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President-elect Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal celebrate after a special session of the Knesset whereby Israeli lawmakers elected the new president, at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem June 2, 2021. - Israel's parliament elected the even-keeled Labor veteran Isaac Herzog as its 11th president, a vote that came as opposition lawmakers scrambled to forge a coalition to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu. Herzog, 60, beat former headmistress Miriam Peretz to replace President Reuven Rivlin, who was elected in 2014 to the largely ceremonial position decided by the parliament, or Knesset. (Photo by RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

World

Israel’s parties forming new ‘change’ coalition

JerusalemUndefined, June 3 Israel’s opposition chief Yair Lapid said Wednesday he had mustered enough support across a broad political spectrum to achieve a government of “change”, potentially ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership and two years of political crisis.

Here’s a look at the parties involved in this diverse new coalition:

 

– Yesh Atid, centre –

 

The Yesh Atid (“There Is A Future”) party that Lapid heads nabbed 17 seats during the most recent election in March, arriving in second place behind Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.

Created in 2012, Yesh Atid professes a liberal vision of the economy and a strict separation of state and religion, casting itself as a defender of Israel‘s middle class.

Lapid has made battling corruption a key part of his platform, zeroing in on Netanyahu’s ongoing trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The party had in 2019 merged with Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, before Gantz formed a government with Netanyahu last year.

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Yesh Atid favours creating a Palestinian state, but within the framework of a deal that would keep certain Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and in east Jerusalem. International law deems the settlements illegal.

 

– Blue and White, centre –

 

Benny Gantz created the Kahol Lavan — or Blue and White, the colours of Israel‘s flag — party with the stated aim of ousting Netanyahu from power.

But after the coalition arrived neck-and-neck with Likud during three legislative elections between 2019 and 2020, Gantz finally joined forces with his purported rival in the framework of a rotation-based unity government.

Figures including Lapid dubbed the alliance a “betrayal” and cut ties.

The Blue and White party hovers in the centre but leans right, defending Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley and certain settlements in the West Bank — Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

But the party favours opening negotiations with Palestinians.

An ex-military chief, Gantz envisions a more strong-arm security strategy than Lapid, but their platforms are similar.

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– Yamina, right –

 

Yamina began as a coalition of several right-wing nationalist micro-parties.

But its current iteration comprises solely the New Right far-right party led by Naftali Bennett, who has previously served in Netanyahu governments.

The party of religious and secular Jews pushes that Israel should “strengthen Jewish identity” using tactics such as increasing school classes in Judaism.

Yamina is favoured by many settlers and opposes the create of a Palestinian state, while calling for the unilateral annexation of part of the occupied West Bank.

 

– Yisrael Beitenu, right –

 

Yisrael Beitenu is a pro-settlement nationalist party, founded in 1999 by Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s one-time right-hand man.

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With a name that literally means “Israel Our Home”, the party gained early strength from former Soviet immigrants but has since broadened its base to include secular nationalist voters.

It staunchly defends the rights of Jewish immigrants, while opposing the creation of a Palestinian state.

Yisrael Beitenu has made secularism its pet project, arguing against advantages enjoyed by the ultra-Orthodox population.

 

– New Hope, right –

 

Netanyahu’s former ally Gideon Saar founded Tikva Hadasha, or New Hope, in December, a year after failing in his bid to lead Likud.

Several Likud lawmakers joined him along with former party heavyweights including Benny Begin, son of former prime minister Menachem Begin.

The New Hope party, supported both by secularists and more religious voters, is a proponent of a liberal economy and a number of political reforms, including term limits and a more decentralised government.

It opposes creating a Palestinian state.

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– Labor, left –

 

The traditionally strong Labor Party in recent years has seen the power it once enjoyed drastically diminish, winning just three seats in 2020, though it notched seven in March’s vote.

That step towards a comeback, gained under the leadership of Merav Michaeli, breathed new life into the party.

Modern-day Labor grew out of a merger with Mapai, the workers’ party of David Ben-Gurion.

Labor advocates for gender equality, pluralism and focusing more on climate change, a topic that generally receives little attention in the broader Israeli political conversation.

The party supports creating a Palestinian state — but also advocates for keeping certain settlements as part of Israel.

 

– Meretz, left –

 

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Today Meretz — founded in 1992 as an alliance of three left-wing parties defecting from Labor — is led by former journalist Nitzan Horowitz.

Its political agenda approximates Labor, but is more forceful on environmental and LGBTQ+ issues.

Meretz supports a two-state solution and freezing Israeli settlement construction in Palestinian territories, and is for an agreement providing for territory exchanges.

 

– Raam, Islamic conservative –

 

Mansour Abbas heads the Islamic conservative Raam party, which defends the interests of the country’s 20 percent Arab Israeli community and says it suffers from discrimination at the hands of the Jewish majority.

Abbas broke a taboo in saying he was “ready” to work with Netanyahu to help his community. He has argued that Arab leaders have a responsibility to partner with whoever is in power in order to tackle a crime epidemic rocking Arab communities.

No Arab party has ever participated in an Israeli government coalition. The last time an Arab party supported such an alliance was in the 1990s.

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