The Israeli Elections: the Parties of the Right
Menu JTA Search

The Israeli Elections: the Parties of the Right

Download PDF for this date

Part 3 Of A Series

The Israeli election on Nov. 1 is best understood as a battle between opposing ideological groups, rather than a contest between the two largest parties, Labor and Likud.

This is because neither Labor nor Likud stands the remotest chance of winning by itself the minimum governing majority of 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

They have never done it before. Each, in fact, would be delightedto win as many as 45 seats.

This means that whichever party emerges with the larger number of seats will have to seek support from the smaller parties, if it is to cobble together a coalition government — or prevent its rival from doing so.

By all counts, 15 of the 27 parties running in the elections have a good chance of winning at least one seat in the 12th Knesset. They fall roughly into three categories: parties of the right, parties of the left and religious parties. First, the parties of the right:

LIKUD. The Likud was originally founded as Gahal in the mid-1960s as an alignment of the rightist Herut Party, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Liberal Party, which broadly represented a middle-class, anti-socialist constituency.

The Liberals had evolved in pre-state Jewish Palestine and in the Zionist movement abroad, where they were known as the General Zionists.

Subsequently, other smaller groups drifted into or broke away from the Likud orbit. The tiny Ometz faction of former Finance Minster Yigael Hurvitz has lately cast off its alliance with Labor and fallen into Likud’s embrace.

The Likud leader in this election is Premier Yitzhak Shamir, 73, who in the pre-state era headed the Lehi underground that fought the British in the last years of the Mandate.

Shamir is also a former ranking member of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, and a one-time speaker of the Knesset. He joined Begin’s second administration as foreign minister in 1981 and succeeded Begin as premier in 1983.

Other key Likud figures are Deputy Premier David Levy, who is also minister of housing; Ariel Sharon, the minister of commerce and industry; Moshe Arens, a minister without portfolio; and Moshe Nissim, the finance minister.

Except for Nissim, a Liberal, all belong to the party’s Herut wing. Sharon and Arens are both former defense ministers, and Arens also served as ambassador to the United States.

Likud’s policy on the key election issue of the administered territories is founded on the Camp David five-year interim autonomy plan.

Begin, who signed the Camp David accords, interpreted autonomy to apply to the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but not to the territory itself.

Likud leaders clearly intimate they would like to see such an arrangement continue indefinitely. The party is committed not to cede sovereignty over any of the territories.

Being committed to Camp David, Likud does not officially advocate annexation of any or all of the territories. But some of its leaders, Sharon among them, press for that approach.

So do some of the right-wing parties with which Likud may have to form a post-election coalition.

Likud vehemently rejects Labor’s attempts to depict it as a war party, or at best anti-peace. Party members argue that it was Likud that made peace with Egypt, and not by accident.

Their point is that in order to make peace with the Arabs, Israel must deal from a position of strength.

Some Likud figures even compare Shamir to the late President Charles de Gaulle of France, who, coming out of the right wing, made the historic decision to pull France out of Algeria.

They hasten to add that theanalogy applies only to the perception of the leader’s strength and his ability to maneuver domestically, not to withdrawal as an instrument of policy. After all, de Gaulle gave Algeria independence.

TEHIYA. This is an ultranationalist party that broke away from Likud over the Camp David accords and the return of all of Sinai to Egypt.

The party leader is Professor Yuval Ne’eman, a Tel Aviv University physicist of world renown who over the years has played a key role in the development of Israel’s science-based industries.

Other key party figures are Geula Cohen, Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Gershon Shafat and Elyakim Haetzni.

Waldman and Shafat are leaders of the Orthodox Gush Emunim settlement movement. Haetzni, a lawyer and publicist, is an extreme right-winger from Kiryat Arba, the Gush Emunim stronghold adjacent to Hebron.

Tehiya’s constituency is heavily based on the settlers in the West Bank. But clearly it has broader support. The opinion polls consistently predict it will enlarge on its current four seats in the Knesset. According to the polls, it is especially strong among young voters.

Its campaign message has been tougher repression of the Palestinian uprising. It calls for the wholesale deportation of Arab stone-throwers and troublemakers. It would annex the territories.

Tehiya demands a massive settlement drive to increase the Jewish population in the territories. But it does not call for the transfer out of Palestinians who are not considered political or security risks.

Tehiya claims it would provide the rigid ideological backbone of a Likud-led rightist government.

MOLEDET. This is a new party led by a controversial reserve general, Rehavim Zeevi. It explicitly calls for the transfer of the Arab populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to surrounding countries, but negotiated rather than forced.

Its credentials have been challenged by the left-liberal parties on grounds that it is racist. But the Central Election Committee upheld the party’s right to run.

The challenge was based on a 1984 amendment to the Basic Law, which bars racist and anti-democratic parties from the Knesset. It was successful in the case of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party.

TSOMET. This is a Tehiya breakaway, headed by another reserve general, Rafael Eitan, a former chief of staff. It does not urge the transfer of Arabs, but demands a much tougher approach to the Palestinian uprising.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund