Behind the Headlines Profile of Israeli Parties

Some political observers consider the abundance of active politic parties in Israel to be a hindrance to the democratic process. Others, however, regard it as an example of democracy at work since virtually no segment of the electorate is unrepresented. Substantial numbers of voters will cast ballots for the smaller factions on May 17. Some of those factions exert an influence in Israeli politics for out of proportion to their size. The following is a resume of their programs and platforms.

THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY (NRP)

This is the largest of the religious parties and although it has never polled more than 15 percent of the vote, it has served as a coalition partner – - sometimes willingly, sometimes reluctantly – - in every Labor-led government in the past.

The NRP was ousted from the coalition late last year by Premier Yitzhak Rabin after it indicated that it would vote no-confidence in the government on the issue of Sabbath violation when official ceremonies on the arrival of three F-15 fighter planes purchased in the U.S. extended beyond sundown on a Friday.

The NRP has not completed its platform. But party spokesmen say there will be no major deviations from past platforms. The NRP program has always been to link the State of Israel with Torah and it strives for legislation that it considers to be in “the Torah spirit.” The party will work to perpetuate the status of the Chief Rabbinate as the supreme religious authority in Israel. This has always meant the exclusion of the Conservative and Reform branches of Judaism.

The NRP also demands religious education for the entire school population. Up to now it has been confined to the religious-oriented schools or yeshivas.

HARD LINE IN FOREIGN POLICY

The NRP takes a hard line in foreign policy. It rejects any peace plan that would consider territorial concessions in what it calls “historic Eretz Yisrael” meaning within the boundaries of the Biblical Kingdom of Judea. It supports settlement attempts, legal or illegal, on the West Bank which it claims belongs to Israel by Divine right.

The NRP draws its support from moderate religious circles in the cities, the religious kibbutz movement and the Gush Emunim, the illegal settlers movement. Moderate in this can text defines the difference between the NRP and the smaller ultra-Orthodox factions. The NRP has 10 seats in the outgoing Knesset.

The party list is headed by Dr. Yosef Burg; Rabbi Haim Druckmann; Zevulun Hammer; Aharon Abu Hatzera; Avraham Melamed; and Yehuda Ben-Meir. The list indicates a strengthening of the NRP’s militant nationalist wing headed by Hammer and Ben-Meir which recently succeeded in ousting long-time party leader Yitzhak Raphael who was considered a moderate.

INDEPENDENT LIBERAL PARTY (ILP)

This party was formed as a break-away movement of the Liberal Party. It is centrist in domestic and foreign policy and has been traditionally a coalition partner though it has only four seats in the outgoing Knesset.

Its platform calls for a final settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict with no intermediate interim agreements. It seeks a solution of the Palestinian problem within the framework of a Jordanian-Palestinian state but would approve Jewish settlement on both sides of the “green line” if authorized by the government.

WIDE-RANGING PROGRAM

The ILP proposes a five-year plan to fight poverty and the affirmation of every citizen’s right to housing by law. It wants a national pension program, restraint in government spending, income tax reform and a simplification of the tax system. It also demands compulsory arbitration of labor disputes, an issue that caused it to break with the Labor Party. Late last year, the ILP ministers resigned from the coalition Cabinet but the Supreme Court held their resignations void because they became effective only after the Rabin government was designated a caretaker regime.

The ILP calls for a written constitution, freedom of religious practice by all trends in Judaism and weakening of the Orthodox rabbinate’s control over family matters. It is supported by the upper middle class and has strong backing among emigres from Rumania. The party list is headed by Gideon Hausner; Avraham Hasson; Nussim Eliad; and Zvi Nir. But Moshe Kol, Minister of Tourism, who is not running for re-election to the Knesset, is the acknowledged leader of the party.

NEW COMMUNIST PARTY

This party of the radical left was formed in 1965 after a split with the older Communist Party and has four seats in the outgoing Knesset. On May 17, it will run as the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. It embraces elements of the Black Panthers, a faction of slum-dwellers of Oriental origin.

The New Communist platform demands Israel’s total withdrawal from occupied Arab territories to the June 4, 1967 lines; protection of the rights of workers; an end to discrimination and oppression of Israel’s Arab population; abolition of the social gap in Israel’s society; defense and expansion of democratic rights; equal rights for women. The party list is headed by Meir Wilner; Tawfik Toubi (Arab) and Charlie Biton (Black Panther). It draws support mainly from Israeli Arabs but its list represents an attempt to balance Jewish and Arab candidates.

CITIZENS RIGHTS PARTY

This small, vigorously secular party was founded in 1973 by former Labor MK Shulamit Aloni and has three seats in the outgoing Knesset. Its platform stresses the fight for the rights of women, Arabs and the Oriental Jewish community. If stresses legislation to ensure individual rights and recognizes the right of Palestinians to self-determination. It wants Israel to initiate a peace plan and would promote Arab leadership in the occupied territories.

The main supportive element is the intelligentsia. The party’s list is headed by Aloni; Boaz Moav; Yehudit Buber Agassi; Rabbi Haim Skirvel; and Nuri Al Ukbi; a Bedouin.

MAHANE SHELI

This new faction represents a merger of the leftist Moked which has one seat in the outgoing Knesset with the Independent Socialist Movement founded by former Laborite Arye Eliav which has two seats. It also embraces a splinter

Support comes mainly from left-wing Zionists, including some elements in Mapam, the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz movement, students and young faculty members. This list is headed by Eliav; Meir Payil (Moked); Avneri; Saadya Marciano (Black Panthers); and Walid Haj Yihye (Arab). (Tomorrow: Part Three).

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