Hatnuah

Hatnuah (Withdrew from elections, February 2019)

Leader: Tzipi Livni
Current Seats: 5
Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: Opposition
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Supports

Tzipi Livni launched the Hatnuah party in 2012 after losing the Kadima leadership elections. The party has consistently run with Israeli-Palestinian peace as a mainstay of its political platform, unambiguously endorsing the two-state solution. In the 2015 elections, she ran a joint list with the Labor Party under the banner of the Zionist Union. Livni took over as leader of the opposition after the resignation of Labor’s Isaac Herzog, but lost the title when Labor leader Avi Gabbay dissolved the joint list in a televised address, setting the small Hatnuah party adrift.

Tzipi Livni has been searching for partners to mount a united center-left opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2019 elections.

Livni is largely alone among center-left leaders in her willingness to cede the number one spot on any joint list. While Livni once outperformed Netanyahu in terms of number of seats (finishing with 29 for Kadima in 2009), Hatnuah is now hovering at the electoral threshold. So far, Yesh Atid and Benny Gantz’s Hosen Leyisrael have eschewed alliances with Livni.

In 2009, Tzipi Livni led Kadima to win more seats than Netanyahu’s Likud. Now, her Hatnuah party is at risk of missing the electoral threshold.

As Hatnuah grew more embattled, Livni became increasingly outspoken about two states and the erosion of liberal norms in Israel, launching her 2019 campaign by describing the upcoming elections as “the battle for democracy.” However, the party continued to struggle and partnerships with other factions remained out of reach. Facing the prospect of missing the electoral threshold and “wasting” left-wing votes, Tzipi Livni withdrew from the race and announced her retirement from politics on February 18, 2019.


Meretz

Meretz

Leader: Tamar Zandberg
Current Seats: 5
Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: Opposition
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Supports

Meretz is a left-wing party launched as a joint list of three left-wing factions in 1992 and formally merged after the 1996 elections. The party has previously joined center-left and left-wing governments, and is the left-most of Israel’s Zionist political parties.

Meretz is the left-most Zionist party in Israel and is a vocal advocate for the two-state solution.

Meretz places a strong emphasis on a two-state solution. While other pro-two-state parties seek to skirt the issue of Jerusalem, or officially promise not to divide it, Meretz envisions the city as the capital of two states. Meretz was alone among Zionist parties in opposing the relocation of the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Meretz boycotted the opening of the new embassy, although party leader Tamar Zandberg clarified that Meretz would support a relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem in the context of a peace agreement.

MK Tamar Zandberg became Meretz’s leader after winning the party primary in March 2018.

Amid the tensions leading up to the breakup of the Zionist Union, speculation surfaced that several Labor MKs would jump ship and join Meretz.


Labor

Labor Party

Leader: Avi Gabbay
Current Seats: 19
Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: Opposition
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Supports

The Labor Party is currently Israel’s biggest center-left party. After Israel’s founding, the party and its predecessors governed Israel uninterrupted for almost thirty years. However, Labor has not held the premiership in almost two decades, when Ehud Barak led the government (1999-2001).

Labor ran a joint list, the Zionist Union, with Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah in 2015. On January 1, Labor head Avi Gabbay dissolved the union.

The Labor Party emerged from a series of socialist and social-democratic parties, although its leftist economic bent has been subdued in recent decades. Under Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, the party launched the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians, and Ehud Barak became the first Israeli prime minister to formally support a two-state solution. As Israeli public confidence in a final status agreement wanes, the party has downplayed the issue of two states, with some Labor members expressing doubts about the timeline for the creation of an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza.

Avi Gabbay left the government and the Kulanu party in 2016. He switched to Labor and secured the party chairmanship in 2017. Now his future is uncertain.

In the 2015 election, Labor organized a joint list, the Zionist Union, with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah, winning 24 seats and becoming the second-largest faction in the Knesset. Labor’s current leader, Avi Gabbay (elected 2017) had a less convivial relationship with Livni than his predecessor, Isaac Herzog. In early January, Gabbay dissolved the Zionist Union, dismissing Livni and Hatnuah in a televised press conference in early January. The move has proven controversial among Labor members, who have seen their poll numbers drop under Gabbay. Many view his treatment of Livni as unceremonious and crass, and it is speculated that Gabbay could be deposed in Labor’s February primaries.

Since the breakup with Livni, Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich has served as leader of the opposition.