This article originally appeared in Israel Insider and is reprinted with permission.
With most of the media’s attention focused on Israel’s major political parties, fringe groups hope to garner enough support to get seated in the Knesset. Israel’s alternative parties call for the legalization of marijuana and prostitution, the protection of the environment, and for a country led by professionals instead of politicians.
Ahavat Yisrael (Love of Israel), an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, broke away from Shas [the major ultra-Orthodox party] and is seen as a direct competitor. The party’s spiritual leader is Rabbi Yitzhak Kadourie. Recently, Kadourie’s son, Rabbi David Kadourie, claimed that Shas had offered him a “six figure” bribe to have the party withdraw from the Knesset race. Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein ruled last month that the party was prohibited from using Kadourie’s picture on its election propaganda and from distributing amulets to the public.
After Member of Knesset (MK) David Levy announced his return to the Likud, where he was listed in the 17th slot, the social action party he founded regrouped and formed its own Knesset slate. However, the reformed party was deemed not eligible to compete in the elections to the 16th Knesset, since the process whereby it convened to decide on the continuation of its operations was illegal.
According to recent public opinion polls, the Green Leaf Party, whose platform calls for the legalization of marijuana and prostitution, may garner enough support to win two seats in the 16th Knesset. It just missed the 1.5 percent threshold in 1999, and many of Israel’s young and first-time voters are considering voting for the party.
“We’re not politicians by choice, but out of necessity,” said party chairman Boaz Wachtel, 44. “In order to change things we had to jump into the political swamp in Israel.”
Wachtel is not a “typical hippie,” the Associated Press reported. He was the assistant military attache at the Israeli embassy in Washington in the 1980s, and served on a team of Israeli representatives to former President Ronald Reagan’s space-based anti-missile shield program.
Wachtel believes that so-called soft drugs like marijuana are not gateways to hard drugs like cocaine. According to him, drug addition is the outcome of larger social problems like poverty, violence, and sexual abuse. Legalizing cannabis would free up money and time for the government to treat hardcore drug addicts and fight more important problems like violent crime, he said.
The pro-environment Green Party launched its election campaign on a Jaffa beach last week, a site chosen because it had become a municipal garbage dump in recent years. Party officials say that if they reach the Knesset they would clean up the beach and return it to its rightful owners, the public.
The party’s platform states that Israel cannot occupy itself solely with questions of security and borders, but must also deal with its severe environmental crises. Pe’er Veisner, party chairman and first on its Knesset slate, said the dangers facing Israelis in places like the Pi Glilot fuel depot and the chemical factories in Haifa Bay are far greater than the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.
Men’s Rights in the Family Party
Led by Yaakov Schlusser, the party advocates strengthening a man’s say in child custody battles and decisions over abortions.
Tzomet, a right-wing secular party established by former IDF chief of staff Rafael Eitan, ran with the Likud in the 1996 elections but did not win any seats on its own in 1999. Moshe Green leads the party list. Eitan, 73, says he may still have a future in politics, if not as a Knesset member, possibly as a cabinet minister.
This grassroots party, whose name means “A Different Israel,” is led by Boaz Nol, a 26-year-old law student, wants to replace politicians with academics, business people, and professionals. The party calls for an end to subsidies for ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are exempt from military service. The party’s clean image was clouded when media reports indicated that Nol had rarely done reserve duty since his release from compulsory military service.
The party held a cross-country trek to spread its message from Kiryat Shemona in the north to Sde Boker in the south. Nol vows that his party will “run until the end,” and party members have abandoned traditional methods of campaigning to avoid turning into politicians.
Israel Insider is published by Koret Communications.
Pronounced: k’NESS-et, Origin: Hebrew, Israel’s parliament, comprising 120 seats.
Pronounced: moe-SHEH, Origin: Hebrew, Moses, whom God chooses to lead the Jews out of Egypt.
Pronounced: seh-FAR-dik, Origin: Hebrew, describing Jews descending from the Jews of Spain.
Pronounced: YAH-kove or YAH-ah-kove, Origin: Hebrew, Jacob, one of the Torah’s three patriarchs.
Pronounced: eetz-KHAHK, Origin: Hebrew, Hebrew name for Isaac.