Main political parties in Israel’s parliamentary election, set for early next year:
• Likud : Led by Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Likud has managed to mostly keep the country out of the global economic crisis while holding tough position in stalled talks with the Palestinians and against arch-enemy Iran. Netanyahu has grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, though his party traditionally claimed the West Bank for Israel.
• Labor : A center-left party led by former television journalist Shelly Yachimovich. Labor hopes to gain votes with an emphasis on closing Israel’s economic gaps and a dovish approach to negotiations with the Palestinians. Labor is second place in polls after Likud. Labor governed the country from its founding in 1948 until 1977.
• Yisrael Beitenu : Far right secular party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is often at odds with Israel’s official policies. The party was the third largest in last elections. It is the most hawkish in Netanyahu’s coalition.
• Kadima : Led by Shaul Mofaz, a former military chief of staff, Kadima is a centrist party that wants to draw Israel’s final borders through land swaps with the Palestinians. It was founded in 2005 around Israel’s unilateral pullout from Gaza and became the largest party in the current parliament but has seen its strength decline considerably.
• Shas : Founded in the early 1980s by ultra-Orthodox Jews of Middle Eastern origin who felt marginalized. Shas spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has ruled that saving lives is more important than keeping territory, but his followers tend to be more hawkish.