Elections again: How did we get here? Pros and cons of the parties (Part 2)

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Ballots for Israeli elections, April 9, 2019 (Photo: Laliv G/Wikimedia Commons).

Elections are being held again, this week for the second time this year. Israelis voted in April but since no government was formed they head to the polls again on Sept. 17.

So who might Messianic Jews and Christians vote for this time around?

The following is an explanation of the major political parties in this election and a description of the pros and cons of each one in terms of the issues Messianic Jews and Christians tend to care about.

The guide presents various political philosophies and priorities. It assumes that Messianic Jews and Christians want to see Israel continue as a Jewish state, live in peace and security and care about the rights of Messianic Jews to immigrate to and live in Israel.

Click here to read part 1 that covers Likud and the Blue and White Party.

Yamina

The Yamina party is the union of three right-wing parties. These parties are the New Right, lead by Ayelet Shaked; Jewish Home, lead by Rafi Peretz; and National Union–Tkuma, lead by Bezalel Smotrich. Shaked is the leader of the party.

Shaked is listed first on the ballot list for the party which will certainly support Likud and Netanyahu, so a vote for Yamina is also a vote for Netanyahu as prime minister.

In August, Ayelet Shaked stated the seven values of the party. These values are (paraphrased):

  • Jewish Identity – and strengthening of the connection of Israeli students to the Torah, to Israel and to Jewish Heritage.
  • Nationality – which essentially means upholding the declaration that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People.
  • Unity of the Land – Yamina is the only party that opposes establishing a Palestinian state.
  • Sovereignty: Yamina would apply full sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
  • Defeating Terrorism.
  • Aliyah – to promote Jewish immigration to to remove barriers to immigration.
  • Competition and Liberty: Free market principles and the breaking up of monopolies and cartels.
  • Right to Work.
  • Governability – strengthening the values of democracy.
  • Social Responsibility: economic and medical protection for the disabled and elderly.
  • Galilee and The Negev (the southern desert region from Beer Sheva to Eilat): strengthening these areas by encouraging investment and presumably by investing government money into certain programs.

Shaked has a track record of promoting settlement rights and a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She has been a major advocate of free markets as well. She is secular, although the party as a whole is predominantly religious.

Peretz, second on the list of candidates for Yamina, has spoken in the past of his desire to close the Temple Mount to Arabs and build a synagogue there.

If the party does well in the elections, and also if Netanyahu wins as prime minister, Yamina will be able to exert pressure on Netanyahu to annex Judea and Samaria. This is the party’s biggest issue and has been the focus of the persuasion efforts during the campaign. They will also look to reform the Supreme Court.

Pros and cons for Messianic Jews and Christians?

Messianics and Christians who consider the Jewish right to the Land of Israel as the most important issue in the election may consider voting for Yamina. Many Messianics and Christians may also like the platform as a whole, and some may find that they agree with Shaked especially on many issues.

However, a vote for the party is a bit more complicated and problematic than this. First of all, there is the issue that Yamina will almost certainly do nothing to push back against the religious stronghold of the Interior Ministry. “Removing barriers to immigration” sounds like an appealing policy, but the party is unlikely to make it easier for Messianic Jews to immigrate.

Smotrich, third on the party list, has stated that the Israeli courts should follow Torah law. In Israel, this type of statement generally means that one supports exerting strict rabbinic laws over the state. Other candidates have made remarks that will certainly sound problematic to Messianics and Christians. For example, Peretz has made some statements attacking intermarriage, saying that we “lost 6 million Jews that way since the Holocaust.”

The main concern for Messianics and Christians, therefore, will probably be uncertainty about how the party stands on the issue of Jewish identity and immigration and the general attitude toward religious law. Although the party has determined that settlements, land rights and the supreme court will be its primary areas of focus, it is difficult to determine whether they will also push for religiously-based immigration policy, or at the very least support such a push from other parties.

Yisrael Beiteinu

Yisrael Beiteinu is a right-wing party lead by Avigdor Liberman. Liberman is considered by most to be the one responsible for returning Israel to repeat elections after he refused to join the coalition with Netanyahu because of his disagreements with the ultra-Orthodox parties. Recently, he has stated that he will only support a prime minister who forms a “national unity” government (a government formed with agreement from parties across political aisles), and specifically a unity government without the Orthodox parties and without “radicals.”

Liberman has promoted a land-swapping plan as a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which would redraw lines between Israel and the Palestinian Territories according to population. Arab lands in Israel would become part of Palestinian “enitity” (not necessarily a state, but it could be), and Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria would become part of Israel.

Liberman, whose greatest base of support is from secular Russians, many of whom live in the south near Gaza, has stated that the “next confrontation with Gaza must be the last,” and advocates a policy of a “harsh and disproportionate” attack against Hamas.

Pros and cons for Messianic Jews and Christians?

Liberman is against religious coercion, and has made that issue central to his campaign and his message. For this reason, Yisrael Beiteinu may appeal to Messianics and Christians who consider ending the religious rule over immigration and marriage a central issue. However, many Messianics and Christians who have an evangelical approach to the Jewish right to the Land of Israel will have a serious problem with his proposed land-swaps, which would certainly be a major step towards a permanent limit to Israel’s borders, with considerably less land than what is promised in the Bible.

Although Liberman has been part of Netanyahu’s governments in the past, if he remains firm in his condition to not join a government with any Orthodox parties, Netanyahu would have a difficult time forming a government. The only way he could do so would be to include Blue and White in a coalition, which is possible, but difficult given the fact that Blue and White has made opposition to Netanyahu the guiding philosophy of their campaign.

The biggest danger to voting for Yisrael Beitenu, therefore, is probably that a good result for Yisrael Beitenu will probably result in another coalition-building failure, and Israel will return to elections once again. People who consider the downfall of the religious parties as the paramount issue may be comfortable with this, since perhaps eventually Liberman can win, if he and his constituents continue to fight the same fight. However, those who wish to see the government continue in its work immediately and want to avoid another election will probably prefer to vote for a different party.

Democratic Union

Democratic Union is a left-wing party, a merger between three parties — Meretz, Green Movement and the Israel Democratic Party.

Democratic Union would most likely back Blue and White, and therefore Lapid and Gantz, as the prime minister. According to their website, “Meretz views itself as a left-wing Israeli party that promotes human and civil rights, a social-democratic economic policy, a vehement opposition to continuing the occupation, and political moderation.” On security issues and the solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Meretz sees an agreement with the Palestinians, the creation of a Palestinian state, and a long term agreement with Gaza as the solution. On social issues, Meretz has pushed for LGTBQ rights including the right to adopt children for same-sex couples.

The Green Movement is primarily focused on environmental issues.

The Israel Democratic Party has four main points it wishes to enact, which are (paraphrased):

  • A written constitution with emphasis on equality, justice, and social rights.
  • Permanent borders and no annexation of Palestinian land.
  • Free education and better social services, with increased spending.
  • Allowing civil marriage and divorce, public transportation on Shabbat, and increased salary for IDF soldiers.

Pros and cons for Messianic Jews and Christians?

The most appealing aspect for Messianics and Christians is that the Meretz Party has stood up for the rights of Messianics in the past, defending a Jewish family who was barred from citizenship due to their Messianic beliefs.

Unfortunately, for most Messianics and Christians, that is where the support will end. The party is extraordinary liberal in its social policies. It also promotes the idea that Israel is an apartheid state.

Labor-Gesher

The Labor-Gesher party is a merger between left-wing Labor, and center Gesher, lead by Orly Levy-Abekasis.

The party will most likely recommend Blue and White to lead the government. The party is primary focused on issues of poverty and welfare, such as ending child poverty.

Pros and cons for Messianic Jews and Christians?

Messianic Jews and Christians who consider welfare to be a key issue, and support a left-wing redistribution system of economics should consider supporting Labor-Gesher. In addition, they should consider who they want to be prime minister, since a vote for Labor-Gesher is akin to a vote for Gantz and Lapid as PM.

Remaining Parties

The remaining parties are unlikely to find broad appeal in the Messianic Jewish and Christian base.

Shas

The Shas party is an ultra-Orthodox, religious party of Sephardic Jews and currently controls the Ministry of Interior. Under Shas’ authority, the Ministry of Interior has persecuted Jewish believers in Yeshua, attempting to keep some of them out of Israel.

United Torah Judaism

UTJ is also an ultra-Orthodox party of Ashkenazi Jews and represents the interests primarily of Haredi Jews.

Joint Arab List

The Joint Arab List is a union of four Arab-Israeli parties called Balad, Hadash, Ta’al, and the United Arab List. The strongest component of the Joint List is Hadash which is a leftist and moderate party that calls for peace and equality and led by MK Ayman Oudeh. On the other hand, the Joint List also includes representatives of the Islamic Movement that espouse extremist views against the State of Israel. Most Arab Christians in Israel, including evangelicals, are expected to vote for this party.