BICOM Election Special September 2022


Aggregated Polling from 16th September

BICOM’s third 2022 election briefing examines the general situation between the pro and anti-Netanyahu blocs following each party submitting its candidate list to the Central Elections Committee.

Netanyahu succeeds in consolidating his camp

For smaller parties, passing the electoral threshold of 3.25 per cent remains an existential challenge and has been a major factor influencing party behaviour. In the April 2019 elections, the New Right party, headed by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked crashed out of the Knesset with 3.22 per cent of the vote. Another broadly pro-Netanyahu party, Zehut, received 2.74 per cent of the vote. The ‘lost’ votes cost Netanyahu a coalition and stable premiership. The dynamic created by the electoral threshold encourages mergers between smaller parties. Since the Knesset’s dispersal in June 2022, this dynamic has played out across the political spectrum. There has been pressure for parties to unite within the right wing, the centre-right, the left, and between the Arab parties.

Benjamin Netanyahu broadly accomplished mergers amongst parties that support him. Two Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox factions, Degel HaTorah and Agudat Yisrael were at odds over who should lead the list and threatened to run separately before Netanyahu stepped in. Similarly, two right wing parties, Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union and Itamar Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power also planned to run independently of each other before being invited to Netanyahu’s home in and pressured to run together. In the hours before the list closed, Netanyahu also persuaded the ‘family values’ (deeply homophobic) party Noam to join with Smotrich and Ben Gvir.

The anti-Netanyahu camp meanwhile has been less successful in promoting mergers. Benny Gantz of Blue and White and Gideon Saar of New Hope joined forces to create Hamachane Hamamlachti, literally translated as the Stately Camp but being branded in English as the National Unity Party. But despite the urging of interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the left-wing parties Labour and Meretz did not agree to merge lists. Perhaps more significantly, the Arab parties that in 2015 and September 2019 comprised the Joint List are now running in 3 separate lists. The United Arab List (UAL), the Islamist party who were part of the Lapid-Bennett government; Balad, the Palestinian nationalist party, and Hadash-Ta’al. This division, coupled with predicted low turnout within the Arab community, heightens the risk that one – if not more – Arab parties may not pass the threshold.

In light of this, the anti-Netanyahu camp now includes several parties who are polling close to the electoral threshold. These include Labour, Meretz, two Arab parties UAL and Hadash-Taal and Yisrael Beitenu. As Yossi Verter writes in Haaretz, “Two teams arrived at the field last night: One is crystalized, unified, totally tight. It has only one captain: experienced, unbridled, unrestrained, his back to the wall. He is raring for battle (his last, perhaps). Opposite, a motley collection of rival players is huddled. They are mainly one another’s rivals. They do not acknowledge the team leader. Some intentionally give him the cold shoulder. Some drag their feet. Others feel run down. And this is how they want to win.”

Haaretz, 16th September and Mekor Rishon 16th September

As the pro-Netanyahu team / army line up united, the opposing camp are divided. National Union and Jewish power, as well as two ultra-Orthodox parties re-united to run as United Torah Judaism.

Meanwhile, Labour, Meretz and the Arab parties are running separately.

Yediot Ahronot, September 19. Danger of Sinkholes! Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu, Merav Michaeli of Labour, Zehava Galon of Meretz, Mansour Abbas of UAL, Ayman Odeh of Hadash-Taal and Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home all stand close to falling below the electoral threshold (all apart from the latter are in the anti-Netanyahu camp). The cartoon also relates to a large sinkhole that appeared on a main Tel Aviv highway on the 17th September.

The collapse of the Arab Joint List

The biggest surprise before the party slates were finalised was the dissolution of the Joint List which left Palestinian nationalist party Balad running separate from Hadash and Taal (Mansour Abbas’ party Raam / UAL had always intended to run separately). The official reason given was an argument within the three parties over where a Balad candidate would rank on the Joint List. Balad blamed the split on the alleged interference of Yair Lapid (something denied by Yesh Atid).

Yet the larger ideological division lies in the extent to which the parties seek to engage with the Israeli political system. Balad has been opposed to recommending any Israeli leader of a Zionist party to the President to be Prime Minister whereas Hadash and Taal were more open to this. Ahmed Tibi declared Hadash and Taal wish to influence. “The balance between the two blocs is well-known. We come to the Knesset to influence, and in these dangerous elections the significance is critical…We will do everything to get the Arab public out to vote and to block the extreme right wing.” He added that their alliance would “decide the election and will prevent Netanyahu [from winning] 61 [seats].”

There are competing theories as to whether the split is good for Netanyahu or for Lapid. On the one hand, the split could lead to the depression of the Arab vote as well as tens of thousands of votes for Balad being discounted if they fail to pass the threshold. This would be good for Netanyahu. On the other hand, without the more reactionary Balad, the other Arab parties have a greater likelihood to endorse Lapid for Prime Minister following the election.

However, Hadash-Taal has set a high bar for endorsing a candidate. According to Odeh, his party will only recommend a candidate who will support a raft of measures, including repeal of the Nationality Law and the Kaminitz law, the latter of which is a contentious law targeting Arabs for construction violations. The candidate, he says, must also stop the demolition of houses in Israel’s south and eradicate crime and end a number of harmful economic policies. Odeh said that “There is no doubt that we do not want to see Ben Gvir and Smotrich and this whole group in power, this does not mean that we will recommend Lapid and Gantz. With their current attitude” he said, “they will not receive a recommendation.”

A key issue for all Arab parties will be voter turnout which is currently predicted to be low at around 40 per cent. Turnout has historically been higher when the Arab parties were united. For example, in 2015, September 2019 and March 2020 when the Arab parties ran under the Joint List, there was a turnout of 63.5 per cent, 59.2 per cent and 64.8 per cent; when they ran separately in March 2019 and April 2021 figures were lower – 49.2 per cent and in the low 40 per cent range.

Other important questions are whether the ‘experiment’ of the UAL joining the coalition and helping to facilitate a budget that provided 30 billion shekels (£7.67 billion) to the Arab sector will be rewarded at the polls; and whether attacks on Arab parties from the right wing will suppress voting intentions or increase them. In parallel, Netanyahu is renewing his charm offensive with the Arab public, under his moniker Abu Yair (father of Yair) emphasising his strong leadership credentials and economic competence.

In any event, Gideon Saar – Benny Gantz’s partner in The National Unity Party, has ruled out relying on Hadash-Taal arguing that their positions were extreme and sometimes even anti-Israel. “I can’t speak on behalf of Lapid, I speak on behalf of Gideon Saar and the National Unity Party…We will not agree to a government that relies on the Joint List, period.” Instead, Saar argued that “The only solution now is a broad unity government, and the only person who can form such a government is Benny Gantz.”

Yediot Ahronot, September 18, as the Joint List breaks up and its leaders (Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi of Hadash-Taal and Sami Abu Shehadeh of Balad) dejectedly walk away in different directions, both Lapid and Netanyahu celebrate. Netanyahu claims he now has 61 seats, while Lapid cheers the idea he now has a coalition.

The State of the Parties

Positions on key political and security issues by party:


Leader: Benjamin Netanyahu

Mode of Selecting List: Open primaries for Likud members

Seats won in previous elections: 30

Polling at: 33 seats

Following Benjamin Netanyahu at the top of Likud list are many of his loyalists. Yariv Levin, a trusted Netanyahu confidant, is second, followed by Eli Cohen and Yoav Galant, both former ministers who merged with Likud from Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party in 2019. Filling the next three slots are outspoken supporters of Netanyahu: David Amsalem, Amir Ohana and Yoav Kish. Meanwhile those who had challenged Netanyahu for the leadership – or were perceived to have leadership ambitions – came further down the list in the primaries. Israel Katz, the former finance minister and Yuli Edelstein, the former Knesset Speaker consistently been placed in the top five over the last two decades, but fell to 12 and 18 respectively. Netanyahu was able to place three individuals in reserved slots 14, 16 and 28. He chose two former Yamina party MKs Amichai Chikli and Idit Silman, who had helped topple the government Bennett-Lapid government. He also chose Moshe Saada, the former deputy head of the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department. Saada had made allegations against top members of the country’s legal establishment, who he claimed ignored misconduct by the then-police chief due to fears it would damage efforts to prosecute Netanyahu. Israeli NGO the Movement for Quality Government has appealed to the Central Elections Committee over Silman’s appointment, arguing it constitutes a political bribe. Meanwhile there is criticism within some Likud quarters that Saada was chosen over a female representative or a Druze or Ethiopian candidate.

Yesh Atid

Leader: Yair Lapid

Mode of Selecting List: Party leader

Seats won in previous elections: 17

Polling at: 24

The first 12 spots on Yesh Atid’s slate are the same as the previous election with three women, Orna Barbivai, Karine Elharrar and Meirav Cohen in the top 5 places. In 13th spot is Michal Shir who joined the party from Gideon Saar’s New Hope. Muslim activist Muhammad “Shoko” Elhega, who runs the party’s outreach to Arab voters is placed in 29th spot. The benefit of no primaries means Lapid can ensure that his list includes women, minorities and a regional spread

The National Unity Party

Leaders: Benny Gantz and Gideon Saar

Mode of Selecting List: Party leaders

Seats won in previous elections: 8 Blue and White, 6 New Hope

Polling at: 12

The National Unity Party’s list represents a merger of Gantz’s Blue and White party and Gideon Saar’s New Hope. Saar described the joint venture as the embodiment of the “stately right and security centre” while Gantz said the merger had the potential of extricating Israel from its ongoing political stalemate. The party is hoping that if another political stalemate occurs, the Ultra-Orthodox parties may be persuaded to leave the Netanyahu camp and support Gantz for Prime Minister. Gantz and Saar succeeded in bringing in former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, who was considered the star candidate to jump into the politics before these elections. Einsekott will be placed third on the slate (Yesh Atid had also courted Eisenkott, offering him the number two slot but he ultimately chose his former IDF colleague). The rest of the top 10 include Pnina Tamano-Shata, Yifat Shasha-Biton, Chili Tropper, Zeev Elkin, Michael Biton, Matan Kahana (formerly part of the Yamina party) and Orit Farkash-Hacohen. The merged party is currently polling at less than the sum of its parts. Blue and White had 8 seats in the previous Knesset while New Hope received six. Eisenkott has recently made comments stating the importance of Israel separating from the Palestinians. He describing politicians wishing to restore Israel’s occupation of Gaza as seeking to “create an irreversible situation, that will lead to catastrophe. “They need a reality check and lead a messianic agenda with broad support amongst various political camps.” He has also called for the country to take active policies to prevent what he termed the dangerous development of a bi-national state. It is unclear how these comments will go down with senior members of the party such as Saar and Zeev Elkin, as well as the National Unity Party’s attempts to woo votes within the moderate right-wing.

Yediot Ahronot. Former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott was considered an electoral asset and was courted by both Gantz and Lapid. Having reportedly been offered the number 2 slot on Yesh Atid’s slate, he ultimately chose Gantz’s National Unity Party where he is placed 3rd.

Religious Zionist Party

Leaders: Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir

Mode of Selecting List: National Union via primaries by members, Jewish Power via party leader

Seats won in previous elections: 6

Polling at: 12 seats

The Religious Zionist party is once again a union between the National Union, Jewish Power, and Noam. National Union and Jewish Power share 5 representatives in the first 10 slots with Avi Maoz of Noam in the 11th slot. Having all decided to run separately, the parties were encouraged to run together by Netanyahu who feared right wing votes ‘going to waste’ if any of the parties failed to cross the threshold.

For more on Ben Gvir’s rise, see the Fathom article, The Rise of Itamar Ben Gvir.

Mekor Rishon, September 9. Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Jewish Power faction within the Religious Zionist party tries to file (tone down) his fist, which is the Kach sign. Ben Gvir was formerly convicted of being part of the Kach terrorist group, however his charm offensive in the media and claims that he has moderated has brought him greater support.

United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and Shas

Leaders: Arieh Deri (Shas), Moshe Gafni (Degel HaTorah) & Yitzchak Goldeknof (Agudat Yisrael)

Mode of Selecting List: Religious Council

Seats won in the last election: 9 for Shas, 7 for UTJ

Polling at: 8 for Shas, 7 for UTJ.

UTJ’s two constituent factions, Degel Hatorah and the Hassidic Agudat Yisrael had been at odds over who would lead the party before an agreement between them was consolidated by Netanyahu. Netanyahu agreed to fund ultra-Orthodox schools in Israel regardless of whether they meet state standards and teach a core curriculum should he return to power. Degel Hatorah head Moshe Gafni, described the lack of full state funding for Ultra-Orthodox schools refusing to teach core subjects as “unwarranted discrimination…For me, it’s signed and sealed” he added, “we will not enter any coalition without this discrimination being dealt with and the salaries of teachers in Haredi schools being put on equal footing as the general school system.” This in turn may have ended the hopes of Gantz and Saar that the Ultra-Orthodox parties would join a coalition headed by Gantz in the case of political deadlock. The UTJ list is led by Yitzchak Goldknopf, an educator and political novice who was catapulted to lead the Agudat Yisrael party (in a move that angered Gafni). Following Goldknopf is Gafni of Degel HaTorah. Shas continues to be led by Ariyeh Deri and the party’s top 10 remains the same as in the previous election.


Bakehila, 8 September (an Ultra-Orthodox paper) shows the two parts of United Torah Judaism – the Chasidic and the Lithuanian components – battling over the leadership of the party. Netanyahu helped promote the sides to reunite.

Yediot Ahronot, September 13th. An Ultra-Orthodox father and son walk past a big sign, saying Netanyahu: Strong against the core subjects. The father says, ‘there’s no one like him’. It follows an agreement Netanyahu made with the ultra-Orthodox parties that their schools could receive state funding even without teaching core subjects such as English and maths. Netanyahu historically presented himself as Mr Security and strong against Israel’s enemies.

Yisrael Beitenu

Leader: Avigdor Lieberman

Mode of Selecting List: Party leader

Seats won in the last election: 7

Polling at: 5

The first seven places on the Yisrael Beitenu list are the same as the previous election apart from Sharon Nir in 4th place who replaced Eli Avidar, who has formed his own party. Nir is a retired Brigadier General in the IDF and was the first woman to be appointed to the position of commander of the National Cyber School. She also served as an advisor to the Chief of Staff on gender issues. The top candidates on the list include, Avigdor Lieberman, Oded Forer, Evgeny Sova, Sharon Nir, Yulia Malinovsky, Druze candidate Hamad Amar and Alix Kushnir.

The Labor Party and Meretz

Leaders: Merav Michaeli and Zehava Galom

Mode of Selecting List: Labour and Meretz both via primaries by party members

Seats won in the last election: 7 for Labour, 6 for Meretz

Polling at: 6 for Labour, 5 for Meretz

Merav Michaeli is followed in the Labour list by Naama Lazimi, a-36-year-old politician with limited public exposure, known as a campaigner on social issues and the cost of living. In other realistic slots are Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who represents the interests of reform and progressive Judaism and chaired the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee; Efrat Rayten, chair of the Labour and Welfare Committee in the Knesset as well as Ram Shefa and Emilie Moatti, both young politicians that were elected in 2021 for the first time with Labour. Two party veterans, ministers Omer Bar-Lev and Nachman Shai came in unrealistic slots in the party primaries. Michaeli consistently rejected suggestions by Yair Lapid to merge her list with Meretz.

Meretz Party Chairwoman Zehava Galon is followed on the list by Mossi Raz, Michal Rozin, Druze politician Ali Salalha and former Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan, who ran against Galon for the leadership. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, the former party leader is seventh in the list and is unlikely to return to the Knesset. Other current Meretz ministers, Esawi Frej and Tamar Zandberg have taken a time out from politics (none of Meretz’s current ministers – the first time the party has had ministers in the last 20 years will be in the next Knesset). Galon was more open to uniting forces with Labour but when this door was closed stated that the party would run with full confidence in the path we have chosen and with pride in the achievements Meretz has made in the framework of the government of change.


Leader: Mansour Abbas

Mode of Selecting List: Religious Council

Seats won in the last election: 4

Polling at: 4 seats

Mansour Abbas will hope that voters reward the party for his decision to support the Bennet-Lapid government. The November 2021 budget approved billions of shekels for programmes for Arab society which aimed to address healthcare, social welfare, education and high-tech, but not all of this money filtered through to residents. Ra’am / United Arab List (UAL) officials are also deeply troubled by the potential impact the splintering of the Joint List might have. Internal polling points to a certain loss of support for the UAL among former voters who have now shifted their support to Balad. Abbas is followed on the party’s list by Walid Taha, the former number 3 in the previous elections, Waleed Alhawashla, Iman Khatib-Yasin, the former number 5 who was the first hijab wearing women elected to the Knesset, and Yasser Hujirat.


Leaders: Ayman Odeh & Ahmad Tibi

Mode of Selecting List: Via electoral council

Seats won in the last election: 6 as part of the Joint List comprising Hadash, Taal and Balad

Polling at: 4

Following the dissolution of the Joint List, the slate is headed by Hadash leader Ayman Odeh followed by Taal leader Ahmed Tibi. Current Hadash MKs are Aida Touma-Sliman in third and Ofer Cassif in fourth with former Hadash MK Youssef Atauna in fifth. Tibi said that out of they had wanted to maintain the Joint List out of a sense of public responsibility, but regrettably it was not possible, adding that “Now our mission is to win the confidence of the Arab public and of the Jews who want democracy.”


Leader: Sami Abu Shehadeh

Mode of Selecting List: By committee

Seats won in the last election: 6 as part of the Joint List comprising Hadash, Taal and Balad

Polling: Under the threshold

Balad continues to blame collusion between Yesh Atid, Hadash and Taal for the dissolution of the Joint List. Balad’s first five candidates are leader Sami Abu Shehadeh, Mtanes Shehadeh, the former chairman, Doaa H’osh, Walid Kaadan and Mahasin Qais. The party is believed to currently have the support of between 20,000 – 40,000 people, far short of what it would need to reach the electoral threshold. Members of the Joint List have called on Balad to withdraw from the race if they have little chance of passing the electoral threshold. Ahmad Tibi said that while he did not mean to tell others what to do, he hoped everyone would act responsibly so as not to harm Arab representation. Tibi said he refrained from running in a past election, in 1996, because he “saw there was no chance [of passing the threshold].” Balad has made no indication that it intends to pull out of the elections.

Jewish Home

Leader: Ayelet Shaked

Mode of Selecting List: By committee

Seats won in the last election: 7 as part of Yamina

Polling: Under the threshold.

Shortly before the deadline, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of Yamina signed an agreement with the Jewish Home to run jointly in the upcoming general election. Shaked will head the list and will be followed by Givat Shmuel Mayor Yossi Brodny, who is the Jewish Home chairman. A Yamina candidate, Amitai Porat, holds the third slot on the list, and a Jewish Home candidate, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner is fourth. The fifth slot is held by former Yamina MK Yomtob Kalfon.  Shaked said she was pleased “we succeeded in rebuilding a home for the religious Zionists and the responsible right in Israel” adding that the party would “act together to form a broad and stable right-wing government.” However, Shaked’s party will likely struggle to pass the electoral threshold. The right wing has not forgiven her for joining Naftali Bennett in the ‘Government of Change’ with Yair Lapid, Mansour Abbas and others. Centrist and left-wing voters meanwhile are put off by Shaked’s right wing positions on several issues.

An exchange on Twitter between leaders of Jewish Home and the Meretz Party Headline in Maariv Newspaper:

Ayelet Shaked:“I am seeking to apologise for the fact I joined efforts to form the last government”

Zehava Galon: “So, resign then”

Ayelet Shaked: “You’re dying to get your hands on the interior ministry. It won’t happen.”

Zehava Galon: “You’re dying to get your hands on the electoral threshold. It won’t happen”