Israel’s libertarian party, Zehut, is set to pass the electoral threshold to win Knesset seats in next month’s Israeli elections, according to three consecutive national polls.
Polls conducted by Haaretz/Dialog Institute, Israel Hayom/i24 News and Israeli public broadcaster Kan all show Zehut winning 4 seats in the upcoming elections. While this is a small number, it marks strong result for a new political party, and in an election as close as this one, Zehut could well hold the balance of power between the right-wing nationalist and the center-left liberal camps.
Zehut is led by Moshe Feiglin, a former lawmaker with the ruling Likud who fell out with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and subsequently left the party. Feiglin endorses a hardline nationalist approach to the territorial disputes with the Palestinians, advocating for the annexation of the West Bank. However, the rest of his platform is firmly libertarian, including refusing U.S. aid to Israel, privatizing marriage, lowering taxes, ending conscription into the IDF, expanding gun rights, eliminating police brutality, promoting free speech, market reforms and property rights. Zehut has made marijuana legalization a essential requirement of joining a coalition government. While this particular proposal has more chance of receiving support from the left-leaning bloc, Zehut is still seen as more in line with the right on most issues. As a consequence, they will have substantial negotiating influence with both camps.
Other smaller right-wing parties, however, are deeply concerned about Zehut’s rise. Naftali Bennett’s free market New Right party and the religious right party Jewish Home have set aside their differences to launch a joint campaign against Zehut, which they believe will take seats away from their parties. In particular, they have targeted Gadi Wilcherski, a candidate in the un-winnable 18th slot on the Zehut electoral list, for his opposition to circumcision. Wilcherski was elected through Zehut’s online open primary, which aimed to increase party transparency by allowing anyone to win a slot providing they directed enough of their supporters to the online vote. This resulted in some of the lower positions on the list being won by comedic candidates.