Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the extremist Jewish Power party, threatens Palestinians with a gun in the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, October 13, 2022. If Netanyahu forms the next government, Ben-Gvir will likely become a cabinet minister. (Photo: Twitter)
- Election date: Tuesday, November 1, 2022
- 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: 9.593 million, including just over 7 million Jews (including approximately 700,000 settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem) and more than 2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
- Number of eligible voters: 6,787,355
- Number of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, who cannot vote in Israeli elections: More than 5.6 million, including approximately 350,000 in East Jerusalem, approximately 3.19 million in the West Bank, and more than 2 million in Gaza, which has been under an illegal siege and naval blockade imposed by Israel since 2007.
Israel's Political System
- Israel is an apartheid state. While it is officially a unicameral parliamentary democracy, only Jewish Israelis enjoy the full rights and privileges of Israeli citizenship, while a greater number of Palestinians living under Israel’s control are subject to various degrees of disenfranchisement, dispossession, and subjugation.
- More than five and a half million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza are governed by violent, undemocratic Israeli military rule, with no rights or say in the government that controls their lives. More than 2 million more indigenous Palestinians live as permanent second-class citizens of Israel, enduring widespread systematic discrimination because they are not Jewish. (See here for more on the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel.)
- In 2018, the Knesset passed the “Jewish nation-state law,” enshrining in Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws the superior rights and privileges that Jewish Israelis enjoy over indigenous Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of the state, as well as Palestinians in the occupied territories. 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 promoting racial segregation in housing.
Notable 2022 Campaign Developments (See here for notable developments of the 2021 campaign)
- The November 2022 vote will be the fifth Israeli election in three years, following the collapse of the coalition government formed in June 2021 by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, whose main objective was to remove longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power. The government collapsed over a bill to continue extending Israeli civilian law to Israeli settlers living on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, a major component of Israel’s apartheid system. (Right-wing opposition parties, led by Netanyahu and his Likud party, voted against the law in order to bring down the government, even though they strongly support Israel’s settlement enterprise.) Bennett stepped down as prime minister and announced he would not run again during the current campaign.
- Public opinion polls showed strong support among the electorate for the overtly racist, fascist Religious Zionism coalition, predicting it will win as many 14 seats, which would make it the third largest faction in the Knesset. One of the three parties in the coalition, Jewish Power, is made up of followers of the extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party, Jewish Defense League, and offshoots, were labeled terrorist organizations by the US government because of violent attacks carried out by their members, including the murder of dozens of Palestinians and Americans. Kach was also banned from Israeli politics in the 1980s due to its extreme racism, including calling for the enslavement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine/Israel. Jewish Power’s leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is a devout follower of Kahane and notorious racist and provocateur. If Netanyahu’s Likud party forms the next government, Ben-Gvir will likely become a cabinet minister, something that would have been considered beyond the pale in Israeli politics just a few years ago.
- The three parties in Religious Zionism united under deals engineered by Netanyahu in exchange for supporting him as prime minister, as he did during the 2019 and 2021 campaigns (and tried to do in 2020). While many major US Jewish organizations initially condemned Netanyahu’s alliance with Kahane’s followers in 2019, they have remained mostly silent on the matter since, including during the current campaign.
- During the campaign there were reports that senior officials in Netanyahu’s Likud party were discussing ways to sideline him if he isn’t able to form the next government, allowing Likud to potentially join a coalition without him. As prime minister and leader of the opposition, Netanyahu has led Likud continuously since 2005 and from 1993-1999, and is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, in power from 1996 to 1999 and 2009 to 2021.
- After becoming the first Arab party to join an Israeli government, the United Arab List lost much of its support over the government’s violent repression of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and bombardment of occupied and besieged Gaza in the spring of 2022, and its failure to address the concerns of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Polls conducted in May and June 2022 showed them failing to meet the threshold to win seats in the next Knesset. However, once the campaign got underway their polling numbers began to improve.
Notable Political Parties/Electoral Lists & 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 support Israel’s system Jewish privilege and apartheid, and non-Zionist, which supports full equality for all citizens. The latter are comprised mainly of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up more than 21% of Israel’s population.
The number (1) to the left of candidate names indicates their place on their party’s electoral list.
Yesh Atid ("There is a Future")
Party leader: Yair Lapid
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 17
Yesh Atid is a center-right Zionist party that was a key part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government from 2013-2014, when founder and leader Lapid served as finance minister. In June 2021, Yesh Atid joined with the hard right Yamina party to lead a coalition to oust Netanyahu after more than a decade in power. In July 2022, their government collapsed, triggering the November 2022 vote.
Yesh Atid nominally supports a two-state solution but also supports Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise on occupied Palestinian land that is supposed to comprise the heart of a Palestinian state. It also wants to make permanent so-called settlement “blocs” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that make the creation of contiguous Palestinian state impossible. Yesh Atid also opposes Israel giving up control of occupied East Jerusalem to serve as the capital of an independent Palestine, a prerequisite for a viable Palestinian state.
(1) Yair Lapid, Prime Minister (2022) Former Alternate Prime Minister (2021-2022), Former Minister of Finance (2013-2014)
- Lapid is a former journalist, son of a well-known journalist and politician who immigrated from present-day Serbia to the newly established state of Israel in 1948. He entered politics in 2012 with the establishment of Yesh Atid.
- As part of the coalition agreement with Yamina, Lapid was supposed to rotate as prime minister with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, with the latter serving for two years followed by the former for two years. However, after the coalition collapsed in June 2022, Bennett resigned and Lapid became prime minister pending the results of the November 2022 vote.
- In addition to supporting Israel’s apartheid system in the occupied territories, Lapid, also supports the second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are indigenous to the land and make up more than 20% of Israel’s population. As he told Time magazine in 2013: “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.” Shortly before the 2013 election he wrote on Facebook that his most important priority was "to maintain a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel."
National Unity Party (list)
Party leader: Benny Gantz
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 14 (8 Blue and White, 6 New Hope)
The National Unity Party is a coalition led by former general Benny Gantz consisting of Gantz’s center-right Blue and White party and the hard right New Hope party, led by longtime senior official in Netanyahu’s Likud party and Netanyahu rival, Gideon Sa’ar. Blue and White was a key partner in Netanyahu’s coalition government from April 2020 to June 2021, with Gantz serving as alternate prime minister and defense minister.
New Hope staunchly opposes Palestinian statehood or self-determination of any kind in Palestine/Israel and supports Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and annexation of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.
At times, Blue and White’s Gantz has voiced support for negotiations with the Palestinians but he and his party also support Israel annexing large swaths of the occupied West Bank and retaining control of occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, rendering any Palestinian state that might be established devoid of any geographic contiguity or sovereignty.
(1) Benny Gantz (Retired general), Minister of Defense (2021-), Deputy Prime Minister (2021-), Former Alternate Prime Minister (2020-2021), Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Military (2011-2015)
- In May 2020, Gantz joined a coalition government led by Netanyahu. The two men were supposed to rotate as prime minister, with Netanyahu serving for 18 months with Gantz as defense minister and alternate prime minister before switching for a further 18 months. However, the coalition collapsed before Gantz could become prime minister.
- As minister of defense under Netanyahu, Gantz was responsible for Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza in May 2021, which killed more than 260 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, including more than 60 children and 40 women. The attack was widely condemned by human rights organizations, with Amnesty International noting the Israeli military “displayed a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out a number of airstrikes targeting residential buildings in some cases killing entire families – including children – and causing wanton destruction to civilian property, in attacks that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.” Israel also destroyed four high-rise buildings in densely populated areas of Gaza, including a 14-story building housing the offices of the Associated Press, Al Jazeera, and other foreign media. In condemning Israel’s destruction of the high-rises, Human Rights Watch noted they “apparently violated the laws of war and may amount to war crimes.”
- As a general and military chief of staff, Gantz directed Israel’s devastating attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Over seven weeks, the Israeli military killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority civilians, including 551 children, causing massive destruction to residential areas and civilian infrastructure. The UN and rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented widespread war crimes committed by Israel, including the repeated use of “disproportionate” and “indiscriminate” fire in heavily populated areas, and the deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, and UN facilities, killing scores of civilians seeking shelter from the violence. In launching his political career in 2019, Gantz released ads bragging about how many Palestinians he killed in Gaza in 2014, proudly boasting “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.”
- In October 2021, Deputy Prime Minister Gantz announced that Israel was labeling six Palestinian civil society organizations, including respected human rights organizations, as “terrorist” entities. The move was widely condemned as baseless by the UN and other rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as an attempt to suppress and silence Palestinian human rights defenders.
- During the 2020 campaign, Gantz said he would not sit in a coalition government that included Arabs, declaring he would only work with “anyone who is Jewish and Zionist.” In 2021, his party ended up joining a coalition that included a small Arab party, the United Arab List (Ra’am), in order to unseat Netanyahu, who had been in power continuously for over a decade.
(2) Gideon Sa'ar, Minister of Justice (2021-), Former Minister of the Interior (2013-2014), Former Minister of Education (2009-2013) (See here for more on Sa’ar)
- A lawyer, hardline right-wing 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 2018, Sa’ar told an audience in the UK “There is no two-state solution; there is at most a two-state slogan.” The same year, he demonized Palestinians as inherently violent, declaring Palestinians "are a society programmed for murder."
(3) Gadi Eisenkot (Retired general), Former Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Military (2015-2019)
- Eisenkot is responsible for Israel’s so-called “Dahiya Doctrine,” which calls for the massive, disproportionate use of force (violence) and targeting of civilian populations during wartime. In 2008, as commander of Israeli forces in the north, Eisenkot explained the doctrine in terms of a future war with Lebanon, where in 2006 Israel inflicted enormous death and destruction in the Beirut suburb of Dahiya, a stronghold of the political party and militant group Hezbollah:
‘We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, [Lebanese cities and towns] are military bases… This isn't a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.’ He added: “Harming the population is the only means of restraining [Hezbollah]."
(7) Zeev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage (2021- & 2016-2020), Minister of Construction and Housing, Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (2013-2014) (See here for more on Elkin)
- A longtime senior member of the Likud party and close confidant of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Elkin defected to New Hope during the 2021 campaign. Born in the Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, Elkin immigrated to Israel in 1990 and now lives in the illegal settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem.
- Elkin supports Israel formally annexing the occupied West Bank. He also supports imposing Jewish Israeli sovereignty over the venerated Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, known as the Temple Mount to Jews. Many right-wing Israelis, led by messianic Jewish extremists and including senior government officials, want to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary and engage in frequent provocations in and around the holy site, inciting tensions and threatening to spark a major religious conflagration in the region and beyond.
Party leader: Benjamin Netanyahu
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 30
Likud has dominated right-wing politics in Israel since it was formed in the early 1970s, governing continuously under Netanyahu from 2009 to 2021. 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 2022 campaign, Netanyahu signed a pledge along with his far-right allies to engage in “massive construction” in West Bank settlements if they form the next government.
(1) Benjamin Netanyahu, Leader of the Opposition (2021-), Former Prime Minister (2009-2021 & 1996-1999) (See here and here for more on Netanyahu)
- Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Netanyahu was in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 until June 2021. He has played a major role in Israel’s shift to the hard right in recent decades, exploiting and inciting anti-Palestinian racism and xenophobia in Israeli society. He has also played a major role in undermining international efforts to make peace in the region over the past three decades.
- During his combined decade and a half in office, Netanyahu’s governments have included some of the most racist and extreme elements in Israel. He has repeatedly engaged in blatant race-baiting against Palestinian citizens of Israel and over the past four election cycles has worked to unite overtly racist, fascist parties that were once considered on the fringes of Israeli society to help them get elected to the Knesset. The parties include followers of US-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned from Israeli politics in the 1980s because of its virulent racism and extreme policies and whose followers have murdered dozens of Palestinians and Americans.
- Netanyahu has also done more than perhaps any other individual to undermine the international community’s efforts to make peace in the region based on the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza), the so-called “two-state solution,” including the Oslo Accords signed in the 1990s between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. His governments have been responsible for advancing the construction of hundreds of thousands of settlement units on stolen Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, with the goal of precluding the possibility of a Palestinian state being established in them. As Netanyahu himself boasted to a group of Israeli settlers in a moment caught on video in 2001 following his first term as prime minister: "I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.”
(4) Yoav Gallant (Retired general), Minister of Education (2020-2021) Minister of Aliyah and Integration (2019-2020), Minister of Construction (2015-2019)
- As the head of the Israeli military’s southern command, Gallant oversaw Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009, Operation Cast Lead. During the attack, Israel killed nearly 1,400 Palestinians in the span of three weeks, including 331 children and 114 women. Human rights organizations documented numerous war crimes committed by the Israeli military, including the widespread killing of Palestinian civilians, denying injured Palestinians access to life-saving medical care, and the use of incendiary white phosphorus shells in heavily populated urban areas.\
- In January 2021, Minister of Education Galant issued an order banning representatives of human rights organizations that have accused Israel of committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians from entering Israeli schools. The move followed the release of a report by one of Israel’s most respected human rights organizations, B’Tselem, documenting how Israel practices apartheid.
(8) Nir Barkat, Former Mayor of Jerusalem (2008-2018)
- As mayor of Jerusalem, Barkat instituted and oversaw discriminatory policies against Palestinian residents designed to pressure them to leave the city. This included adopting a “master plan” in 2009 intended "to guide and outline the city's development in the next decades.” It called for “maintain[ing] a ratio of 70% Jews and 30% Arabs” residents in the city. In 2010, Barkat claimed 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 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 Palestinians 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 an Israeli court order to remove settlers who had erected a building that violated city building codes in a Palestinian neighborhood.
- While mayor, Barkat also incited tensions around the venerated Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, known as the Temple Mount to Jews. Messianic Jewish extremists want to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary, the third holiest site in Islam and 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 2015 he spoke at an event organized by the extremist Temple Institute aimed at kindergarten-aged children. The city under his administration also sponsored, and promoted events organized by extremist Temple Mount groups.
(9) Miri Regev, Former Minister of Transportation (2020-201), Former Minister of Culture and Sport (2015-2020) (See here for more on Regev)
- A former spokeswoman for the Israeli army, the far-right Regev is known for her hardline views towards Palestinians and African migrants and asylum seekers.
- In 2012, during a TV appearance, Regev said that she was "happy to be a fascist." That year, Regev and other members of Likud, including leader Netanyahu, helped incite a wave of racist violence against African migrants and asylum seeker. At a May 2012 anti-immigrant rally in Tel Aviv that turned into a race riot, Regev told an angry mob that Sudanese asylum seekers "are a cancer in our body. We will do everything to send them back where they came from." A poll done shortly afterwards by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 52% of Israeli Jews agreed that African immigrants were a “cancer” in Israel.
- Regev has also played a leading role in provoking tensions around the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem. In recent years, a growing number of messianic Jewish extremists want to build a temple on the site and have been pushing for increased access for Jews, who are prevented from praying on its grounds by Israeli law.
(11) Avi Dichter, Former Minister of Internal Security (2006-2009), Former Director of the Shin Bet (2000-2005)
- During his time as head of Israel’s internal secret police, the Shin Bet, Dichter played a central role in Israel’s program of assassinating Palestinian leaders during the Second Intifada (uprising) against Israel’s occupation, which also resulted in the killing of scores of civilians. According to Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, 129 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israel during assassination attempts between 2000 and 2006. In one of the worst incidents, in July 2002, in an attack personally planned and directed by Dichter, an Israeli warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on an apartment building in the middle of the night in al-Daraj, Gaza, a densely populated urban neighborhood, killing a Hamas leader and fourteen other people, including eight children. More than 150 others were injured. The attack was widely condemned internationally, including by the administration of US president George W. Bush, who called it “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.
Religious Zionism (list)
Party leader: Bezalel Smotrich
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 6
Religious Zionism is a coalition made up of three extreme right-wing, overtly racist, homophobic parties: the Religious Zionism party, the Jewish Power party, and the Noam party. They united for the campaign in deals brokered by former Prime Minister Netanyahu. As with Netanyahu’s establishment Likud, the parties in Religious Zionism strongly support Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and oppose Palestinian statehood or self-determination in any part of Palestine/Israel. Polls show Religious Zionism winning as many as 14 seats, which would make it the third largest faction in the Knesset.
The Jewish Power party is composed of followers of the notorious American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was banned from Israeli politics in the 1980s because of its extreme racism and policies, including calling for the enslavement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Kach and other groups founded or inspired by Kahane were labeled terrorist organizations by the US government in the 1990s after numerous deadly attacks by their members in the US and Palestine/Israel, including the massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers in the historic Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in the occupied West Bank in 1994. Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir wants to establish a “migration ministry” to expel indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel who he deems “disloyal.”
During the campaign, one of Jewish Power’s candidates was caught on hidden camera admitting that some minor superficial efforts the party has made to appear less extreme were just a “trick” to avoid being disqualified from running for the Knesset for overtly promoting racism and violence.
Much of Jewish Power’s growing support comes from young Israelis, including in traditionally more liberal, secular areas. During the campaign, leader Ben-Gvir visited Blich high school in the Tel Aviv district, where he was warmly welcomed by students chanting “Your village should burn,” echoing an anti-Arab chant popular with the Israeli far-right.
In September 2022, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, Jewish Power paid for a billboard over a highway in the city of Ramat Gan featuring photos of two prominent Palestinian members of Israel’s Knesset, Hadash party leader Ayman Odeh and Ta’al party leader Ahmad Tibi, and Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of Hadash, with the words “May our enemies be banished” underneath, a reference to a traditional Rosh Hashana prayer.
(1) Bezalel Smotrich, Leader of Religious Zionism (party), Former Minister of Transportation and Safety (2019-2020)
- A notorious racist, “proud homophobe,” and longtime far-right activist, Smotrich lives in a settlement on stolen Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank that was built in violation of Israeli law as well as international law. As a member of the Jewish Home party, Smotrich was minister of transportation and safety under Netanyahu from 2019 to 2020.
- Smotrich wants to annex the occupied Palestinian territories and ethnically cleanse Palestinians who don’t accept permanent subjugation under racist Israeli military rule. He once declared “The Palestinian people never existed and a Palestinian state will never be established.”
- Smotrich co-founded and served as director for a right-wing NGO called Regavim that is funded by settler groups, which works to prevent Palestinians from building homes in Palestine/Israel, targeting construction that is “illegal” under racist Israeli laws.
- During a Knesset debate in October 2021, Smotrich told Palestinian members of the Knesset that Palestinian citizens of Israel only remained inside Israel’s borders after the state’s establishment in 1948 because Israel’s first prime minister didn’t “finish the job” of ethnic cleansing them, stating: "You're only here by mistake, because [David] Ben-Gurion didn't finish the job, didn't throw you out in '48.”
- 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 for writing that 16-year-old Palestinian 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 by a soldier in the occupied West Bank. In 2015, Smotrich claimed 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 2016, Smotrich, then a Knesset member from the Jewish Home party, which was part of Netanyahu’s coalition government, made headlines when he said Arab and Jewish expectant mothers should be separated in maternity wards after his wife gave birth, stating: “My wife really isn’t a racist, but after giving birth she wants to rest and doesn’t want those mass parties that are the norm among the families of Arab women after birth.” He went on to explain: “Arabs are my enemies, and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them.”
- 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.”
- Prior to Israel’s withdrawal of settlers from occupied Gaza in 2005, Smotrich was imprisoned for three weeks by Israel’s internal secret police, the Shin Bet, who suspected he was conspiring with four other right-wing extremists to block major roadways and sabotage infrastructure using gasoline to prevent the withdrawal.
(2) Itamar Ben-Gvir, Leader of Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit)
- Ben-Gvir, a radical settler who lives illegally on occupied Palestinian land in Hebron in the West Bank, is a devoted follower of Meir Kahane, the late fanatical Brooklyn-born rabbi who called for the enslavement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. In February 2021, Ben-Gvir called Kahane a “holy man” and a “hero.”
- Ben-Gvir wants to establish a “migration ministry” to expel indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel who he deems “disloyal.”
- Ben-Gvir served as a parliamentary assistant to Knesset member and fellow Kahane disciple Michael Ben-Ari, who was denied entry to the US in 2012 due to his links to Kahanist groups the US considers terrorist organizations.
- Ben-Gvir has been indicted for incitement by Israeli courts more than 50 times, with most of the charges being dismissed. In 2007, he was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism for promoting Kahane’s ideology, carrying signs reading "Expel the Arab enemy" and "Rabbi Kahane was right: The Arab MKs [parliamentarians] are a fifth column."
- In October 2022, Ben-Gvir pulled a gun and threatened to shoot Palestinian protesters in the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, where Israel has been trying to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers. In May 2021, Israel’s violent repression of Palestinians protesting the displacements and attacks on worshippers in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in Jerusalem’s Old City sparked a major surge in violence in the region in which the Israeli military killed more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza and another 26 in the West Bank, injuring some 9,000 more. In December 2021, Ben-Gvir pulled his gun on an Arab security guard who asked him to move his car, which was parked illegally.
- For many years, Ben-Gvir had a framed photo of the mass-murderer and fellow Kahane disciple who massacred 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron in 1994 hanging in his office. He claims he took it down during the 2020 election campaign in an attempt to moderate his image.
- A lawyer by profession, Ben-Gvir is best known for representing Jews accused and convicted of violent attacks against Palestinians and left-wing Israelis.
- In 1995, Ben-Gvir appeared on Israeli television holding a hood ornament stolen from the car of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, threatening: “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him, too.” At the time, right-wing Israelis were furious with Rabin for entering into negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization as part of the Oslo Accords. A few weeks after Ben-Gvir’s threat, Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist associated with a different Kahanist group.
(4) Orit Strock
- Strock is a longtime far-right settler activist and leader who lives in a settlement in the middle of the Palestinian city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. The settlers in Hebron are among the most extreme and violent in the occupied territories.
- Strock is also active in the extremist messianic Temple Mount movement, which is working to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. In 2013, during a Knesset debate on a bill that would allow Jews to pray openly in the Noble Sanctuary, something that is currently prohibited 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.”
- During an official evaluation of soldiers in the Israeli army’s Hebron Brigade in the early 2010s, Strock complained that they weren’t being tough enough on Palestinians living under Israeli military rule in the city because Palestinians weren’t filing very many complaints of abuse, stating: "presumably the battalion is acting with too much humanitarianism… When the complaints from the Palestinian side about aggressiveness are more numerous it is a sign that the battalion is very good, it is active and it imposes order."
Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel Our Home”)
Party leader: Avigdor Lieberman
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 7
Yisrael Beiteinu is a secular, far-right party founded in 1999 by Lieberman that represents mainly Russian immigrants. It supports hardline, racist policies toward Palestinian citizens of Israel. While in theory Yisrael Beiteinu supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians, as part of any peace agreement the party advocates the “transfer” of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the Palestinian state, stripping them of their citizenship and the rights and freedom of movement it allows within historic Palestine.
(1) Avigdor Lieberman, Former Minister of Defense (2016-2018), Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2009-2012 & 2013-2015)
- 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.
- A former nightclub bouncer who once pled guilty to assaulting a 12-year-old boy, Lieberman was an aide to Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister (1996-1999), and later a defense minister (2016-2018) and foreign minister (2009-2012, 2013-2015) under Netanyahu.
- Lieberman is notorious for 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 with an axe, declaring: "Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe.”
Party leader: Aryeh Deri
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 9
Shas is a right-wing ultra-orthodox religious party primarily representing Sephardic Jews (of Middle Eastern, north African, and Spanish descent).
Although Shas' influential, longtime spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was virulently racist against Palestinians and other non-Jews, in the past Shas was open to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories as part of a peace agreement. However, in recent decades the party has moved further to the right along with Israeli society as a whole and now strongly supports Israel’s settlement enterprise.
Shas played a key role in past Netanyahu coalition governments and is running as an ally of Netanyahu’s Likud party again in 2022. During the 2022 campaign, Shas joined Netanyahu in signing a statement declaring it will support “massive construction” in West Bank settlements if the party is part of the next government.
Party leader Deri, who has held numerous cabinet positions since the late 1980s, was born in Morocco and immigrated to Israel in 1968. In 2000, as interior minister, 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 2021: 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 previous coalition governments led by Netanyahu and continues to be allied with his Likud party.
Although historically it hasn’t had a clear position regarding the Palestinians, focusing mainly on religious and domestic issues, in 2021 a senior party official said it opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, declaring it’s “something which we cannot agree to in any fashion, since the Land of Israel was given to the People of Israel.”
Party leader: Ayelet Shaked
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 0
Jewish Home is a far-right religious nationalist party that strongly supports Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and is categorically opposed to Palestinian statehood or self-determination of any kind.
(1) Ayelet Shaked, Minister of the Interior (2021-), Former Minister of Justice (2015-2019)
- Shaked is notorious for her extreme, anti-democratic, and racist views towards Palestinians, African migrants, and other non-Jews. During her time in the Knesset, Shaked championed a number of discriminatory and repressive laws, including to stipulate that only “the Jewish people” are entitled to self-determination within Palestine/Israel, and to limit the power of Israel’s supreme court. She also played a prominent role in a racist and inflammatory campaign against African asylum seekers and migrants by Israeli politicians and others.
In 2014, during Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, Shaked posted an article on her Facebook page written by a former Netanyahu speechwriter calling Palestinian children “snakes,” declaring that all Palestinians are “the enemy,” and calling for the killing of Palestinian civilians. It read in part:
“This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people… 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.”
United Arab List (Ra’am)
Party leader: Mansour Abbas
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 4
- The United Arab List (also known by its Hebrew acronym, Ra’am) is a small Islamist party that became the first Arab party to formally join an Israeli coalition government after the 2021 election. The party lost much of its support over the government’s violent repression of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and bombardment of occupied and besieged Gaza in the spring of 2022, and its failure to address the concerns of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Polls conducted in May and June 2022 showed them failing to meet the threshold to win seats in the next Knesset. However, once the campaign got underway their polling numbers began to rebound.
- The United Arab List supports the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories as a part of a two-state solution.
Hadash & Ta'al (list)
Party leader: Ayman Odeh
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 5 (3 Hadash, 2 Ta’al, as part of Joint List)
Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) is a coalition of left-wing groups. Ta’al (the Arab Movement for Renewal) is also a secular left-wing party. Both represent Palestinian and non-Zionist Jewish citizens of Israel, support the dismantling of Israeli settlements, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories, and full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. Hadash and Ta’al were part of the Joint List that included the United Arab List and Balad during previous elections, which was the third largest faction in the Knesset following the March 2020 election.
In September 2022, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the extremist Jewish Power party paid for a billboard over a highway in the city of Ramat Gan featuring photos of Hadash leader Ayman Odeh, Ta’al leader Ahmad Tibi, and Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of Hadash. Underneath their photos was quote from a traditional Rosh Hashana prayer reading: “May our enemies be banished.”
(1) Ayman Odeh, Leader of the Hadash party
- A lawyer, Odeh joined the Hadash party at the age of 13, eventually becoming secretary-general followed by party leader in 2015. He also served on the Haifa Municipal Council from 1998 to 2005.
- In November 2017, Odeh was pepper-sprayed and shot in the head and back with sponge-tipped steel bullets by Israeli police while taking part in a protest against the destruction of the Palestinian 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. Prior to that, he served as a political advisor to then-Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat from 1993 to 1999.
(3) Aida Touma-Suleiman
- Touma-Suleiman, a journalist and Knesset member for Hadash, 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.
(4) Ofer Cassif
- A Jewish member of the Hadash party, and former lecturer in political science at Tel Aviv University, Cassif earned his PhD in political philosophy from the London School of Economics and did a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University.
- On April 9, 2021, Cassif was beaten by Israeli police while protesting Israel’s expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem.
- During the April 2019 election campaign, Cassif was initially disqualified 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.
Balad (National Democratic Assembly)
Party leader: Sami Abu Shehadeh
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 1 (as part of the Joint List)
Balad is a secular left-wing party that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel. It supports making Israel a state with full equality for all of its citizens, the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza), and the return of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes during and after Israel’s establishment.
During the 2015 and the September 2019 to 2021 campaigns, Balad was part of the Joint List with the Hadash and Ta’al parties but left to run alone in the 2022 campaign. In September 2022, Balad was disqualified from running by the Central Elections Committee for allegedly negating the existence of the state of Israel, however the decision was overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court. The party and several of its candidates were similarly disqualified by the elections committee in past elections with the decision eventually being overturned by the court.
Party leader: Merav Michaeli
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 7
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 in the 1970s but has been on the decline since the 1990s as Israel has moved further and further to the right.
While in theory Labor supports 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. As such, any Palestinian “state” would be divided into several non-contiguous parts, surrounded by Israeli settlements and walls.
Party leader: Zehava Gal-On
Number of Knesset seats won in 2021: 6
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.