Israel Election Guide 2020

February 26, 2020
Israel Election Guide 2020

Quick Facts

  • Election date: Monday, March 2, 2020
  • Total number of seats in the Israeli Knesset (parliament): 120
  • To qualify for a Knesset seat, a party or electoral list must win at least 3.25% of the popular vote. Upon reaching that mark, the party/list will hold 4 seats in the Knesset, with additional seats allotted based on percentage of overall votes obtained.
  • Number of Israeli citizens and residents: Approximately 9 million, including approximately 6.5 million Jews (including approximately 650,000 settlers living illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories) and approximately 1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
  • Number of eligible voters6.4 million
  • Number of Palestinians living under Israeli control who cannot vote in Israeli elections: Approximately 4.75 million, including: approximately 320,000 in occupied East Jerusalem, 2.8 million in the occupied West Bank, and 1.8 million in occupied and besieged Gaza.

Israel's Political System

  • While Israel is nominally a unicameral parliamentary democracy, in reality it would more accurately be called an ethnocracy or apartheid state. Over the country's nearly 72-year history there has been a period of only about seven months (Nov. 1966 - June 1967) that Jewish Israelis did not govern large numbers of indigenous Palestinian Arabs by undemocratic and discriminatory military rule simply because the latter are not Jewish. From 1948 to 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel were ruled by martial law, similar to how Israel has governed Palestinians in the occupied territories since 1967.
  • Although they can vote, Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against in almost every aspect of life, including land ownership rights,  housingemploymenteducation, health care, and family reunification rights. In July 2019, Israel’s parliament passed the “Jewish nation-state law,” which codifies the superior rights and privileges that Jewish Israelis enjoy over Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of the state. Among other things, it declares, the right to “national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” and directs the state to promote “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value,” effectively sanctioning racial segregation in housing.
     

Notable Campaign Developments (see here and here for notable developments of the 2019 campaigns)

  • The March 2 vote will be a record third Israeli election in a row, after the last two (in April and September 2019) were inconclusive, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz able to form a governing coalition.
  • On January 28, 2020, President Donald Trump released his diplomatic plan for Palestine/Israel, which includes recognition of Israeli annexation of large swathes of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. The plan and timing of its release were widely seen as intended to boost Netanyahu’s electoral prospects, but Blue and White leader Gantz also endorsed it. Netanyahu has pledged to begin actual annexation if/when he is reelected.
  • On the same day that Trump released his plan for Palestine/Israel, Netanyahu was indicted on three counts of corruption, making him the first Israeli prime minister charged with corruption while still in office. His trial is scheduled to begin on March 17.
  • The 2019 and 2020 campaigns were marked by repeated racist and inflammatory attacks targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel. Netanyahu and other candidates race-baited Jewish voters with inciting rhetoric against Palestinian citizens of the state and other non-Jews. Blue and White co-leader Gantz launched his initial campaign with an ad bragging about how many Palestinians he killed in Gaza in 2014 during Israel’s devastating military assault. A deputy minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party released a video of himself with an Israeli soldier who was caught on video murdering a wounded and defenseless Palestinian in Hebron in 2016. Former Likud Knesset member Oren Hazan released an ad depicting himself shooting and killing a leader of a political party who represents Palestinian citizens of Israel. Over the course of both 2019 campaigns, parties that represent Palestinian citizens of Israel also complained about efforts by Netanyahu’s Likud party to intimidate and suppress Arab voters, including by placing cameras in polling stations.
  • In February 2019, Netanyahu shocked many when he orchestrated a deal to bring the extreme right-wing Jewish Power party, whose members are virulently racist and openly advocate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, into the next government, if he was elected. Jewish Power was founded by disciples of the notorious Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was labeled a terrorist organization by the US after one of his followers massacred 29 Palestinians while they prayed at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in 1994. Jewish Power declined to join a united right-wing front engineered by Netanyahu and ran alone for the September 2019 vote, not winning any seats, however Netanyahu once again pushed for them to join forces with other small right-wing parties to maximize their chances of getting into the Knesset for the March 2020 vote.

 

The Parties/Electoral Lists & Notable Candidates

The following guide offers a brief description of the major parties, their policies towards the Palestinians, and some notable candidates. 

Broadly speaking, the parties and electoral lists can be divided into two categories: Zionist, which support Israel’s system of Jewish privilege, and non-Zionist, which support full equality for all citizens. The latter are comprised mainly of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise about 20% of Israel’s population.

Likud

Party Leader: Benjamin Netanyahu

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 32

Formed in the early 1970s as a coalition of right-wing parties, Likud has been the most powerful force in right-wing Israeli politics since. Likud opposes the two-state solution, Palestinian statehood, or Palestinian self-determination in any part of historic Palestine, and strongly supports the construction of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Notable Candidates

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense

  • Netanyahu has spent his political career attempting to undermine the two-state solution and the possibility of a Palestinian state being created in the occupied territories. In 2001, he was caught on video boasting that during his first term as prime minister (1996-99) he sabotaged the Oslo negotiations process, stating: "I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.” In the same video, he claimed he knew how to manipulate Americans, stating: “I know what America is… America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in [the] way [of settlement expansion].”
  • Netanyahu has frequently exploited racism and xenophobia for political gain, including during his last two reelection campaigns. In 2015, he warned right-wing Israelis that “Arab voters are coming out in droves.” In 2019, he wrote on social media that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” but rather “the nation-state of the Jewish people – and them alone,” and also declared that there are “22 other Arab countries” where Palestinian citizens of Israel can go live. For the April 2019 campaign, he orchestrated a deal to bring the fascist Jewish Power party into the government if he formed it, prompting outrage from critics who compared the move to Donald Trump asking white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to join his cabinet. Netanyahu tried, unsuccessfully, to get Jewish Power to join forces with other right-wing parties again for the September 2019 and March 2020 elections, to maximize their chances of getting enough votes to enter the next Knesset.
  • In July 2019, Netanyahu became the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history, for a total of 13 years over two periods, 1996-1999 and 2009 continuously until today. In January 2020, Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to be indicted for corruption while still in office. His trial is set to begin March 17.

Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Israeli Knesset (parliament)

  • A settler who lives illegally on occupied Palestinian land outside of Jerusalem in the West Bank, Edelstein advocates annexing at least the 60% of the West Bank that falls under direct Israeli control (Area C) according the Oslo Accords. Following Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights in March 2019, he welcomed the move as a good first step towards Israeli annexation of the West Bank. He is number two on the Likud party electoral list, after Netanyahu.

Miri Regev, Minister of Culture and Sport

  • A hardline right-wing ideologue who as Minister of Culture and Sport has attempted to defund and censor Israeli and Palestinian artists she deems insufficiently loyal to Israel. Regev is also known for provoking tensions around the Noble Sanctuary Mosque complex (“Temple Mount” to Jews) in occupied East Jerusalem, threatening to spark a major religious conflagration. The ultimate goal of the so-called “Temple Mount movement” is to build a Jewish temple on the grounds of the Noble Sanctuary, which requires the destruction of the revered mosques it contains.
     
  • Regev is also notorious for fueling racism and violence against Palestinians and other non-Jews. In 2012, she helped incite a wave of anti-African violence, including assaults and arson attacks, targeting people from countries like Sudan and Eritrea, telling an angry mob that asylum seekers “are a cancer in our body.” The same year, she told an interviewer, "I'm happy to be a fascist.”


Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

  • Hotovely is a vocal opponent of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, as well as the mixing of Arabs and Jews. In 2011, she organized a hearing of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women on "the problem" of Jewish-Arab interracial relationships. Among those invited to speak was the head of Lehava, a group composed of followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose racist Kach party is deemed a terrorist organization by Israel and the US. A few months earlier, Hotovely voiced support for a letter signed by dozens of wives of leading rabbis calling on Jewish women not to fraternize with Arab and other non-Jewish men, reading in part: “Don't date non-Jews, don't work at places that non-Jews frequent, and don't do national service with non-Jews."

Avi Dichter, Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

  • A former head of Israel’s internal secret police, the Shin Bet, Dichter introduced the original version of the “Jewish nation-state law” that was passed by Israel’s parliament in July 2019, formalizing in Israeli law the superior rights and privileges that Jewish Israelis enjoy over Palestinian and other non-Jewish Israeli citizens.

Yehuda Glick

  • Glick is a messianic Jewish extremist and high-profile leader of the Temple Mount movement, which advocates the removal of the Noble Sanctuary Mosque complex in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem and the construction of a Jewish temple in its place. (See here and here for more on the Temple Mount movement.)

 

Kahol Lavan (“Blue and White”) electoral list

Party Leader: Benny Gantz

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 33

Yesh Atid ("There is a Future") is a center-right party that was a key part of Netanyahu’s coalition government from 2013-2014, when leader Yair Lapid served as finance minister. Israel Resilience is a center-right party formed by retired general Benny Gantz in 2018. In early 2019, the two parties joined forces on a joint electoral list, Blue and White, along with two other former generals, to defeat Netanyahu.

Gantz has said he will annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and embraced the diplomatic plan for Palestine/Israel that the Trump administration released in January 2020, which was widely considered to be a gift to Netanyahu and the Israeli right, and not the basis for a peace agreement. He has also said Jerusalem should remain under Israeli control as part of any peace deal, and that large so-called settlement “blocs” that divide Palestinian population centers in the West Bank into isolated cantons should remain in place. Gantz has also said Blue and White will not sit in a coalition government that includes parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Notable Candidates

Benny Gantz

  • Gantz was chief of staff of the military during Israel’s devastating attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Over the course of 50 days, Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in tiny, besieged Gaza, the vast majority (1,462) civilians, including 551 children, and caused massive destruction to residential areas and civilian infrastructure.
  • The UN and human rights groups documented widespread war crimes carried out by Israeli forces during the assault, including the repeated use of disproportionate and indiscriminate fire in heavily populated areas, and the repeated, deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personal, and UN facilities, killing scores of civilians seeking refuge. 
  • In launching his campaign, Gantz released a video ad bragging about how many Palestinians he killed in Gaza in 2014. It proudly declared “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.”

Yair Lapid

  • Lapid is a former journalist who entered politics in 2012 with the creation of Yesh Atid. Two days before the 2013 election, Lapid wrote on Facebook that he wants to be "rid of" Arabs, adding that his most important priority is "to maintain a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel." The same month, he told Time magazine: “You know my father didn’t come here from the ghetto in order to live in a country that is half Arab, half Jewish. He came here to live in a Jewish state.”

Moshe Yaalon

  • As defense minister under Netanyahu from 2013 to 2016, retired general Yaalon opposed US-sponsored negotiations with the Palestinians and antagonized senior officials in the Obama administration, accusing Secretary of State John Kerry of having a “misplaced obsession and messianic fervor” for peace in the Middle East. At the same time, as defense minister he oversaw the rapid growth of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
  • In June 2010, Yaalon, then-vice premier and minister of strategic affairs, praised the founder of the Stern Gang (also known as “Lehi”), a Zionist terrorist organization that operated in British Mandate Palestine prior to Israel’s establishment in 1948, declaring: "Israeli students must draw courage and strength from the Lehi founder's ideas so one day they could use them to lead the nation." Lehi’s members carried out a wave of deadly attacks against Palestinian civilians and British targets in the 1940s, including the notorious massacre of approximately 100 Palestinian men, women and children, in the village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, and the assassination of UN peace mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in September 1948.
  • In 2009, Yaalon canceled a trip to the United Kingdom over concerns he might be arrested for war crimes for the actions of the Israeli military when he was chief of staff (2002-2005) during the Second Intifada (uprising) against Israel’s military rule. In particular, human rights activists wanted Yaalon tried for the bombing of an apartment block in the middle of the night in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth, killing 13 civilians, including eight children.
  • In 2002, then-General Yaalon, stated: "The Palestinian threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it's necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy."

 

The Joint List

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 13

Party leader: Ayman Odeh

The Joint List is composed of four parties representing Palestinian and non-Zionist Jewish citizens of Israel (Hadash, Ta’al, Balad, United Arab List.) All parties support full equality for all Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or race. After running on two separate slates in the April 9, 2019, elections the parties lost ground resulting in their reunification for the September election and March 2020 campaign.

Notable Candidates

Ayman Odeh

  • A lawyer, Odeh joined the Hadash party at the age of 13 and has been active in politics for more than a decade, first serving on the Haifa Municipal Council as an elected member of Hadash and later as the secretary-general of the party. 

Ahmad Tibi

  • Veteran leader of the Ta’al party, a physician, and a deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Tibi has served in the Knesset since 1999.

Aida Touma-Suleiman 

  • Touma-Suleiman was chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, the first Palestinian to hold this post, and founder and general director of the organization Women Against Violence from 1994-2015. A journalist, she served as editor in chief of the Hadash party newspaper.

Ofer Cassif

  • A Jewish member of the Hadash-Ta’al party and former lecturer in political science at Tel Aviv University, Cassif was initially disqualified from the April 2019 vote by the elections committee because of his scathing criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including calling it a “creeping genocide.” The committee’s decision was overturned by the supreme court and Cassif was allowed to run. 

Yousef Jabareen

  • Hadash member Jabareen introduced a bill to the Knesset in 2018 calling for Israel to guarantee full equality for all of its citizens, regardless of religion or race, which was voted down. He also served as International Affairs Committee chair for the Joint List electoral list in the previous Knesset.

 

Yamina (“Rightward”) electoral list

Party Leader: Naftali Bennett

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 7

A far-right coalition mixing secular and religious nationalists, Yamina is composed of the New Right, Jewish Home, and National Union parties. It was founded by former Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and MK Ayelet Shaked after their New Right party failed to reach the threshold to enter the Knesset in the April vote.

Yamina strongly supports Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, including a plan to increase the number of settlers living on occupied Palestinian land by a half million, for a total of more than one million, in order to ensure a Palestinian state will never be created in the West Bank.

Notable Candidates

Naftali Bennett, Former Minister of Education, Minister of Diaspora Affairs

  • Although not a settler himself, from 2010 to 2012 Bennett was head of the main political body (Yesha Council) that represents settlers. A former member of Likud, he was Netanyahu’s chief of staff from 2006-2008. As leader of the Jewish Home party (2012-2018), he was a key partner in Netanyahu’s coalition government, serving as minister of education and minister of diaspora affairs. During the previous government, he was minister of economy and minister of religious services.
  • In October 2018, Bennett said that if he were defense minister he would order a shoot to kill policy against Palestinians attempting to walk across the boundary between Israel and Gaza, where nearly 2 million people have been trapped under an illegal Israeli siege and naval blockade for more than a decade. When asked if he would instruct soldiers to kill Palestinian children, Bennett said, “They are not children — they are terrorists. We are fooling ourselves. I see the photos.” At that point, at least 140 demonstrators had been killed by Israeli soldiers, including at least 29 children according to the UN, as well as medical workers and journalists, and more than 29,000 others injured, as part of the Great March of Return.
  • In 2013, Bennett sparked controversy when it was reported that during a cabinet meeting on releasing Palestinian prisoners he declared: “If we capture terrorists, we need to just kill them… I've already killed a lot of Arabs in my life - and there is no problem with that.” Asked for clarification by journalists, a spokesperson said Bennett meant Israeli soldiers should be ordered to kill Palestinians instead of capturing and imprisoning them.

Rabbi Rafi Peretz, Minister of Education

  • Jewish Home party leader and current Minister of Education Peretz is a former chief rabbi of the Israeli military and messianic extremist known for his racist and homophobic views.
  • In January 2020, Benzi Gopstein, head of the notoriously racist far-right group Lehava, revealed that he met with Peretz on numerous occasions and that Peretz told him he was doing “holy work.” Gopstein has been charged by Israeli police with incitement to racism and terrorism.
  • In August 2019, Peretz spoke at a conference honoring a US-born rabbi known for his violent, racist views towards the Palestinians, including publishing a pamphlet praising the Israel-American settler who massacred 29 Palestinians as they prayed in Hebron in 1994, and endorsing a book written by another rabbi that endorsed the murder of non-Jews, including babies and children, in times of conflict.
  • In November 2014, Peretz sparked outrage when he claimed that Jerusalem has no religious significance to Muslims, declaring "Ninety percent of the Arabs don't know a thing about the Koran. I tell you with full authority. We know better than many of them." 
  • Peretz has also caused controversy by supporting so-called “gay conversion therapy” and claiming that intermarriage of American Jews is comparable to a “second Holocaust.”

Bezalel Smotrich, Minister of Transportation

  • A notorious racist and extremist, Minister of Transportation Smotrich lives in an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. He wants to annex the occupied territories and ethnically cleanse Palestinians who don’t accept permanent subjugation under discriminatory Israeli military rule.
  • Smotrich supports a shoot to kill policy for Palestinians, including children, who throw stones at their Israeli occupiers. In 2018, he was temporarily banned from Twitter after writing that 16-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi “should have gotten a bullet, at least in the knee,” for slapping a heavily armed soldier who invaded her family’s property shortly after her 15-year-old cousin was shot in the face. He added, “That would have put her under house arrest for the rest of her life.” In 2015, he argued that the arson attack by Jewish extremists that killed three members of the Dawabsha family, including an 18-month-old baby, was not an act of terrorism.
  • In 2015, during a parliamentary committee meeting, he urged Jews not to mix with Arabs and claimed that God ordered Jews not to sell homes to Arabs, declaring “anyone who wants to protect the Jewish People and opposes mixed marriages is not a racist… I believe in God’s words… I prefer that Jews make a living and wouldn’t sell a house to Arabs.” In 2016, he caused an uproar when he declared that his wife would not share a room with an Arab woman when giving birth at the hospital.
  • In 2017, Smotrich sponsored a bill to ban individuals who support boycotts related to Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights from entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ayelet Shaked, Former Minister of Justice

  • A hardline right-wing ideologue, Shaked was a member of the Likud party and Netanyahu’s office director from 2006 to 2008, and minister of justice under Netanyahu from 2015 to 2019.
  • During the April 2019 campaign, Shaked released a controversial ad depicting herself as a model in a perfume commercial, spraying herself with a scent labelled “Fascism.” At the end, she declared to the camera: “To me, it smells like democracy.”
  • In February 2018, then-Minister of Justice Shaked said that Israel has to maintain a Jewish majority even if it means violating human rights. In justifying a policy of ethnic cleansing by bureaucracy targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel (“Judaizing”), she declared: “I think that ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ is not an offensive term. We used to talk like that. In recent years we’ve stopped talking like that. I think it’s legitimate without violating the full rights of the Arab residents of Israel.” She added: “There are places where the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state must be maintained and this sometimes comes at the expense of equality.”
  • As justice minister, Shaked waged a campaign against Israel’s Supreme Court, which she deems too liberal. In the Knesset, she has promoted a slew of discriminatory and repressive laws, including one to formally enshrine Israel as a “Jewish state,” stipulating that only Jews are entitled to self-determination within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and cut foreign funding to NGOs that document Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights. She has also helped lead a racist campaign against African asylum seekers and migrants by Israeli politicians and others.
  • In July 2014, Shaked posted an article on Facebook written by a former Netanyahu advisor referring to Palestinian children as “snakes” and calling for genocide against the Palestinian people. It read in part:

This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started… What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy?

Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism… They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Former Deputy Minister of Defense and Minister of Religious Services

  • A rabbi and messianic Jewish settler living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, Ben-Dahan served as deputy minister of defense (2015-2018) and deputy minister for religious affairs (2013-215) under Netanyahu. He supports annexing the West Bank and is known for making virulently racist and homophobic remarks. 
  • In 2013, then-Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Ben-Dahan declared, “[Palestinians] are beasts, they are not human.” Later that year he stated, “a Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he’s gay.” 
  • Ben-Dahan also supports building a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in East Jerusalem, declaring in 2016: “We aren’t embarrassed to say it: We want to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount.”

Orit Strock

  • Strock is a hardline religious Zionist who lives illegally in a radical Jewish settlement in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. She is also active in the messianic Temple Mount movement, which aims to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem. In 2013, during a parliamentary debate on a bill that would allow Jews to pray in the Noble Sanctuary, something that is currently banned under Israeli law, Strock called Palestinians “savages,” stating: “When King David bought the Temple Mount you were savages in the desert. You have no rights on the Temple Mount, that’s a historical fact. Nothing will help you. Even now you are savages.”
     

Shas

Party Leader: Aryeh Deri, Minister of the Interior

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 9

Shas is a right-wing ultra-orthodox religious party. Although its late spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was notoriously racist against Palestinians and other non-Jews, at least in theory Shas is willing to accept the creation of a Palestinian state.

United Torah Judaism

Party Leader: Yaakov Litzman, Health Minister

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 7

United Torah Judaism is a coalition of two small parties representing ultra-Orthodox Jews of European origin, known as Haredim. It was part of Netanyahu’s previous governments, as was Shas, which it is allied with. It is focused almost exclusively on domestic social issues and does not have a clear position regarding the Palestinians.
 

Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel Our Home”)

Party Leader: Avigdor Lieberman

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 8

Yisrael Beiteinu is a secular, ultranationalist right-wing party founded in 1999 by Lieberman, an immigrant and former nightclub bouncer from Moldova in the former Soviet Union. It espouses hardline, racist policies towards Palestinian citizens of Israel. While in theory Yisrael Beiteinu supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians, as part of any such agreement the party advocates the “transfer” of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the Palestinian state, thereby stripping them of their citizenship and the freedom of movement it allows.

Notable Candidates

Avigdor Lieberman

  • A settler who lives illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, Lieberman was an aide to Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister (1996-99), and later a minister of defense (2016-2018) and foreign affairs (2009-2012, 2013-2015) under Netanyahu.
  • Lieberman is notorious for inflammatory and race-baiting rhetoric towards Palestinian citizens of Israel. He has campaigned on slogans like “Only Lieberman understands Arabic” and “No loyalty, no citizenship" and pushed for a law that would force Palestinian citizens of Israel to swear allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish state," thereby formally acquiescing in their own permanent second-class status.
  • In March 2015, he called for Palestinian citizens of Israel who do not support the Jewish character of the state and its policies to be beheaded, declaring: "Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe.”

Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power")

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 0

Party Leader: Itamar Ben-Gvir

Jewish Power is an overtly racist, fascist party comprised of followers of the late Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned from Israeli politics in 1988 due to its virulent racism and is considered a terrorist organization by the US. The party advocates the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories. Its platform (Hebrew) calls for establishing “a national authority for encouraging emigration” of Palestinians.

For the April 9 vote, Jewish Power agreed to a controversial deal orchestrated by Netanyahu that would have brought them into government if Netanyahu had been able to form one. During the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, Jewish Power leaders Michael Ben-Ari (a former member of the Knesset for the National Union party), Baruch Marzel, and Bentzi Gopstein were banned by the Supreme Court from running because of their long history of extreme racism and inciting hatred and violence against Palestinians and left-wing Israelis.

Notable Candidates 

Itamar Ben-Gvir

  • Ben-Gvir is a settler who lives illegally in Hebron in the West Bank. A lawyer best known for representing Jews accused of attacking Palestinians and left-wing Israelis, Ben-Gvir reportedly has a framed photo of Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli-American settler who massacred 29 Palestinians as they worshipped at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in 1994, hanging in his home.

 

Labor-Gesher-Meretz

Number of seats won in the September 2019 election: 5 (Labor & Gesher) / 3 (Meretz, as part of the Democratic Union)

Party Leader: Amir Peretz

A joint parliamentary list formed in January 2020, including the formerly powerful Labor party. Labor and its precursor dominated Israeli politics for decades after the establishment of the state and initiated Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territories but has been on the decline since the 1990s as Israeli society has moved rightward. After a poor showing in the April 2019 election, the party merged with the smaller Gesher party on a list for the September 17 vote. The small Meretz party joined for the March 2020 election.

While Labor’s platform includes support for a demilitarized Palestinian “state” as part of a two-state solution, it declares that “this future vision is not attainable” now. Labor also wants Israel to keep large so-called settlement “blocs” built illegally on occupied Palestinian land as part of any peace agreement. Meretz supports a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state. Gesher officially supports reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians but also supports Israel maintaining control of all of Jerusalem as well as large so-called settlement “blocs” that dissect Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.