Consider one of the lesser-known parties running for election to Knesset. They serve as an antidote to widespread cynicism about Israel’s political system.
Perhaps more than ever before, a large swath of the Israeli voting public feels politically orphaned. It is hard to be enthusiastic about voting for any one of the 11 main political parties and leaders running for election.
Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu has become too toxic. Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid is too lightweight. National Unity’s Benny Gantz is too leftist (as is Gadi Eisencott). Religious Zionism’s Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are too extremist, as are Meretz’s Zehava Gal-On and Labor’s Merav Michaeli. Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman is too much of an opportunistic hack. United Torah Judaism, Shas, Hadash-Ta’al, and Ra’am represent only very narrow minority community interests.
But take heart! There are no less than 40 political parties standing for election next week, including some lesser-known factions offering smart and creative political alternatives. Almost none of them stand a real chance of getting elected in this round of voting, although a few might garner enough steam to make a better run at it next time. (And the next time may come as early as April 2023.)
Below are ten of the almost 30 under-exposed parties running for election next week. They make for a celebration of democracy. Despite all the negatives of politics there are still people passionate enough to put their names on a ballot and campaign for what they believe, even when they know it’s a losing battle.
If we want to rhapsodize a bit, one could even argue that these smaller parties reaffirm the Zionist belief that the impossible is possible, that from small beginnings great things can take root. They serve as an antidote to widespread cynicism about Israel’s political system. Go ahead and celebrate that.
Biblical Bloc Party. The first-ever joint Jewish-Christian list for Knesset, seeking to preserve “Judeo-Christian values” that it says are under threat from radical Islam. The party intends to fight for underrepresented Christians in Israel, including non-Jewish Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
To Know Good and Evil and the Covenant of Abraham’s Tribe: Green Leaf and Osrat al-Islamia. The pro-marijuana Green Leaf party has run unsuccessfully six times. At its zenith in 2015, it won 47,000 votes. It is now allied with a pro-marijuana Muslim wellness party, Islamic Family (Osrat al-Islamia), that is headed by an Arab nurse who runs a coffee shop in Tira called “Smokey Monkey” where marijuana is distributed medicinally.
(Note: Benjamin Netanyahu promised in 2020 that he would pass legislation to expunge criminal records for the use and possession of cannabis, but his governments failed to legislate this.)
Economic Freedom. A niche, libertarian party led by Abir Kara devoted to the interests of small businesspeople and independent contractors. A political refugee from Yamina, Kara rose to prominence as one of the leaders of the economic protest group the “Shulmanim” (a bitter reference to “suckers” left to pick up the public tab). Kara seeks compensation for independent contractors affected by pandemic-related economic closures, in line with benefits given to businesses and employed persons.
Jewish Home. Now led by Ayelet Shaked, no real introduction is necessary here. Shaked is an honest, effective, and weighty conservative leader, who unfortunately has bounced around too many parties. The impressive Nitsana Darshan-Leitner is running on this list too in the fourth slot. This party probably has the best chance of all peripheral parties of passing the threshold and being elected to Knesset next week.
New Economy. Former finance ministry accountant general Yaron Zeleha is a longtime vocal critic of Netanyahu’s policies. Netanyahu claims to be the big breaker-upper of Israeli business and government monopolies, but Zelecha argues that Israel must go much farther and faster in this regard.
Order of the Hour. This is the taxicab drivers’ party, seeking benefits for retired and handicapped Israelis, in particular the proverbial Israeli taxi driver.
Party Party. The platform here includes enactment of long weekends (Thursday-Friday-Saturday) once every month for all sectors of the economy; making Purim a biannual statutory holiday and national elections too (twice a year, at least); introducing baseball as a national sport and ice cream as the national foodstuff; and slashing taxes all-together on the tourist, leisure and entertainment, and food and beverage sectors.
(Okay, okay, I admit: This is my make-believe party. Anybody care to establish such a party and win my vote?)
Pirates. This party does exist; it has run in elections for the last 16 years. Aside from dressing-up in Captain Hook costumes, the only thing the party stands for, as far as I can tell, is “democratizing” the internet and cancellation of copyright laws.
Sound of the Environment and the Wild. Israel’s only single-issue environmental party, whose issues include “environment justice,” animal rights, and clean public transportation.
There is a Way. This is the “Telegrass” party, in favor of marijuana sales and distribution via the Telegram app. Telegrass founder and party leader Amos Dov Silver was released to house arrest only last week, after three years in custody for running a criminal organization and drug dealing. (His supporters see him as a political prisoner.)
Blank Ballot. Going in a completely different, scornful direction, Israelis have a protest vote option. Every election, several thousand Israelis drop a blank slip into the ballot box to prove that they care enough to vote but are repulsed by Israel’s wannabe political leaders.
The blank ballot is a vote of non-confidence in the entire Israeli political game, an assertion of disgust with endless political paralysis; with the wasted time, effort, and money involved in repeat elections; and with the discourse of hatred employed by politicians.
If enough blank ballots are cast, perhaps Israel’s politicians will get the hint and next time offer Israelis more refined, elevated, and substantive options in national leadership and government policy.