Hi Moose folks... I hope you all don't mind an informative diary on the Israeli Elections. This is in no way meant to start any kind of "Pie Fight" and it is a non-advocacy diary.
As a disclaimer... I am an American Jewish Democratic Activist (some of you know me from Daily Kos) who does a fair amount of writing on Israel (and a rational approach to the Second Amendment). Personally, (though from an outsiders view), I support the Main Israeli Opposition parties of Labor (Avodah) and The Movement (HaTanuah), so some of that may seep through, though I will try to be as non-partisan as possible... So... Here goes:
First up the largest party and current coalition heads are Likud-Yisrael Betainu (Likud = "Coalition", Yisrael Betainu = "Israel Our Home"). Currently this party (which just combined) holds 43 seats (out of 120) in the current government. Their leaders are PM Benyamin Netanyahu and Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman. Their orientation is Rightist. Economically they are very much Capitalist with similarities to the "Romney wing" of the Republican Party. During the Netanyahu administration, social services and other aspects of public life have suffered having been underfunded or auctioned off to private concerns. Last year's "J14" social protests (which "Occupy" mirrored in many respects) came as a result of these policies.
On the foreign policy front, Likud-Betainu has no clear or coherent policy. The party just took a rightward lurch in their last primaries and YESHA (Settlement Authorities) Representatives gained while the moderate wing was "exorcised". Some in Likud such as Netanyahu or Lieberman favor a modified Two State solution with Israel settling on borders that take up 50-60% of the West Bank, security zones in the Jordan River Valley and a concrete presence around Jerusalem and Hebron.
However, the Rightist wing of the party led by Moshe Feiglin and Danny Danon want nothing to do with that and are stressing that the only two State solution there is, is Israel from the Med to the Jordan, and the Palestinian State as Jordan itself.
Needless to say, the party refuses to actually articulate any kind of plan other than to blame everyone but themselves for any of Israel's problems. Even so, even though they are not particularly well liked, they are seen by the Israeli Public as being strong on defense and a party that will keep Israel safe.
The party is polling as losing 6-8 seats from their 43. Still, they will most likely be the largest party in Israel and will have the first shot at forming the new government.
The second largest party is the Opposition Labor Party (Avodah). Their leader is ex-journalist and Social Activist Shelly Yachimovich. Labor once was THE major force in Israeli politics but since then has gone downhill due to a series of corrupt and frankly incompetent leaders. In the 2009 election, Labor got on 13 seats and then further splintered into two groups and currently only hold eight seats in the Knesset. Since, Yachimovich has come in though, Avodah is back up with a projected seat total of 16-20 seats.
Their economic policy is Socialist to Social Democratic in nature. They are heavily tied to the Unions and the Social Justice movement. Their orientation is to support European style movements. Yachimovich's main achievements are mostly centered around women's and workers issues and she has been very effective in this area.
Their big failures have been two-fold. First, they have no foreign policy to speak of. They pay lip service to dealing with the Occupation, and aside from some muttering about making a deal on the 1967 borders (with swaps) really don't take much of a stand on this issue (or haven't until very, very recently). It should also be noted that when the time came, Yachimovich voted to maintain the settlement budget, though she says she would cut it at this point.
Their second problem is that they can't seem to decide who they really are. They keep running away from the "Leftist" tag and call themselves "moderates", and have really tried to distance themselves from what they call "Leftist" movements. They are trying in effect to re-brand as a Centrist Party.
Next up we have what I consider to be a truly dangerous player Habayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home). This party led by ex-Special Forces Major Naftali Bennett is a combination of the old National Religious Party (re-branded to Jewish Home) and virulent Rightist party National Union. Currently they hold 5 seats in the Knesset (they lost two to the Fascist/Kahanist Otzma Yisrael (Strong Israel) party. They are projected to emerge from this as the third largest party in the Knesset with anywhere from 13-17 seats.
Their economics are a populist mix of social capitalism with a healthy dose of religious nationalism. BUT, what they are running on is a message that they want to join in a Likud government to make sure that it indeed moves to the Hard Right.
Their foreign policy dominates their platform. In simple terms, they simply want make the Occupation permanent. They propose the following situation. They want to take 61% of the West Bank (where 100% of the Jews and 4% of the Palestinians live) and formally annex it to Israel. They would offer the Palestinians there full rights as Israeli Citizens (Bennett claims it would be 50,000 - 100,000 Palestinians). He then wants to take the rest of the West Bank and turn it into an Autonomous Palestinian area. The people in this area would have their own elected leaders, and state authorities but would still have to answer to Israel in all issues. The people in the autonomous areas would have no votes or rights as Israeli citizens.
Further their areas Bennett proposes that their areas would be connected through a series of modern high speed roads that would be only open to the Palestinians and Israeli Defense Forces (this paid for by Israel). Where he would get the money to pay for this... he does not say. BUT, this is his goal.
Rather than go any more partisan here because as I write about this, I realize how extremely stupid this plan is... I will leave it to you... dear readers to comment.
If you all would like, I can add perspectives on the next four parties: Shas (a Sephardic Religious Party led by Ariyeh Deri expected to capture 10-12 seats), Yesh Atid (A Secular Centrist party led by T.V. Personality expected to capture 8-12 seats), HaTanuah (A secular Centrist party led by former Foreign Minister and Kadima head Tzipi Livni expected to capture 8-12 seats) and United Torah Judaism (a religious Ashkenazi Party expected to take 5 to 6 seats).
Please let me know.
As a personal note, I look forward to participating at the Moose and with (what I can see) the eminently reasonable folks here.