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2nd Middle East Waste and Environmental

Management Congress - Dead Sea
17-19 February, 2009


أخبار الشرق الأوسط الاقتصادية - Middle East Regional Economic News - 共發現
Israel to Hold New Elections
FM Livni unable to build coalition, elections likely be held in February

Experts for comment

Israeli Political Parties

Past Press Release: Israeli Prime Minister Olmert Resigns

Past Press Release: Livni Wins Kadima Party Primary

Watch US campaign forum online on Israel/Iran with Sen. Alfonse D’Amato representing Sen. McCain and Rep. Jerrold Nadler representing Sen. Obama, Oct. 16, 2008. Watch the forum here

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni informed President Shimon Peres today (Sun.) that she has been unable to form a coalition that would enable her to become Israel’s next prime minister. As a result, Israel likely will hold general elections in February to determine its next leader.

Upon her election as chairwoman of the ruling Kadima party Sept. 17 in the party’s primaries, Livni – who is also vice prime minister – began working to form a coalition government. But today, after more than five weeks of negotiations, she conceded that there was no possibility of doing so.

Livni had been counting on the religious Shas party, which holds 12 seats in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and is Israel’s, to join her coalition but she balked at the party’s demands not to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority over the status of Jerusalem.

Shas’ non-negotiable stance could impact the future of a two-state solution and jeopardize future negotiations. Shas also insisted on a 1.5 billion shekel ($394 million) increase for child allowances but Livni was only prepared to offer 400 million shekel ($105 million), saying, “There are some things the State cannot be sold for.”  Shas’ voter constituency includes large families and religious seminary students who depend on the government for significant financial subsidies for school and living expenses.

As Kadima’s newly elected chairwoman, Livni had 42 days to form a coalition and technically, she still has until Nov. 3 to do so. But without the support of Shas and United Torah Judaism, another religious party which currently holds six seats, she cannot amass enough seats in the Knesset for a coalition that comprises centrist and left-of-center parties.

Peres now has until Tuesday night to review the situation and inform the Knesset speaker of Livni’s inability to form a government, after which any of the 120 members of the Knesset will have three weeks to try to form a coalition. Israeli law requires a minimum of 61 members to form a coalition.

If a government is not formed within three weeks after Livni announces that she was unable to form a coalition, Peres will call for general elections, which are expected take place Feb. 17. Current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will remain in office until a new coalition is formed following the new 2009 parliamentary elections.

Olmert resigned his post Sept. 21 due to ongoing corruption investigations into some of his activities when he held ministerial positions in previous Israeli governments, rendering his cabinet an interim government.  


1. Ravid, Barak, “Livni: Olmert must fulfill his promise to quit after primary,” Haaretz, Sept. 20, 2008,

2. Mualem, Mazal, “Shas hardens line after Kadima, Labor sign coalition deal,” Haaretz, Oct. 15, 2008,

3. Somfalvi, Attila, “Some things cannot be granted, says Livni,” YnetNews, Oct. 26, 2008,,7340,L-3612985,00.html

4. Ettinger, Yair, “Shas leaders think Livni can't give them what they want,” Haaretz, Oct. 20, 2008,

5. Ilan, Shahar, “When are elections and what can be expected in the Knesset until then?” Haaretz, Oct. 26, 2008,

6. Mualem, Mazal, Ilan, Shahar, Ravid, Barak “Olmert to hand Peres his resignation Sun. evening,” Haaretz, Sept. 21, 2008,

Israeli Political Parties in the 17th Knesset 

About 10 to 15 parties, representing dramatically diverse political views, have been elected to every Knesset (Israeli parliament).  Following are the political parties with seats in the 17th Knesset  (elected March 28, 2006):

Political Parties (in alphabetical order) 


Hadash is the Hebrew word for ”new” as well as the Hebrew acronym for ‘The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality.’ It is a left-wing party with roots in Israel's anti-Zionist Communist Party and defines itself as a “Jewish-Arab party.” The main points of Hadash's platform include an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders; establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel; the separation of religion and state; the full realization of rights for Israel’s Arab citizens; a Palestinian "right of return" to Israeli territory; encouraging Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and lobbying for workers’ rights. Hadash has a predominantly Arab electorate.

Members of Knesset: Mohammad Barakeh, Dov Khenin, Hanna Swaid

Justice for the Elderly 

Justice for the Elderly is a splinter group of the Pensioners party. In April 2008, Pensioners’ Member of Knesset (MK) Moshe Sharoni requested a faction meeting to discuss advancing the issues of the elderly with the Olmert-led government. When Pensioner member and Chairman for the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Itshac Galantee refused, Sharoni and fellow party MKs Elhanan Glazer and Sara Marom-Shalev resigned from the Pensioners Party and formed a new party, Justice for the Elderly. A Knesset committee eventually approved the party.  Justice for the Elderly members claim to have split from their previous party in order to focus more on senior citizen issues, feeling that the Pensioners Party was no longer driving the seniors’ political agenda.

Members of Knesset: Elhanan Glazer, Sara Marom-Shalev, Moshe Sharoni  


A Hebrew word meaning “forward,” was formed in 2005 by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a centrist bloc with a mission of unilaterally disengaging from the Gaza Strip. Sharon suffered a brain hemorrhage on Jan. 4, 2006.   Ehud Olmert, deputy prime minister at the time, led the party to victory in 2006. Under Olmert, now prime minister, Kadima became the largest party in the Knesset.  Kadima espouses the historic right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Kadima also believes that in order for democracy to prevail in the Jewish state, there must be a Jewish majority within Israeli sovereign territory.. Thus, territorial concessions are a necessity in the pursuit of democracy. A Palestinian state with good relations with Israel is a prime objective of the party. A peace agreement will have a permanent boundary with neighboring states, while leaving Jerusalem as the eternal, united capital of Israel.  

Members of Knesset: Eli Aflalo, Ruhama Avraham, Balila, Ronnie Bar-On, Isaac Ben-Israel, Menahem Ben-Sasson, Ze`ev Boim, Abraham Dicter, Amira Dotan, Jacob Edery, Zeev Elkin, Gideon Ezra, Tzachi Hanegbi, Yoel Hasson, Shai Hermesh, Abraham Hirchson  Dalia Itzik,Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Shlomo (Neguse) Molla, Michael Nudelman  Ehud Olmert, Yohanan Plesner, Haim Ramon, Otniel Schneller, Meir Sheetrit, Marina Solodkin, David Tal, Ronit Tirosh, Majalli Whbee


The center-left party has been one of Israel's two dominant blocs (along with Likud) since the founding of the state in 1948. Labor leaders tend to support negotiating with Palestinians and dismantling most Israeli settlements in the West Bank in exchange for peace. The Labor platform emphasizes liberal social and economic policies and a strong defense. In 2005, Labor joined the Likud coalition to implement Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. In 2006 it became Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s most important coalition partner.  In 2007, some Labor party members advocated direct talks with Hamas in order to negotiate a halt to the group’s rocket and mortar barrages on the southern region of Israel bordering the Gaza strip. Today the party is center-left in the Israeli political spectrum. Defense Minister Ehud Barak won the party’s 2007 primaries with 51 percent of the vote. Labor is the second largest party in the Knesset, with 19 of the 120 seats and is part of the current coalition government.

Members of Knesset: Colette Avital, Ami Ayalon, Binyamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer, Avishay Braverman, Eitan Cabel, Isaac Herzog, Nadia Hilou, Leon Litinetsky, Raleb Majadele, Yoram Marciano,  Michael Melchior, Orit Noked, Amir Peretz, Ophir Pines-Paz, Shachiv Shnaan, Shalom Simhon, Yuli Tamir, Matan Vilnai, Shelly Yacimovich


Likud, a Hebrew word meaning “consolidation,” is Israel’s major conservative party and the number one opposition party in the current government. Its leaders tend to support Israeli settlements and reject proposals to divide Jerusalem. Like its political rivals, Likud seeks peace agreements with Israel’s neighbors, conditioned on reciprocal efforts to stop terrorist activities within Israel’s borders. The party also advocates a pro-capitalist, free-market economy.  

Members of Knesset: Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Michael Eitan, Gilad Erdan, Moshe Kahlon, Haim Katz, Yisrael Katz, Limor Livnat, Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuven Rivlin, Gideon Sa`ar, Silvan Shalom, Yuval Steinitz


Meretz-Yachad, Hebrew for “vitality-together,” is a left-wing alliance that supports a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution as outlined in the Geneva Accord. The party is also concerned with human rights issues, minority rights, women’s rights, social justice and environmentalism. Meretz-Yachad is closely associated with Peace Now, a left-wing, non-governmental organization.  Domestically, the party views the integration of Israeli-Arabs as an integral goal. Meretz is a supporter of a variety of projects to promote this goal, such as the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development (CJAED) and the Givat Haviva Institute.  

In the 17th Knesset, in 2006, Meretz-Yachad attained 5 seats. The party is currently opposed to the Olmert-led government. Recently, it aligned with the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party in votes of no confidence against the government.  In the coming elections, the two parties could form a left-wing coalition with Kadima, Pensioners and Labor.  

Members of Knesset: Yossi Beilin, Ran Cohen, Zahava Gal-On, Chaim Oron, Avshalom Vilan

National Democratic Party (Balad)

Balad is the Hebrew acronym for ‘National Democratic Party,’ and was established in 1996. Balad advocates that Israel should not be a Jewish state, but rather a democratic, secular state. The party favors Israel's withdrawal from all remaining Palestinian territories and a two-state solution, in which a non-Jewish state with Arab and Jewish residents exists alongside a Palestinian state.  Balad demands that the Israeli government grant Arabs full autonomy in such areas as culture and education.  

In 2006, Balad Chairman Azmi Bishara led his party to the Knesset, winning three seats. However, in the Second Lebanon War, Bishara came under suspicion for treason and aiding Iran-backed Hezbollah. Shin Bet wiretappings suggested the Knesset member was in contact with Hezbollah agents.  Following the accusations and interrogations, Bishara left the country and resigned from his position in the Knesset. He is still wanted in Israel for questioning.  

Members of Knesset: Said Naffaa, Wasil Taha, Jamal Zahalka

National Union/National Religious Party (NPR)

Ha'ichud Ha'leumi, which translates from Hebrew to ‘The National Union,’ is a right-wing coalition of two small, nationalist parties. In the 2006 elections, the National Union Party ran on a joint list with the National Religious Party after the Yisrael Beiteinu Party split from its previous coalition with the National Union Party in 2005 to run separately in the upcoming elections.  To compensate for the loss, the NPR joined the National Union on a joint ticket and acquired nine seats in 2006.  Its platform emphasizes maintaining a strong Jewish national identity, extending Israeli sovereignty over disputed territories and rejecting the concept of a Palestinian state.  

Rehavam Ze’evi formed the National Union in 1999 through a merger of several smaller right-wing parties. The party joined and quit then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2001 government. Palestinian terrorists later assassinated Chairman Ze’evi.

Members of Knesset: Uri Yehuda Ariel, Effie Eitam, Arieh Eldad, Benyamin Elon, Eliahu Gabbay, Zvi Hendel, Yitzhak Levy, Zevulun Orlev, Nissan Slomiansky  

Pensioners of Israel 

Founded in 2006,  the Pensioners’ party or Gil (“age” in Hebrew) began its surprising ascent to political power with its unexpected success in the Tel Aviv municipal elections of 2003.  In the national 2006 elections, the Pensioners surpassed predictions by winning seven seats in the Knesset in its first-ever parliamentary race.  The party received significant support from Israeli youth who supported it as a protest against parties marred by political scandals and corruption.    Chairing the Pensioners’ Party is ex-Mossad chief Rafi Eitan, the architect behind the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann.  The Pensioners’ party runs on a single platform that calls for increasing pension benefits for the 750,000 residential retirees that receive pensions in Israel.  Central goals include improving medical care for the elderly, guaranteed pension, and subsidized public housing.  

In April 2008, dissidents in the faction split into a separate party, Justice for the Elderly. This new party took three mandates from the Pensioners (see above).

Members of Knesset: Rafi Eitan, Yakov Ben Yizri, Itshac Galentee, Izhak Ziv  


Shas, an acronym for ‘Sephardic Guardians of the Torah,’ represents primarily ultra-Orthodox Jews who immigrated to Israel from other Middle Eastern countries and North Africa. In the 2006 elections, Shas tied with Likud for the third-highest number of seats in the Knesset, an unprecedented occurrence. Shas has a socially conservative agenda, while also supporting generous welfare payments, especially for religious seminary students. Its policy toward Palestinian Arabs has been relatively flexible. Shas often holds the balance of power among the major parliamentary blocs, enabling it to maximize its influence.  

Chairman Eli Yishai has led the party since 1999 and served as a deputy prime minister and interior minister in the government of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.    Currently Yishai is the minister of industry, trade, and labor.  The party also holds another three cabinet positions. Seeking a stable Knesset majority, Prime Minister Olmert invited Shas to join the government in May 2006. Shas signed into the coalition despite its disagreement with Olmert’s border plans.  

Members of Knesset: Chaim Amsellem, Ariel Atias, David Azoulay, Mazor Bahyna, Amnon Cohen, Yitzhak Cohen, Yakov Margi, Avraham Michaeli, Meshulam Nahari, Yitzhak Vaknin, Eliyahu Yishai, Nissim Zeev  

United Arab List-Arab Renewal (Ra’am-Ta’al)

Ra’am-Ta’al, the Hebrew acronym for ‘United Arab List- Arab Movement for Renewal,’ is the largest Arab party in the Knesset and endorses an end to what it considers the Israeli occupation of the territories. It supports the creation of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The party calls for dismantling all Israeli settlements, including those in the Golan Heights and along Israel’s border with Lebanon (land it contends belongs to Lebanon).  

The party supports the separation of religion and state, the “right of return” within Israeli borders for Palestinian refugees, and the dismantling of all nuclear weapons in the world, in particular Israel.  Ra’am-Ta’al calls for the recognition of Israeli Arabs as a national minority and believes that Arabs should not be recruited to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.  Ra'am-Ta’al believes that Israel should give Islamic religious courts greater freedom in performing judicial duties, especially among the Israeli-Arab Shi’ite communities. In addition, the movement calls for an increase in the budget for subsidizing all holy places belonging to the Muslims, Christians and Druze.   The party enjoys particular popularity among the Bedouin population.  

Members of Knesset: Talab El-Sana, Ibrahim Sarsur, Ahmad Tibi, Abas Zkoor  

United Torah Judaism 

United Torah Judaism (also known in Hebrew as ‘Yahadut HaTorah Hameukhedet’) is an alliance of two small, ultra-Orthodox political parties. It represents the growing ultra-Orthodox community.  It opposes the separation of religion and state, drafting young ultra-Orthodox men into the military and any change in the nation’s laws that prohibiting most businesses from opening on Saturdays and holidays. The party has been highly successful in securing financial aid for the ultra-Orthodox community, including government stipends for large families.  

Members of Knesset: Moshe Gafni, Shmuel Halpert, Yakov Litzman, Uri Maklev, Meir Porush, Avraham Ravitz

Yisrael Beiteinu 

Yisrael Beiteinu, which translates from Hebrew to ‘Israel Our Home’ is a right-wing party established in 1999 by Avigdor Lieberman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. The party became the fifth-largest parliamentary faction following the 2006 general elections, with more than half of Israel’s Russian immigrants voting for it.   The party’s two core principles include encouraging socio-economic opportunities for new immigrants and taking a hard line in negotiations with the Palestinians and with Arab states.  

Lieberman was minister of strategic affairs until Yisrael Beiteinu withdrew from the coalition government in January 2008, in protest of developing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.  

Members of Knesset: Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel Hasson, Robert Ilatov, Sofa Landver, Avigdor Liberman, Alex Miller, Stas Misezhnikov, David Rotem, Yosef Shagal, Lia Shemtov, Esterina Tartman  



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