Against All Odds: Israel's Tiny Parties Have It Even Harder This Time Around

On election day, a bevy of small parties will have a hard time piercing the 3.25-percent threshold and making the Knesset.

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Ale Yarok party members filming their 2015 elections ad campaign.Credit: Moti Milrod

A number of small parties signed up to take part in the March 17 election last week, even though the electoral threshold for entering the Knesset had been raised to 3.25 percent from 2 percent. It will be all but impossible for as many as 15 small outfits to make it into parliament.

All told, 26 parties have signed up for the race, compared with the 32 that ran in the election that took place on January 22, 2013.

The final list of parties running was released on the Central Elections Committee website Thursday — more than a dozen parties will be very hard-pressed to capture the four seats necessary to make it into the 120-seat Knesset.

The Green Leaf party is running for a sixth time; it’s best known for trying to decriminalize marijuana. The direct-democracy Pirate Party is also taking a shot again, headed by Ohad Shem Tov, a former Green Leaf chairman.

Despite the challenge, Green Leaf chief Oren Leibovitz was optimistic on Saturday about his party’s chances.

“As opposed to polls ordered by large media outlets, in street and Internet polls in which Green Leaf is included, we receive more than four Knesset seats,” he said.

Another interesting slate is B’Zhutan: Haredi Women Making a Change — the first party of ultra-Orthodox women. Ruth Colian, a feminist activist and head of the party, has said her team aims to represent all women, especially single mothers and those in need who “have suffered the politicians who run time after time and promise to improve their lives, but nothing ever changes.”

Other parties include one of Breslov Hassidim called We are all Friends Na Nach; Protecting Our Children – Stopping Feeding Them Pornography; the Economic Party headed by the Goldstein brothers; Renting with Honor; Social Leadership; and the Green Party, not to be confused with the Green Leafs.

There’s also the party with the longest name. Under a loose translation, it could be called Flower: Prosperity, Blessing, Life and Peace — the Dawn of the Revolution in Education, Housing, the Israel Defense Forces and True Peace.

In addition to the united slate of Arab parties, two small Arab outfits have registered for the contest: the Arab List headed by former MK Talab al-Sana, and the Hope for Change. Neither party is expected to pass the electoral threshold.

In January 2013, the Otzma Leyisrael party was the loser that came closest to reaching the Knesset — it captured 1.76 percent of the vote, before the threshold was raised from 2 percent last March.

This time the party has merged with the Ha’am Itanu party of Eli Yishai, a former leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, popular with Jews with roots in the Middle East and North Africa.

Kadima, once the largest party in the Knesset and which has provided Israel with two prime ministers — former Likudniks Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, decided not to run this time around.

A number of small parties have also called it quits, including the Pensioners Party, which was the surprise of the 2006 election, when it captured seven Knesset seats.

According to Green Leaf’s Leibovitz, it’s better to vote for a party that will put an end to the “persecution of cannabis consumers,” as he put it. After all, another election might be in store for Israel in two years’ time, and the big promises and big problems will remain, he said.

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