Today, the Jewish Home party (formerly known as the National Religious Party) is holding primaries for its list of candidates for the Knesset. It’s not clear how many seats the party will get in the next Knesset.
Its Knesset list will be merged with the National Union, reportedly at a 1:1 ratio. The total number of seats will likely be higher than the two party’s have today in the Knesset, which is seven.
Some polls even show the joint list receiving up to 13 seats. I would guess that those who want to vote to the right of the Likud now no longer have the option to vote for Yisrael Beteinu since those two parties will have a joint list, and they will be forced to vote for the Jewish Home.
The election of a new head of the party – Naftali Bennett- who is well known and who is interested in reaching out beyond the parties traditional base of support, will also give the party a boost.
But this is Israel and anything can happen between today and January 22nd – the date of the general elections. For those candidate’s running for a spot on the party’s slate, they can’t rely on the party getting 13, 10 or even 8 spots. They need to get as a high as possible on the list.
As the Jewish Home has a total membership of around 54,000 every vote will count in that tight race.
One of the candidates is Jeremy Gimpel, who originates from the U.S.
I have to admit, I wasn’t very pleased at first with the announcement of Gimpel and his talk/radio show partner Ari Abramowitz that they were running for the Knesset.
It was clear to me that even if the party would net five seats either on its own or as part of a joint list with the National Union – two more than it has today – it would be very unlikely that two of the five would go to two English-speakers hitherto unknown in Israeli politics.
I am also very active in the Likud, where members will be voting in a primary race for a party that has 27 seats and is and will be leading the country. I didn’t like the idea of people joining a party to vote for one person when they could be joining a party and have influence over approximately 27 Members of Knesset.
I also see the Jewish Home as a sectarian party. It has its public – the national religious community – and it cares about that sector’s interests. As a Zionist, and even as a religious Zionist, I believe it is irresponsible for a politician or a party, to behave this way. Laws, the budget, policies: these must be drafted in consideration of the national interest. I understand that the Israeli electoral system promotes this behavior, but it should be resisted.
Perhaps Naftali Bennett, who was only elected party chairman on November 6th, will indeed broaden the party’s scope. But that is yet to be seen.
Nevertheless, Gimpel (and Abramowitz) saw an opening in the generally closed-to-newcomers Israeli political scene. The Jewish Home would be holding primaries for the first time. It did not have a membership base. All candidates running for a spot would be starting from scratch. Whoever they registered by the deadline would become the voters in the upcoming primary.
In the Likud, by contrast, there are 123,000 members, which is a relatively small number, but there is a 16-month waiting period before members can vote. Primaries are held at least 6 months before the scheduled date of the general election. So any Knesset campaign would need to already have registered a bloc of members at least 22 months in advance of the general election date. Practically, it would have to be even earlier since the general elections are almost always held earlier than scheduled.
This election cycle they will be held in January 2013, nine months earlier than scheduled. The primaries in the Likud will be held on November 25th. To be eligible to vote in the primary, one must have registered by July 25th, 2011, more than two years ahead of the scheduled date of the general election.