Israeli Parties Present 40 Lists for November Knesset Election

Michael Jacobs and Ken Stein

Israel on Nov. 1, 2022, is holding its fifth Knesset election since spring 2019 and its 25th since the state’s founding in 1948. Voters are facing a new mix of options at the ballot box, though the results again could make it difficult for anyone to form a governing coalition to confront issues ranging from education policy and crime to Iran and the war in Ukraine. 

A total of 40 electoral lists registered candidates for the election. Polls indicate that as many as 12 could win seats by receiving at least 3.5% of the votes cast, the threshold for representation in the 120-member parliament: Likud, Yesh Atid, Religious Zionism, National Unity, Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu, Jewish Home, Labor, Meretz, Ra’am and Hadash-Ta’al.

The new Knesset members will join more than 1,050 Israelis who have served in the parliament since the first election in 1949. 

Unlike a presidential election in the United States, where the next president usually is known within a few days, Israel could take up to six weeks to form a ruling coalition of at least 61 Knesset members, which means a new government and prime minister might not be in office until the end of December. Until the next parliament is sworn in, the existing Knesset, prime minister and Cabinet continue to hold their offices.

Among the significant updates from the past four elections are the following:

No Bennett, No Yamina

Naftali Bennett, who emerged as Israel’s 13th prime minister after the last election in March 2021, not only agreed to call new elections and step aside for Yair Lapid to become prime minister July 2, 2022, but also chose not to run for a seat in the next parliament. 

Bennett’s Yamina party, which at times has taken the identity of the New Right, has been absorbed back into the Jewish Home, whence it came, under the leadership of Bennett’s longtime ally Ayelet Shaked. It is the norm in Israeli politics for parties to join existing parties, rename themselves or simply dissolve. 

New Hope Merges With Blue and White

Benny Gantz, the head of Blue and White and the leading candidate to supplant Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister in the 2019 and 2020 elections, has merged his party with Gideon Sa’ar and his New Hope party. The new list, called National Unity in English, has Gantz on top, Sa’ar second, and Gadi Eisenkot, who, like Gantz, is a retired Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, third.

Sa’ar, a former Likud member, formed New Hope before the 2021 election as a home for anti-Netanyahu advocates on the right. Netanyahu, who remains the Likud leader and heads the opposition, is seeking a comeback to extend his record as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

3 Arab-Led Lists

The Joint List of Arab-majority parties has further fractured, preventing the Arab voter from having a unified voice in the next parliament. The first party to break from the Joint List helped form the 61-seat government coalition after the last election.

Hadash, Ra’am, Ta’al and Balad formed the four-party Joint List and won 13 seats in March 2015 and September 2019 and 15 seats in March 2020, making it the third-largest Knesset faction.

Ra’am broke from the Joint List in March 2021 and, with its four seats, gained a place in the governing coalition, the first fully independent Arab party to do so. Led by Mansour Abbas, Ra’am is again standing on its own Nov. 1.

Hadash and Ta’al are running together. Hadash leader Ayman Odeh holds the list’s top spot, and Ta’al leader Ahmad Tibi is No. 2. Hadash and Ta’al ran together in April 2019 and won six seats; in that election, Ra’am and Balad formed a separate combined list and gained four seats.

Pre-election polls suggest that Balad, which is running alone Nov. 1, will fail to pass the 3.5% voter threshold.

Most Lists Keep Leaders

The top person on each list that wins Knesset seats will meet with President Isaac Herzog after the election to recommend who should be given a chance to try to form a governing coalition. Many of them are the same as in 2021, including Lapid for Yesh Atid, Netanyahu for Likud, Merav Michaeli for Labor, Avigdor Liberman for Yisrael Beiteinu and Aryeh Deri for Shas.

On the left, Zehava Galon has come out of retirement and won the leadership of Meretz, which she headed from 2013 to 2019. She replaces Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.

On the right, the Religious Zionism Party has swapped the top two places on its list, putting the leader of Kahanist party Oztma Yehudit, Itamar Ben-Gvir, No. 1, while Bezalel Smotrich drops to second.

United Torah Judaism, traditionally the list for Ashkenazi Haredim, has a new leader in Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf. Moshe Gafni, who led the party in the 2021 election, is No. 2.

Bans and Unbans

As happens before each election, several parties and a few individual candidates faced challenges before the Central Elections Committee that they should be barred. The committee rejected most of the claims but decided to disqualify Likud candidate Amichai Chikli and party Balad.

Chikli was barred on the basis of voting in June against his party at the time, Yamina, and the government. Knesset members who formally rebel against their parties aren’t allowed to join another existing party to run in the next election.

Balad’s ban was based on the claim that it doesn’t accept Israel as a Jewish state.

As usually happens, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the bans, so Chikli and Balad are participating Nov. 1.