1. Religion & Spirituality
Israel's 2003 Elections - Political Parties

Israelis cast one vote for the political party of their choice. Read a concise description of each party to decide which party best represents your views.

Arab Parties

United Arab List (Ra'am)

  • In a Nutshell - largest Arab party in the Knesset
  • Foreign Policy - supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, supports the evacuation of all settlements, supports the division of Jerusalem
  • Domestic Policy - supports the separation of religion and state, demands increased funding for Arab the Arab sector

Balad (National Democratic Assembly)

  • In a Nutshell - seeks to transform Israel from a "state of the Jews" to a "democratic state with equality for all of its citizens"
  • Foreign Policy - supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, supports the return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel
  • Domestic Policy - demands that the Israeli government recognize the rights of the Arab minority in Israel to cultural and educational autonomy

Hadash ("New")

  • In a Nutshell - Israel's Communist party, includes both Arabs and Jews
  • Foreign Policy - supports evacuation of the settlements, supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, calls for "decommissioning" Israel's nuclear capabilities
  • Domestic Policy - supports an end to ethnic discrimination, supports recognition of the Arab population in Israel as a national minority, supports the separation of religion and state

ODA (Da'am in Arabic)

  • In a Nutshell - secular Marxist party that broke away from Israel's Communist Party in 1995
  • Foreign Policy - believes the "Palestinian question will only be solved within the context of a global solution to the crises caused by capitalism."

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Left-Wing Parties

Avoda ("Labor") and Meimad

  • In a Nutshell - secular, Zionist, left-wing party led by Amram Mitzna and Shimon Peres
  • Foreign Policy - supports negotiating, without preconditions such as the cessation of terror, a two-state solution with the Palestinians and supports unilateral separation and a security fence if negotiations fail
  • Domestic Policy - aims to diminish social gaps and prioritize education, supports separation of religion and state, supports mandatory army service for all including the ultra-orthodox, supports permitting public transport on the Sabbath according to local needs, supports deferring funds from the settlements to meet the country's social and economic needs.

Meretz (an acronym for the three parties that founded it - left-wing socialist Mapam, centrist-socialist Ratz, and centrist Shinui)

  • In a nutshell - left-wing, secular, Zionist party
  • Foreign Policy - supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, the dismantling of most settlements, and a security fence along the Green Line.
  • Domestic Policy - supports complete separation of religion and politics, annulment of religious councils, commerce and public transportation on the Sabbath, civil marriage and divorce, drafting of yeshiva students, equality of all streams of Judaism (including recognition of Conservative and Reform conversion), increasing the education and welfare budgets to benefit the weakest sectors of society.

"Am Ehad" ("One People")

  • In a Nutshell - social-democratic party that views itself as the "true" Labor Party due to its concern with the well-being of workers and pensioners
  • Domestic Policy - calls for economic and social equality among all citizens and the narrowing of economic gaps in Israel.

Yisrael Aheret ("A Different Israel")

  • In a Nutshell - secular party led by a group of people in their 20s who aim at electoral reform, including replacing politicians with academics, business people, and professionals
  • Foreign Policy - supports unilateral separation from the Palestinians to ensure a Jewish majority in Israel
  • Domestic Policy - supports an end to subsidies to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and settlements

Ale Yarok ("Green Leaf")

  • In a Nutshell - center-left party that calls for legalizing marijuana and prostitution
  • Foreign Policy - supports territorial compromise with the Palestinians
  • Domestic Policy - supports the separation of religion and state, supports the elimination of the Orthodox "monopoly" of religion

Men's Rights in the Family

  • In a Nutshell - advocates strengthening a man's say in child custody battles and decisions over abortions

HaYarokim ("Green Party")

  • In a Nutshell - leftist party concerned primarily with the environment

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The Centrist Parties

Shinui ("Change")

  • In a Nutshell - secular, Zionist party that vehemently opposes the influence of the ultra-Orthodox parties and the government-supported religious establishment.
  • Foreign Policy - favors negotiations with "moderate" Palestinians after terrorism ceases, the evacuation of settlements in areas of dense Arab population, the annexation of the settlement blocs, and the construction of a security fence as a protection against terrorism.
  • Domestic Policy - aims to separate state and religion, transfer the authority of the rabbinical courts to civil courts, establish equality between the different streams of Judaism, draft yeshiva students for army service, and allow commerce on the Sabbath, as well as to end "religious coercion" and the support of religious institutions with state funds.

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Right-Wing Parties

Likud

  • In a Nutshell - secular, Zionist, right-wing party led by Ariel Sharon
  • Foreign Policy - although the party platform rules out establishing a Palestinian state, Sharon has said that he is willing to make territorial concessions for peace and willing to supports the creation of a Palestinian state
  • Domestic Policy - supports the status quo on religious matters, such as rabbinic control over marriage and divorce and army service exemptions for yeshiva students

Mafdal (Mafleget Dati Leumi - "The National Religious Party")

  • In a Nutshell - modern Orthodox, Zionist
  • Foreign Policy - opposes a Palestinian state, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, any Palestinian autonomy in the Land of Israel, the ceding of any territory to a foreign power, and the uprooting of any settlement, but supports a separation fence that would surround Palestinian population centers
  • Domestic Policy - supports the religious status quo

The National Union ("Ichud Leumi")

  • In a Nutshell - composed of three secular parties: Yisrael Beitenu ("Israel Our Home"), Moledet ("Homeland"), and Tekuma ("Rebirth").
  • Foreign Policy - adamantly opposes a Palestinian state, calls for "transfer by agreement" to resettle Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, proposes that the Israeli government require every citizen to swear loyalty to the state and its flag, national anthem, and laws.
  • Domestic Policy - embraces the Jewish character of the state but wants clear separation between religion and state and a prohibition of "coercion of the few by the many," as well as mandatory army service for all

Yisrael b'Aliyah ("Israel on the Rise")

  • In a Nutshell - led by former Soviet Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky, supported primarily by immigrants from Russia and other countries
  • Foreign Policy - supports the democratization and reform of Palestinian society
  • Domestic Policy - supports enabling communities to make their own decisions on issues of religion in the public domain, supports making Sunday a non-working day (moving to a five-day work week)

Herut ("Freedom," also called the National Jewish Movement)

  • In a Nutshell - believes that no Israeli government has the right to give up any part of the Land of Israel, even for peace
  • Foreign Policy - absolutely opposes territorial compromise or the establishment of a Palestinian state, willing to grant Palestinian Arabs limited autonomy, with security remaining in Israeli hands and media and education under Israeli supervision

Tzomet ("Crossroads," also called the Movement for Renewed Zionism)

  • In a Nutshell - a militantly secular right-wing splinter party
  • Foreign Policy - opposes the Oslo Accords and demands Israeli retention of the entire West Bank.

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Ultra-Orthodox Parties

Shas ("Sephardi Torah Guardians")

  • In a Nutshell - ultra-Orthodox party guided by former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef and representing Sephardim (Jews of Spanish, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern descent)
  • Foreign Policy - believes that no credible peace partner exists and favors strengthening the settlements, but not opposed to negotiations with the Palestinians
  • Domestic Policy - supports the expansion of religious legislation, supports tax and economic initiatives to benefit the poor and middle classes, operates many community social-welfare projects

United Torah Judaism

  • In a Nutshell - ultra-Orthodox and non-Zionist party whose primary concerns are the interests of the ultra-Orthodox community
  • Domestic Policy - supports the religious status quo, objects to any changes in the Sabbath laws, objects to legitimizing non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israel

Ahavat Yisrael ("Love of Israel")

  • In a Nutshell - ultra-Orthodox party led by Yossi Kadourie, the grandson of a renowned kabbalist (Jewish mystic).

Moreshet Avot ("Heritage of the Fathers")

  • In a Nutshell - religious far-right led by Rabbi Joseph Ba-Gad, who sat on the Knesset floor, crying and then laughing hysterically, on the night the Oslo Accords were signed
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~ Lisa Katz

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