Kulanu

Kulanu

Leader: Moshe Kahlon
Current Seats: 10
Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: Government
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Unclear

Kulanu is a center-right political party launched by Moshe Kahlon, a former Likudnik, for the 2015 elections.

Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon has expressed his personal support for two states, but his party lacks an official platform on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kulanu prioritized economic issues during its election campaign, including improving the standard of living, while remaining vague on foreign policy topics. The official party platform lacks a position on security issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Moshe Kahlon has indicated his personal support for a two-state solution. Previously, Kahlon indicated his belief in a demilitarized Palestinian state as envisioned under Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan speech and criticized the prime minister for walking back on those remarks.

MK Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party primarily focuses on socio-economic issues.


United Arab List-Balad

United Arab List-Balad

Leader: Masud Ghnaim (United Arab List) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad)
Current Seats: 7
Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: Opposition
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Opposes

The United Arab List is a conservative Islamist party and Balad is a pan-Arab nationalist party. The two factions previously ran in the predominantly Palestinian Joint List in 2015. After the departure of Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al party, the list failed to reunify.

Balad is a pan-Arab nationalist party, while the United Arab List represents conservative Islamists.

The Joint List had been plagued by ideological clashes from the outset. In the run-up to the last election, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh sought to pre-empt concerns among left-wing Hadash voters that uniting with religiously conservative United Arab List factions might undermine his party’s support for progressive positions like gender equality. Officially, the Joint List supported a two-state solution, but Balad rejects the legitimacy of Israel and instead favors a unitary democratic state.

Balad rejects Israel’s legitimacy and a two-state solution, instead favoring a single democratic state.

After the 2015 elections, the Joint List was the third-largest faction in the Knesset, with 13 seats. The united entity featured complicated rotation mechanisms to balance the representation of the Joint List’s member parties. However, the resignation of several members (including one convicted of smuggling cell phones to terrorists) have impeded this rotation process. In early January, Ta’al leader Ahmad Tibi withdrew his party from the Joint List, though he was later rejoined by Hadash. Just days before the deadline to submit party lists, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pushed for the Palestinian-Israeli factions to reunite.


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.


Likud

The Likud

Leader: Benjamin Netanyahu

Current Seats: 30

Government/Opposition in Last Knesset: Government
Supports/Opposes Two-State Solution: Opposes

Likud is Israel’s largest right-wing party. In 1977, under Menachem Begin’s leadership, the party broke the three-decade electoral monopoly of the Labor Party and its antecedents. Since then, it has been a dominant force in Israeli politics, returning to lead the government under prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon.

Last year, the Likud Central Committee overwhelmingly voted to endorse de facto annexation of West Bank Area C.

December 2017

The party was formed as a union of several smaller right-wing factions. The party’s primary philosophy includes a more hardline approach toward territorial concessions for the Palestinians and a commitment to economic liberalism (the latter tenet has mattered less as an ideological determinant since the privatization of Israel’s economy). While Benjamin Netanyahu has offered tepid endorsement of a two-state solution (which he has since partially walked back), the party officially opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. Last year, the Likud Central Committee overwhelmingly voted to endorse de facto annexation of West Bank Area C.

Should Benjamin Netanyahu win this election, he will almost certainly surpass David Ben-Gurion’s records as Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister.

Because Likud is a large party, some members hold conflicting views on different policy platforms. Dissident factions have previously split off from the party, including Herut-National Movement (not to be confused with Menachem Begin’s Herut), which left in protest over Benjamin Netanyahu’s withdrawal from certain West Bank territories under the 1998 Wye River Memorandum. The disengagement from Gaza under Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon divided the party, leading Sharon to launch a new centrist faction, Kadima. In the 2019 primaries, a number of candidates opposed by Netanyahu, including Gideon Sa’ar, performed well, suggesting Netanyahu’s hold on the party is not ironclad.

WATCH: Likud Lawmakers Before Central Committee Vote on Annexation