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Parties submit their lists for March election

What happened: Last night the deadline passed for parties to submit their lists ahead of the upcoming election.

  • Just before the deadline, the Jewish Home decided not to run in the elections but to support Yamina. Jewish Home leader Hagit Moshe made an agreement with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett that if they join the government, she will be appointed a minister.
  • The Likud list includes several personal appointees of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Author Galit Distel was placed on the 10th slot, Gesher MK Orly Levy Abekasis number 26 and MK Ofir Sofer at number 28. Netanyahu also reserved a slot for an Israeli-Arab Muslim, Nael Zoabi, who was given 39th place. 
  • On the centre-left, Ron Huldai withdrew his Israelis Party and will instead remain mayor of Tel Aviv. Former number two in Yesh Atid and leader of Momentum, Ofer Shelach also withdrew. However, Yaron Zelekha, leader of the New Economic Party, which does not cross the electoral threshold in the polls, submitted his list to run in the election.
  • Despite the collapse of his party, Benny Gantz announced that Blue and White would also stand independently and committed that he would “run to the end”.
  • The Joint List submitted their list comprising of the Hadash, Balad and Tal, but the United Arab List, led by Mansour Abbas, will run separately.
  • The United Torah Judaism (UTJ) Party will be led by MK Moshe Gafni, from the Degel Hatorah Lithuanian faction. He swapped places with Yaakov Litzman, from the Hasidic Agudat Hatorah, who will be his number two.

Context: Overall 39 parties submitted lists, however, due to the threshold of 3.25 per cent, the equivalent of four seats, only around a third are expected to be election to the Knesset.

  • Prime Minister Netanyahu was pushing for a united list of far right-wing parties that would support his bid to form the next government. He was successful in uniting Jewish Power and the Religious Zionists, but unable to convince Jewish Home to join them.
  • As part of the incentive, Netanyahu gave MK Ofir Sofer, from the Religious Zionist Party, a realistic slot on the Likud’s list. After the elections, he will quit the Likud and return to his original party.
  • Netanyahu’s addition of a Muslim candidate, for the first time, is part of his efforts to win support among Israeli-Arabs.
  • This will be the first time the Jewish Home, or its predecessor, the National Religious Party, will not run in an election since the foundation of the state.
  • Both Huldai and Shelach had hoped to merge with the Labor Party. However, the party, reinvigorated after electing Merav Michaeli as their new leader and seeing a relative spike in the polling, decided to run independently.
  • Mansour Abbas had angered his former partners in the Joint List by establishing a cordial working relationship with the Likud. However, by running alone he risks not passing the electoral threshold.
  • According to the latest poll in Maariv this morning, the Likud receives 29 seats, Yesh Atid 16, New Hope 16, Yamina 11, Joint List 10, Yisrael Beiteinu 8, Shas 8, UTJ 7, Labour 6, Meretz 5, and Religious Zionist Party-Jewish Power 4.  According to this poll, Blue and White, the United Arab List and the New Economic Party do not make it over the threshold.
  • In a breakdown of the blocs, the parties supporting Netanyahu — Likud, Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionist Party —have 48 seats, whilst the anti-Netanyahu bloc — New Hope, Yesh Atid, Joint List, Yisrael Beiteinu, Labour Party, Meretz — have 61 seats, with Yamina remaining uncommitted.

Looking ahead: Whilst no more alliances are possible, parties can still drop out of the race. There is expected to be pressure on some of the smaller parties, particularly on the centre-left, to do so and not waste votes.

  • Next week, the Central Election Committee will hear appeals to disqualify parties or individual candidates from the election.
  • On February 21, the Central Elections Committee is scheduled to finally approve the party lists.
  • The election will be held on March 23.
  • The 24th Knesset is scheduled to hold its opening session on April 6.

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