by Keren Setton
Israelis will vote on Monday in the third consecutive general election within a year to select the country’s 23rd parliament.
Party leaders will then hold coalition negotiations in an attempt to rid the country of the elongated political dead-lock and form a government.
There are 120 seats in the Israeli parliament, or the Knesset. Recent polls show that the Likud party, led by sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has a slight advantage over its main opponent Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz.
The system in Israel mandates that a government is always a coalition of parties, and in the current state, both Gantz and Netanyahu will have difficulty forming a coalition.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has to assign the coalition building task to the party leader with the most recommendations from all the parties.
A total of 29 parties are running for seats this time around. With a threshold level of 3.25 percent of the votes, it is expected that eight or nine parties will make it to the finish-line.
Here are some of the main parties running in the race:
Led by Netanyahu for over a decade, the Likud is the biggest party in Israel’s right wing bloc. The party’s official platform is vague.
Likud members have largely embraced the recently published Trump administration’s plan aimed at solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Throughout the election campaign, Netanyahu promised that he would move to implement the parts of the U.S. plan which give Israel the right to annex the Jordan Valley and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The Israeli leader has also championed a tough stance against Iran, Israel’s archrival, his decisions in this arena have been largely received by all sides of the Israeli political map.
Netanyahu is considered a political maverick. However, two weeks after the elections, he is scheduled to make his first court appearance as a defendant. Netanyahu is facing charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust. This may be a significant impediment to his ability to form a coalition.
Blue and White
Headed by former Israeli army chief of staff Benny Gantz, Blue and White is a result of a merger between new-comer Gantz and the centrist party Yesh Atid headed by former journalist and Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
In recent escalations of violence between Israel and the Hamas-led Gaza Strip, the party did not offer different solutions from those offered by the leading Likud.
In recent days, Blue and White has lost the lead in the polls to the Likud, however, this does not mean he will not be able to lead a larger bloc and form a government. The party has vowed not to sit with Netanyahu because of his legal status.
A joint list of three parties headed by Amir Peretz, leader of the Labor party and former defense minister. The union is part of the left bloc.
The united list was formed ahead of this election in order to guarantee that the three parties cross the threshold, as there was danger that at least two of them may not even make it into the Knesset.
They advocate renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians, increasing minimum wage, and major investments in the health and education systems. Should Blue and White form a government, they are expected to join.
The Joint List
This party is expected to be the largest party representing the Arab population in Israel.
The party is led by prominent Arab-Israeli politicians Ahmed Tibi and Ayman Odeh. They vehemently oppose the Trump plan and therefore will have difficulty supporting a government led by Gantz who has voiced support for the plan.
Traditionally, Arab parties do not join coalitions and hence they usually do not recommend any party leader to the Israeli president. They broke tradition in the last election and recommended Gantz in order to topple Netanyahu.
It is not clear they will do the same this time, also because they are being shunned by Blue and White that has realized that leaning on Arab votes is not popular amongst the Jewish majority in the country.
Another joint-electoral list, the party is a hybridization of three right-wing Jewish religious parties: The Jewish Home, The National Union and the New Right. The party is headed by former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Its other leaders are Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Education Minister Rafi Peretz, and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
Shaked has vowed to continue to limit the influence of the Israeli Supreme Court. Bennet has promised tougher policy towards Hamas in the Gaza Strip, although, as current defense minister, he has not made major changes.
Shaked and Bennet are staunch opposers of a Palestinian state and support full Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Enditem