After the votes were tallied, the commentators said that the Knesset was split nearly in half between the right and the left, with the right garnering 61 seats and the left, 59. This, however, is a simplistic picture. A more accurate picture would be that the right received 61 seats, the Jewish left received 48 seats, and the Arab parties received 11 seats.
Of the 120 Knesset members, 27 are women, and 12 are Arab or Druze (2 Arab Christians, 1 Druze, and 9 Muslims). About one-third of the Knesset members are religiously observant (in six different parties); nine are journalists; eleven were former military or security force leaders. Many Knesset members are immigrants or the children of immigrants, including an Ethiopian woman. Forty-eight have never held a parliamentary seat before.
The 120 members of the Knesset were sworn in, and the next task was the formation of a government. In order to form a government, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose party received the most seats, had to assemble a coalition of at least 61 seats (majority).
Likud/Yisrael Beitenu – 31 seats
Likud and Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is My Home) ran on a joint list. Likud, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, is considered to be right of center, and Yisrael Beitenu, headed by Avigdor Leiberman, is primarily an immigrant party.
Bayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) – 12 seats
Headed by Naftali Bennett, this is a right wing religious Zionist party. People who identify with this party wear knitted kippot (skull caps), serve in the army, and are loyal to God and country. Many of the settlers living in Judea and Samaria are religious Zionists.
Shas – 11 seats
Shas is headed by Eli Yishai and Aryeh Deri under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (who seems to call the shots). This is a right wing ultra-Orthodox party.
United Torah Judaism – 7 seats
This is an Ashkenazi (Jews from Germany/Eastern Europe) ultra-Orthodox party, led by Yaakov Litzman.
Those who vote for Shas or United Torah Judaism are generally against their men serving in the military. Torah (Gen.–Deut.) study is considered the most important occupation.
Yesh Atid (There is a Future) – 19 seats
Headed by Yair Lapid, the party is considered left of center. This party is brand-new and all 19 members are newcomers to the Knesset. Their platform centered on social issues including an emphasis on civil life—education, housing, health, transport and policing; improving the condition of the middle class; changing the system of government; equality in education, and the draft. All Israeli school students must be taught essential classes, all Israelis will be drafted into the army, and all Israeli citizens will be encouraged to seek work, including the ultra-Orthodox sector and the Arab sector.
Labor – 15 seats
Led by Shelley Yachimovich, Labor is the party founded by David Ben-Gurion. This party pushes for the peace process with the Palestinians and espouses a two-state solution.
Kadima – 2 seats
Headed by Shaul Mofaz, Kadima was founded by Ariel Sharon in a break-off from the Likud party. In the 18th Knesset they had 28 seats, but after a split with Tzipi Livni who left to form the Hatnuah party, they only received 2 seats in the 19th Knesset.
Hatnuah – 6 seats
Founded and led by Tzipi Livni, Hatnuah is a new party formed after Livni split from the Kadima party in the months before the election.
Meretz – 6 seats
A far left, socially liberal party, Meretz is headed by Zahava Gal-On.
These parties often vote with Jewish left but are historically never part of a coalition.
United Arab List – 4 seats
The party, headed by Ibrahim Sarsur, supports the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital; and equal rights for Arab citizens of Israel.
Balad – 3 seats
Led by Jamal Zahalka, Balad’s stated purpose is the “struggle to transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens, irrespective of national or ethnic identity. It opposes the idea of Israel as a solely Jewish state, and supports its recasting as a bi-national state.” The party also supports the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hadash – 4 seats
Headed by Mohammed Barakeh, Hadash is a Socialist party which is predominantly Arab, although one of the four members is Jewish. The party supports evacuation of all Israeli settlements, a complete withdrawal by Israel from all territories occupied as a result of the Six-Day War, and the establishment of a Palestinian state in those territories.
At the swearing-in ceremony, Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged the Knesset members to, “maintain this excitement and enthusiasm during each day you serve in the Israeli Knesset, and also maintain the sense of responsibility, because we have a great responsibility. We represent the country and serve the country. We serve the public, not the other way around, and we are obligated to improve the lives of the citizens, safeguard the Israeli economy, and preserve the workplaces of Israel’s citizens.”
Indeed Israel needs her leaders to deal with some weighty issues facing the country, including the peace process; the security threats from Iran, Syria, and other hostile forces; the social issues affecting the economic status of the people; and the desire for equality of education and national service between the secular and religious populations.
We encourage you to pray for these 120 leaders— that they will be like Joshua of old whom the Lord told to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
Photo Credit: James Emery/commons.wikimedia.org
Source: Rebecca J. Brimmer, International President and CEO
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