Israel Election Guide 2021

February 19, 2021


Quick Facts

  • Election date: Tuesday, March 23, 2021
  • 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. After reaching that threshold, the party/list receives four Knesset seats, with additional seats allotted based on the percentage of overall votes obtained.
  • Number of Israeli citizens and residents: Almost 9.3 million, including 6.8 million Jews (including more than 675,000 settlers living illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories) and more than 1.9 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
  • Number of eligible voters: Approximately 6.5 million
  • Number of Palestinians living under Israeli control in the occupied Palestinian territories who cannot vote in Israeli elections: Approximately 5 million, including approximately 350,000 in East Jerusalem, approximately 2.9 million in the West Bank, and 1.9 million in besieged Gaza.


Israel's Political System

  • While Israel is nominally a unicameral parliamentary democracy, it would be more accurately described as an ethnocracy or apartheid state. Since the state was established in 1948, there has been a period of only about seven months (November 1966 to June 1967) that Israeli Jews did not govern large numbers of indigenous Palestinian Arabs by undemocratic and discriminatory military rule because the latter are not Jewish. From 1949 to 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel could vote but were ruled by martial law, similar to how Israel has governed Palestinians in the occupied territories since 1967.
  • Although they can vote and hold public office, Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against in almost every aspect of life, including land ownership rights,  housing, employment, education, health care, and family reunification rights. In July 2018, the Knesset passed the “Jewish nation-state law,” which codifies in Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws 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 2021 Campaign Developments (see here and here for notable developments of the 2019 campaigns and here for the 2020 campaign)

  • The March 23 vote will be the fourth election in two years following the collapse of the governing coalition between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Blue and White/Israel Resilience led by Benny Gantz. Former general Gantz ran twice as leader of a coalition established to unseat Netanyahu before agreeing to join him in government in 2020, prompting his coalition partners to part ways and join the opposition, only to find the government collapse before he could take his turn as prime minister after 18 months, as his deal with Netanyahu stipulated.
  • Once again, as he did in 2019 (and tried unsuccessfully to do in 2020), Netanyahu made an alliance with overtly racist, extreme-right parties, in the form of a vote-sharing deal to try to elect the Religious Zionism electoral list to the Knesset in hopes they can help him form the next government, after convincing them to join forces to increase their chances of entering the Knesset. Two of the parties on the Religious Zionism list (Jewish Power and National Union) openly advocate ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories, and one (Jewish Power) is comprised of disciples of the notorious Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was labeled a terrorist organization by the US after one his followers massacred 29 Palestinians as they prayed in the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in 1994. Following a similar deal Netanyahu made in 2019, even the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the largest Israel lobby groups in the US, condemned Jewish Power as “racist and reprehensible.”
  • While trying to get the virulently racist Religious Zionism list elected to the Knesset, during the March 2021 campaign Netanyahu also pivoted sharply from repeated incitement and race-baiting against Palestinian citizens of Israel during previous campaigns, attempting to win their votes this time around. The effort seems unsuccessful so far, judging by early polls and protests Netanyahu has faced from Palestinian citizens of Israel while trying to campaign in their communities.
  • Former top Likud official and longtime Netanyahu rival, Gideon Sa’ar, started his own party, New Hope, to unseat his old boss, joined by some of his former Likud colleagues. Sa’ar is campaigning as a right-wing alternative to Netanyahu and Likud, also supporting Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and annexation of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
  • The Joint List, an alliance of parties representing Palestinian and non-Zionist Jewish citizens of Israel that advocates full equality for all Israeli citizens regardless of religion or race, lost one of its four factions during the 2021 campaign. As a result, the Joint List will likely win fewer seats than the 15 they did in 2020, the most any non-Zionist party or list had ever received.
  • Overshadowing the whole campaign, Netanyahu’s response to the pandemic, which was widely heralded initially before criticism of his failings mounted, and his ongoing trial on three charges of corruption, which could send him to prison if convicted. 


The Parties/Electoral Lists & Notable Candidates

The following provides a brief description of the major parties, their policies towards the Palestinians, and notable candidates.
Broadly speaking, the parties and electoral lists can be divided into two categories: Zionist, which supports Israel’s system of Jewish privilege, and non-Zionist, which supports full equality for all citizens. The latter are comprised mainly of Palestinian citizens of Israel, about
1.9 million people, who make up about 21% of Israel’s population.

The number (1) to the left of the candidate names denotes their place on their party’s electoral list.


Party leader: Benjamin Netanyahu
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 36

Likud has been the most powerful right-wing party in Israel since it was formed in the early 1970s and has governed continuously under Netanyahu since 2009.

Likud opposes the two-state solution and Palestinian statehood or self-determination in any part of Palestine/Israel. It strongly supports the construction of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land and formal annexation of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. During the 2019 and 2020 election campaigns, Netanyahu repeatedly threatened to annex large parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu declared he would temporarily “suspend” official annexation after Trump brokered a deal normalizing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in August 2020 and in the face of massive international opposition.

Notable Candidates

(1) Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister (see here for more on Netanyahu)

  • Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, in office continuously since 2009, plus a first term from 1996 to 1999. He is currently (Feb 2021) on trial on three charges of corruption that could send him to prison if he isn’t reelected and able to pass legislation granting himself immunity from prosecution.
  • Netanyahu has spent much of his political career working to destroy the possibility of a Palestinian state being created in the occupied territories as part of the two-state solution advocated by the US and international community. During the 2019 and 2020 election campaigns he repeatedly promised to annex a large part of the occupied Palestinian West Bank in violation of international law.
  • He clashed with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama over the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land supposed to comprise a Palestinian state, all but openly campaigning for the latter’s Republican opponent in 2012, but was close allies with Donald Trump, whose son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner is a longtime close family friend. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote that in May 2017 Netanyahu showed Trump a fake video of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that had been doctored to make it sound like he was calling for the killing of Israeli children. 
  • In 2001, following his first term in office, Netanyahu was caught on video boasting to settlers that he had sabotaged the US-sponsored Oslo negotiations process during the 1990s, stating: "I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.” He also claimed that he knew how to manipulate Americans and deal with pressure to stop settlement construction, 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.”
  • Over the past few years, Trump showered Netanyahu with gifts intended to help both men win reelection, including recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, and declaring that Israeli settlements built in flagrant violation of international law are not in fact illegal. Trump’s efforts failed to push himself over the top in 2020 but helped Netanyahu squeak out two close victories in 2019 and again in 2020.

(2) Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Health, Speaker of the Knesset 

  • Edelstein was born in the Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, immigrating to Israel in the late 1980s and moving to an illegal West Bank settlement on occupied Palestinian land outside of Jerusalem.
  • He supports formal annexation of large parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. 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 annexation of the West Bank.
  • In October 2019, Edelstein slammed Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders for saying if elected president he would leverage the massive amount of US taxpayer dollars going to fund the Israeli military to pressure Israel into ending its nearly 15-year-old illegal siege on Palestinians in Gaza, declaring Sanders should “stop talking nonsense.” 

(4) Miri Regev, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, former Minister of Culture and Sport (2015-2020)

  • A former military censor and hardline right-wing ideologue who as Minister of Culture and Sport attempted to defund and censor artists whose politics she disliked, Regev once told a TV interviewer “I am happy to be a fascist!”
  • Although she was born to immigrant parents (her father was Moroccan and her mother Spanish), Regev is notorious for inciting xenophobia and violence against refugees and asylum seekers, most notably helping to provoke a wave of anti-African attacks in 2012, including assaults and arsons, targeting people from Sudan and Eritrea, telling an angry mob that asylum seekers “are a cancer in our body.”
  • Regev is also known for provoking tensions around the venerated Noble Sanctuary mosque complex (known as the Temple Mount to Jews) in occupied East Jerusalem, where messianic Jewish extremists want to build a Jewish temple, threatening to spark a major religious conflagration.

5) Yariv Levin, Former Minister of Internal Security (2015) and Minister of Tourism (2015-2020)

  • Another hardline ideologue, a supporter of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, and opponent of Palestinian rights and self-determination, Levin helped lead the effort to pass the “Jewish nation-state” law in 2018, which formally enshrines in Israel’s quasi-constitutional laws the superior rights and privileges Jewish Israelis enjoy over indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise about 21% of the population.
  • ​In February 2014, during a meeting between the US ambassador to Israel and a group of right-wing members of Israel’s government intended to improve relations with the Obama administration, Levin demanded the US support Israel without question, stating: "We see our alliance with you as unconditional. When there is a true alliance, it is proved by you standing behind us, even when you think we're wrong.
  • Levin has also attacked liberal Jews in the US, including criticizing the marriage of Chelsea Clinton, declaring in 2016: 

“Reform Jews in the United States are a dying world. Assimilation is taking place on a vast scale. They are not even tracking this properly in their communities. It is evidenced by the fact that a man who calls himself a Reform rabbi stands there with a priest and officiates at the wedding of the daughter of Hillary Clinton and no one condemns it, thereby legitimizing it.”

  • In January 2013, Levin told a conference addressing possible annexation of the Palestinian West Bank that Israel is already cementing control even without official annexation and will leave only “marginal appendages” of Palestinian land remaining:

“In this way, we will try, slowly but surely, to expand the circle of settlements, and to afterwards extend the roads that lead to them, and so forth. At the end of this process, the facts on the ground will be that whatever remains [of occupied Palestinian land] will be merely marginal appendages… We fully agree and are completely united behind the prime minister’s position, which is to strengthen our foothold in the Land of Israel, to build in [occupied East] Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].”

  • ​​In February 2014, Israel’s parliament passed a law sponsored by Levin legally distinguishing between Christian and Muslim Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, declaring that Christian Palestinians in Israel are not in fact Arab, part of an effort to divide Israel’s minority Palestinian population. According to Levin, Christians are “our natural allies, a counterbalance against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.” A few weeks prior to the passage of the law, he declared: “This is a historic and important move that could help balance the State of Israel, and connect us and the Christians, and I’m being careful about not calling them Arabs because they aren’t Arabs.” In fact, almost all Christian Palestinians are Arabs, and consider themselves to be such, and have long formed an integral part of Palestinian society.

(7) Nir Barkat, Former Mayor of Jerusalem (2008-2018)

  • Barkat opposes Palestinian statehood or equal rights in a single state, and supports Israeli settlements and annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley.
  • While the mayor of Jerusalem (2008-2018), Barkat instituted and oversaw discriminatory policies against indigenous Palestinian residents. These included adopting a “master plan” in 2009 intended "to guide and outline the city's development in the next decades," that called for “maintain[ing] a ratio of 70% Jews and 30% Arabs” residents. In condemning the plan, Human Rights Watch declared: “Israeli plans aim to alter the demographic balance in Jerusalem as a whole by lowering the number of the city’s Palestinian residents (including Christians as well as Muslims).” In 2010, Barkat said Palestinian population growth in Jerusalem was a “strategic threat”
  • As part of the effort to reduce the number of Palestinian residents, while Barkat was mayor of Jerusalem the municipality destroyed more than 575 Palestinian homes in the occupied eastern part of the city for being built without official permission (which is virtually impossible for them to obtain), making more than 2,220 Palestinians homeless, including 1,168 children.
  • At the same time, Barkat supported the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, at one point even resisting a court order to remove settlers who had constructed a building that violated city building codes in a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
  • As mayor, Barkat also supported controversial projects in occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem like the building of a settler archeological theme park and tourism center in the neighborhood of Silwan, requiring the destruction of dozens of Palestinian homes, and a planned cable car that Barkat said is partly intended to make people “understand who really owns this city.”
  • Mayor Barkat also implemented repressive measures against Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem in response to protests, which human rights groups condemned as collective punishment. These included erecting concrete barriers around Palestinian neighborhoods, instituting curfews and closures on Palestinian residents, and targeting small businesspeople and others for unpaid bills and not having the proper licenses, closing shops and seizing property.
  • While mayor, Barkat also fueled tensions around the venerated Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, known as the Temple Mount to Jews. Messianic Jewish extremists, including senior government officials, want to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary, one of the most sensitive holy sites in the world, which would likely spark a major religious conflagration in the region and beyond. As mayor, Barkat made provocative visits to the Noble Sanctuary and in June 2015 he spoke at an event organized by the extremist Temple Institute aimed at kindergarten-aged children.

(9) Avi Dichter, Former Deputy Minister of Defense (2019-2020) and Minister of Public Security (2006-2009)

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 2018, formalizing in Israeli law the superior rights and privileges that Jewish Israelis enjoy over indigenous Palestinian and other non-Jewish Israeli citizens.

  • During his time as head of the Shin Bet (2000-2005), Dichter played a central role in developing and accelerating Israel’s program of assassinating Palestinian leaders during the Second Intifada (uprising) against Israel’s occupation. According to B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 129 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces during assassination attempts between 2000 and 2006.
  • In one of the worst examples, on July 22, 2002, in an attack planned and directed by Dichter, an Israeli warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on a residential apartment building in the middle of the night in al-Daraj, Gaza, a densely populated urban area, killing a Hamas leader and fourteen other people, including eight children. More than 150 others were injured. Even then-President George W. Bush, a strong supporter of Israel, was reported “visibly angry” by the bombing, which was conducted using American-made F-16 fighter planes, issuing a statement condemning it as “heavy-handed.”
  • In 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class-action lawsuit in the US against Dichter for his role in the bombing of al-Daraj, accusing him of “war crimes, extra-judicial killing and other gross human rights violations.” In 2009, a court dismissed the case stating Dichter had immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). In 2007, Dichter was forced to cancel a trip to the UK out of fear he might be arrested and charged with war crimes for the al-Daraj bombing. 

(43) Yehuda Glick

  • Glick was born in the US, immigrated to Israel in 1974, and now lives illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Otniel. He is a messianic Jewish extremist and high-profile leader of the Temple Mount movement, which advocates the building of a Jewish temple in the venerated Noble Sanctuary Mosque complex in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. (See here and here for more on Glick and the Temple Mount



Religious Zionism (Jewish Power, National Union & Noam parties) 
Party leader: Bezalel Smotrich
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 2 (National Union)

A new alliance of three extreme right parties (Jewish Power, National Union and Noam) that was brokered by Netanyahu who hopes that running together they will get enough votes to qualify for seats in the next Knesset and support him for prime minister.

Jewish Power (“Otzma Yehudit” in Hebrew) is an overtly racist, fascist party made up 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 and its candidates advocate 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. During the 2019 and 2020 election campaigns, Jewish Power leaders Michael Ben-Ari (a former Knesset member for National Union), 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. When Netanyahu made an electoral deal with Jewish Power during the 2019 election, it sparked outrage, even among many staunch supporters of Israel.

National Union also advocates the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. In 2017, the party released a plan calling for official Israeli annexation of the Palestinian West Bank and stipulates any Palestinians living there must accept permanent subjugation, voluntarily leave, or be forced to leave or be killed by the Israeli military.

Formed in 2019, Noam is a small party composed of ultra-Orthodox Jews best known for being virulently homophobic. In 2019, it sparked controversy with a campaign ad comparing followers of Reform Judaism, left-wingers, and LGBTQ people to Nazis.

Notable Candidates

(1) Bezalel Smotrich, Leader of the National Union party, Former Minister of Transportation and Road Safety (2019-2020) 

  • A notorious racist and “proud homophobe,” Smotrich wants to turn Israel into a Jewish theocracy. He once declared “Arabs are my enemies, and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them” when explaining why his wife refused to share a hospital room with a Palestinian Arab mother after giving birth.
  • Smotrich lives in a settlement on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank that not only violates international law but Israeli law as well. He wants to annex the occupied Palestinian territories and ethnically cleanse Palestinians who don’t accept permanent subjugation under discriminatory Israeli military rule. He once declared “The Palestinian people never existed and a Palestinian state will never be established.”
  • Smotrich also 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 soldier who invaded her family’s property shortly after her 15-year-old cousin was shot in the face. In 2015, he argued that an 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 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.”

(3) Itamar Ben-Gvir, Leader of Jewish Power party

  • Ben-Gvir is a settler who lives on occupied Palestinian land in Hebron in the West Bank. A lawyer best known for representing Jews accused of violent attacks against Palestinians and left-wing Israelis, Ben-Gvir is a devoted follower of Meir Kahane.
  • In February 2021, Ben-Gvir said Kahane was “a hero” and once again called for the expulsion of indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel deemed disloyal.
  • In 2007, an Israeli court convicted Ben-Gvir of supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism for promoting Kahane’s racist ideology, carrying signs reading "Expel the Arab enemy" and "Rabbi Kahane was right: The Arab MKs [parliamentarians] are a fifth column."
  • Ben-Gvir has a framed photo of Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli-American settler and fellow disciple of Kahane who massacred 29 Palestinians as they worshipped at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in 1994, hanging in his office.

(5) Orit Strock

  • Strock is a hardline religious Zionist who also lives illegally in the Hebron settlement in the occupied West Bank. She’s 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.”



Israel Resilience (Blue and White)
Party leader: Benny Gantz
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 15 (as part of the Blue and White coalition)

Israel Resilience is a center-right party formed by retired general Benny Gantz in 2018. In early 2019, it joined forces on an electoral list (Blue and White) with the Yesh Atid and Telem parties to defeat Netanyahu. Following the close 2020 result, Gantz split the list (taking its name) by breaking his campaign promise and joining Netanyahu in a coalition government.

Gantz supports Israeli annexation of large parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, and embraced the plan for Palestine/Israel that Trump released in January 2020 that endorsed in advance Israeli annexation of much of the West Bank. He also believes Jerusalem, including the occupied Palestinian eastern section, should remain under Israeli control permanently and large so-called settlement “blocs” that divide Palestinian population centers into isolated cantons should stay in place. During the March 2020 campaign, in a move that was condemned as racist by Palestinian citizens of Israel, Gantz said he would not sit in a coalition government that included Arab parties, declaring he would only work with “anyone who is Jewish and Zionist.”

Notable Candidates

(1) Benny Gantz, Minister of Defense

  • As part of the coalition deal with Netanyahu’s Likud, Gantz was supposed to serve as defense minister and then rotate with Netanyahu and serve as prime minister after 18 months, but the government collapsed before he could take his turn.
  • Prior to entering politics, Gantz was chief of staff of the military and directed Israel’s devastating attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Over the course of seven weeks, Israeli forces 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 like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented widespread war crimes carried out by the Israeli military during the assault, including the repeated use of “disproportionate” and “indiscriminate” fire in heavily populated areas, and the repeated, deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, and UN facilities, killing scores of civilians seeking refuge.
  • In launching his political career and first 2019 campaign, Gantz released ads bragging about how many Palestinians he killed in Gaza in 2014 and proudly declaring “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.”



Yesh Atid
Party leader: Yair Lapid
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 13 (as part of the Blue and White coalition)

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 Lapid served as finance minister. After running with Israel Resilience and Telem as part of the Blue and White list during the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, it split from Gantz’s Israel Resilience after he agreed to join Netanyahu’s coalition, and went into opposition with Telem, which dropped out of the 2021 race.

Yesh Atid nominally supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians but wants to keep massive so-called settlement “blocs” on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank that make the creation of contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

Notable Candidates

(1) Yair Lapid, Former Minister of Finance (2013-2014)

  • Lapid is a former journalist who entered politics in 2012 with the establishment 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 present-day Serbia] in order to live in a country that is half Arab, half Jewish. He came here to live in a Jewish state.”


New Hope
Party leader: Gideon Sa’ar

New Hope is a hardline right-wing party started by former senior Likud official and longtime Netanyahu rival Gideon Sa’ar in December 2020 with the goal of unseating his former boss. It opposes Palestinian statehood and rights in Palestine/Israel and supports Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and annexation of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. It has attracted several defectors from Likud since its founding.

Notable Candidates

(1) Gideon Sa’ar, Former Minister of the Interior (2013-2014) and Minister of Education (2009-2013)

  • A lawyer, hard-right ideologue, and longtime member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, in 2020 Sa’ar tried unsuccessfully to replace Netanyahu by running to his right in the party primary before leaving to start New Hope.
  • In February 2021, Sa’ar said his vision for peace with the Palestinians didn’t include a Palestinian state or equal rights in a single state with Israelis but “maximum autonomy” for Palestinians at most, perhaps linked to Jordan. In March 2018, he told an audience in the UK “There is no two-state solution; there is at most a two-state slogan.” The same year, he smeared Palestinians as inherently violent, declaring Palestinians "are a society programmed for murder."
  • In 2016, Sa’ar declared “the most urgent and important national task is ensuring a Jewish majority in united Jerusalem,” adding that the construction of illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem was “insufficient.”
  • As Minister of Education (2009-2013), Sa’ar began a program to send Israeli students on controversial “heritage tours” of the Palestinian city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, where some of the most violent and fanatical Jewish settlers live. In response, more than 250 Israeli teachers signed a letter condemning the move as “a manipulative use of pupils and teachers, who will be forced to become political pawns.”
  • As Minister of the Interior (2013-2014) Sa’ar oversaw Israel’s policies of detaining refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea, Sudan, and other African countries in harsh conditions, then coercing them to return home in the face of danger or deporting them to third countries, policies which were condemned by human rights organizations.

(3) Zeev Elkin, Former Minister of Environmental Protection (2016-2020), Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage (2016-2020), and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (2013-2014)

  • Another hardline right-wing idealogue, Elkin was born in the Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, and immigrated to Israel in 1990. He now lives in the illegal settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.
  • A longtime senior member of Likud and confidant of Netanyahu, his defection to New Hope during the 2021 campaign surprised many observers and was seen as a blow to Netanyahu.
  • In 2013, when he was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elkin explained Israel’s long-term plans to de facto annex the occupied Palestinian West Bank in the face of international opposition and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state there:

“We will try to apply sovereignty over the maximum [of the occupied West Bank] that we can at any given moment… It will take time to change people’s awareness but in the end this will penetrate. And then, what seems today like a fairy tale will eventually become political reality, and the reality on the ground.”

(11) Dani Dayan (see here for more on Dayan)

  • Dayan was born in Argentina and immigrated to Israel in 1971. He lives illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Shomron.
  • From 2007 to 2013, Dayan was chairman of the Yesha Council, which represents West Bank settlers. Although he publicly condemned attacks by settlers against Palestinians, while he was head of the Yesha Council settler violence rose sharply.
  • In January 2015, Dayan boasted that due to settlement expansion during his time as head of the Yesha Council, the two-state solution was no longer possible, telling an interviewer: “I am convinced that at some point in my tenure as chairman, the settlement [enterprise] in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] became irreversible.” In the same interview, Dayan claimed he had defeated US President Barack Obama by undermining his administration's efforts to freeze settlement construction as a step towards resuming negotiations with the Palestinians.


Yisrael Beiteinu
Party leader: Avigdor Lieberman
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 7

Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel Our Home”) is a secular, far-right party founded in 1999 by Lieberman that represents mainly Russian immigrants.. 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, stripping them of their citizenship and the freedom of movement it allows within historic Palestine.

Notable Candidates

(1) Avigdor Lieberman, Former Minister of Defense (2016-2018) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (2009-2012, 2013-2015)

  • A former nightclub bouncer who once pled guilty to assaulting a 12-year-old boy, Lieberman was born in Moldova in the former Soviet Union and immigrated to Israel in 1987. He lives in the illegal settlement of Nokdim 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 before departing for the opposition in hopes of taking his place as prime minister.
  • Lieberman is notorious for inflammatory and race-baiting rhetoric targeting 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 accept second-class citizenship as non-Jews in a Jewish state 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.”


The New Right (Yamina)
Party leader: Naftali Bennett
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 6

Yamina (“Rightward”) is a far-right electoral list formed in 2019 originally consisting of three parties, Jewish Home, National Union, and The New Right, but only the latter remains running under the name in 2021. The New Right strongly supports Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and opposes Palestinian statehood or self-determination in any part of Palestine/Israel.

Notable Candidates

(1) Naftali Bennett, Former Minister of Defense (2019-2020) and Minister of Education (2015-2019)

  • Although not a settler himself, from 2010 to 2012 Bennett was head of the main organization representing settlers, the Yesha Council. 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
  • 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 since 2007. 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.

(2) Ayelet Shaked, Former Minister of Justice (2015-2019)

  • Yet another hardline right-wing ideologue, Shaked was also a member of the Likud party, Netanyahu’s office director from 2006 to 2008, and Minister of Justice under Netanyahu from 2015 to 2019.
  • During the April 2019 campaign, then-Minister of Justice 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.”
  • 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 Palestinians.


Party leader: Aryeh Deri
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 9

Shas is a right-wing ultra-orthodox religious party that has played a key role in past Netanyahu governments. Although its late spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was virulently racist against Palestinians and other non-Jews, at least in theory Shas is willing to accept the creation of a Palestinian state. Party leader Deri was born in Morocco and immigrated to Israel in 1968. In 2000, he was convicted of accepting bribes and spent nearly two years in prison.



United Torah Judaism
Party leader: Moshe Gafni
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 7

United Torah Judaism is a coalition of two small parties representing ultra-Orthodox Jews of European origin, known as Haredim. Like Shas, which it is allied with, it was part of Netanyahu’s previous governments. Although historically it hasn’t had a clear position regarding the Palestinians, focusing mainly on domestic issues, in 2021 senior party officials said it opposes the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories.


The Joint List
Party leader: Ayman Odeh
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 15 (with the United Arab List)

The Joint List is composed of three parties representing Palestinian and non-Zionist Jewish citizens of Israel: Hadash (5 Knesset seats), Ta’al (3 seats), and Balad (3 seats). All of them support full equality for all Israeli citizens, regardless of religion or race. After winning 15 seats in the March 2020 election with the United Arab List as part of the coalition, making them the third largest party in the Knesset, the UAL split off to run alone in 2021.

Notable Candidates

(1) Ayman Odeh, Leader of the Hadash party

  • A lawyer, Odeh joined the Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) party at the age of 13. He served on the Haifa Municipal Council from 1998 to 2005, and later as the secretary-general of Hadash.
  • In November 2017, Odeh was pepper-sprayed and shot in the forehead and back with sponge-tipped bullets by Israeli police while taking part in a protest against the demolition of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in southern Israel, which was facing imminent destruction so a town for Israeli Jews (named “Hiran”) could be built in its place.

(2) Ahmad Tibi, Leader of the Ta’al party

  • Veteran leader of the Ta’al (Arab Movement for Renewal) party, a physician, and deputy speaker of the Knesset, Tibi has served in the Knesset since 1999. Before that, he served as a political advisor to then-Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat from 1993 to 1999, the era of the Oslo Accords.

(4) 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 was editor in chief of the Hadash party newspaper.

(6) 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.

(8) Yousef Jabareen


United Arab List
Party leader: Mansour Abbas
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 4 (as part of the Joint List)

The United Arab List (also known by its Hebrew acronym, Ra’am) is a small Islamist party that ran as part of the Joint List in 2015 and 2020 but broke away to go it alone for the March 2021 vote. Leader Abbas, who is also a deputy speaker of the Knesset, has drawn criticism from other Palestinian citizens of Israel for cozying up to Netanyahu, who leads a racist far-right government and has been inciting hatred of Palestinians for decades, saying he would join him in a coalition government.


Party leader: Merav Michaeli
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 3 (as part of Labor-Gesher-Meretz list)

Center-left Labor and its precursor Mapai 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.

While Labor’s platform includes support for a demilitarized Palestinian “state” as part of a two-state solution, it also wants Israel to keep large so-called settlement “blocs” built illegally on occupied Palestinian land as part of any peace agreement, meaning the Palestinian “state” would be divided into several non-contiguous parts, surrounded by Israeli settlements and walls. In 2020, under former leader Amir Peretz, Labor joined Netanyahu’s coalition government, despite having pledged not to do so during the campaign, causing a rift in the party.



Party leader: Nitzan Horowitz
Number of Knesset seats won in 2020: 3 (as part of Labor-Gesher-Meretz list)

Meretz is a small left-wing party that supports a two-state solution with the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories and freezing construction of Israeli settlements. In 2020, Meretz won three seats running on a list with the Labor and Gesher parties. For 2021, Meretz and Labor decided to run separately and Gesher not at all, with one early poll showing Meretz at risk of failing to meet the threshold required to win seats in the next Knesset.