem. The name was first used by Moshe Dayan when he broke away from Labor in 1981.

Likud MK Yehuda Glick who voted against dissolving the Knesset in order to get his bill through to ban the advertising of smoking announced at the the Knesset on 1 January 2019 that he is getting married, after his first wife died on 1 January 2018. He said “While others will be building support for their parties I will be building a new home.” He is still seeking a suitable slot at the Likud primaries on 5 February. Glick also managed to get his bill through just before the Knesset was dissolved so that any cigarette advertising whether at a venue, sports arena, publication or shop is now illegal in Israel.