Published March 14, 2013
JERUSALEM – Four parties will make up the new Israeli coalition government, adding up to a 68-seat majority in the 120-seat parliament. It is the first Israeli government in decades not to include any ultra-Orthodox parties and includes some staunch secularists. On security matters, its members range from hard-line hawks to the center-left. Here is a look at their main policies:
— Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu (31 seats): Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hawkish Likud Party teamed with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu for the election but the two parties have not officially merged. Likud is known for taking a tough line toward the Palestinians and for its conservative economic policies. It also advocates strong international action — possibly including a last-resort military strike — against arch-enemy Iran's nuclear facilities. Netanyahu has grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, though his party traditionally claimed the West Bank and east Jerusalem for Israel. Yisrael Beitenu, which represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union, takes an even harder line toward the Palestinians. The party has a more secular following and rejects the sweeping draft exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox Jews. Lieberman has been indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust and currently cannot serve in the new government, though the Foreign Ministry is being held open for him until the conclusion of his trial — assuming he is cleared. Likud's Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief, is slated to be the new defense minister.
— Yesh Atid (19 seats): Founded just a year ago by former TV personality Yair Lapid, the party represents secular, middle-class interests and surged to become the second-largest bloc in parliament. It has vowed to enact a universal military draft, ending exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox, and wants to cut the stipends they receive from the state. The party also advocates spending less money on Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. Lapid has vowed to make a serious effort to reach peace. Yet his campaign made little mention of security issues, focusing heavily on a social and economic agenda that favors investment in education and other issues important to the middle class. Lapid is slated to become the finance minister, a position with great influence over the budget. His party will also control the Education Ministry and three other minor portfolios.
— Jewish Home (12 seats): Although its core constituency is modern Orthodox Jews, the party surged in the polls on the back of a strong pro-settlement message and the appeal of its charismatic leader, high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, to secularists as well. Bennett is allied with Lapid on most domestic issues, but the two differ sharply over peace efforts and settlement building. A former leader of the West Bank settlement movement, Bennett opposes any concessions to the Palestinians. He has even called for Israel to annex large chunks of the West Bank, the heartland of any future Palestinian state. Bennett will lead the Industry and Trade Ministry and his nationalistic party will also control the Housing Ministry, giving it the budgets to promote new settlement construction.
— Hatnua (6 seats): Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni formed the party to present an alternative to voters distressed by the stalemate in peacemaking. Livni, who led peace negotiations with the Palestinians in Ehud Olmert's centrist government, will serve a similar role under Netanyahu. She has been appointed justice minister and has promised an aggressive push for peace with the Palestinians.