Small Israeli Political Parties
Fringe groups are all the rage in Israeli politics.
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.