Israel’s ethno-religious Right in the September election is presenting for readers a series of observations by noted researcher Gabriel Haritos broadly entitled “The Israeli Parliamentary Elections of September 17, 2019, and the Greek Regional Factor.” These studies will be featured, over the days leading up to the election.

Gabriel Haritos, Ph.D., Researcher, The Ben Gurion Reserach Institute, Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Senior Fellow, Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs.






Israel’s ethno-religious Right in the September election

The term ‘ethno-religious Right’, as a political realm, is unknown in Greece. On the contrary, because of the national character of the Jewish religion and the geographical boundaries set by the Scriptures themselves as to what the boundaries of the Jewish state should be – the parties of the’ethno-religious Right’ have always played an important role in the country’s political affairs. .

During the last nine months of Israel’s longest informal pre-election period in its history, major changes have taken place in the realm of parties, with the main features being the relocation of political figures and the formation of new party partnerships.

The “Yamina” Alliance

The most significant development on the right-wing in the April 9, 2019 elections was the failure of former leader of the Jewish Home Party, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked to gain entry. The Bennett and Shaked, seeking to expand his influence beyond the narrow confines of the religious right, set up the New Right party, but did not gain the confidence of those who remained loyal to the Jewish and Jewish core. Netanyahu’s voters. On the contrary, those who remained faithful to the core of “Jewish Home” formed the “Union of Right Wing Parties”, under Bezalel Smotritch and Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who mainly expressed the religious Jewish West Bank settlers that do not belong to the ultra-orthodox communities.

After a brief spell of bickering, the Bennett-Shaked duo finally returned to the core of the “Jewish Home” and in the forthcoming September 17, 2019 elections, the “New Right” and the “Union of Right Wing Parties” will participate under a political alliance called “Yamina” (“Rightwards”).

The agenda of the religious right

In essence, the reasons for the split and the rebound had no ideological basis. These were movements that came down to personal ambitions. Thus, the ideological agenda of the “Yemina” alliance is identical to the agenda of the “Jewish Home” and is summarized as follows:

A) The decline in the influence of the Supreme Court of Israel on its jurisdiction to judge the legitimacy of the government’s settlement activity in the West Bank areas where the Oslo Accords are expected to apply. The overall aim is to limit the judiciary ‘to its turf’ without interfering with ‘purely political’ government decisions – which promote the direct or indirect extension of the Israeli state presence in areas nowadays considered to be of ‘controversial sovereignty’.

B) The gradual expansion of Israeli state sovereignty into the B and C regions of the West Bank (as defined by the Oslo Accords) with the ultimate goal of fully integrating them into Israeli territory. In essence, the Yamina party does not accept the principle of ‘two nations – two states’ and promotes the view of a single state, with Palestinians living in the West Bank becoming Israeli citizens. With regard to Palestinian urban centers that are now under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and designated as ‘Area A’ under the Oslo Accords, the Bennett-Sacked duo believes that they will be able to continue living as self-governing pockets, under any state or sef-governance scheme they choose.

As the percentages received in the April 9, 2019, elections by the New Right and Union of Right Wing Parties, the joint Yamina political formation will enter the new parliament. If the mandate to form a government is given to Benjamin Netanyahu, Yamina’s cadres are more likely to be given ministerial posts. However, if Israel is called upon to comply with Washington’s suggestion of territorial or other concessions to the Palestinians under the Trump Peace Plan, then the long-standing involvement of party officials in the new government is in doubt. If Benny Gantz and the “Blue and White” get the government formation mandate, the chances of Yamina participating in that political formation are reduced to a minimum.

The ultra-Orthodox religious parties

The same ideological space of the so-called ‘ethno-religious right’ are the two largest parties representing the two main Jewish communities of the Orthodox Jews: On the one hand the ‘Shas’ party of the Sephardic Jews, and on the other the ‘United Torah Judaism’ of Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews.

The main characteristic of these two parties is the stability in their internal structure, as well as their electoral power and parliamentary presence. Specifically, the Shas party won 241,613 votes (5.7% and 7 seats) in the elections of 17 March 2015 and garnered 258.275 votes (6% and 8 seats) in the elections of 9 April 2019. Correspondingly, in the elections of 17 March 2015, the party “United Torah Judaism” garnered 210.143 votes (5% and 6 seats) and in the elections of 9 April 2019 garnered 249.049 votes (5.8% and 8 seats).

Their steady electoral performance foretells that no change is foreseen in their ideological agenda or in the people who lead them. It is noted that the organizational structures of these two parties do not provide for intra-party elections and decisions are made by internal processes dictating the rabbinical denominations of these two religious currents and their public reasoning is purely ‘patriarchical’. Representing about 20% of the country’s population, virtually no ‘secular’ Jewish ruling party can ignore their existence and priorities, making them regulators in virtually every post-election collaboration and consultation in order to form acoalition government independent of ideological tendencies and leanings.

As long as these parties maintain their power – which is more than likely – they will surely be party partners in a coalition government under Benjamin Netanyahu. But if there is a “Blue and White” government led by Benny Gantz, the differences between the Yesh Atid anti-religious party under Yair Lapid (who is the most important party partner in the internal structure of the “Blue-White”) make difficult any possibility of these parties being able to join the new government.