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A look at Israel's main political parties

The main political parties competing in Israel's parliamentary election:

Likud: Led by Israel's current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Likud holds tough positions in stalled talks with the Palestinians and advocates strong international action - possibly including a last-resort military strike - against arch-enemy Iran's nuclear facilities. Netanyahu has grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, though his party traditionally claimed the West Bank and east Jerusalem for Israel. Likud teamed up on a joint list with former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu for Tuesday's election, but the two parties have not merged.

Yisrael Beitenu: The far-right secular party is the most hawkish in Netanyahu's current coalition and placed third in the last election in 2009. Its leader, Lieberman, has been indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust, and the future of his party and his political career could hinge on how the case unfolds.

Labor: A centrist party led by former broadcast journalist Shelly Yachimovich. Labor hopes to gain votes with an emphasis on closing Israel's economic gaps and a moderate approach to negotiations with the Palestinians. Labor is in second place in polls after the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list. The party governed the country from its founding in 1948 until 1977, and twice since.

Jewish Home: Representing modern Orthodox Jews, the party has surged in the polls on the back of a strong pro-settlement message and the appeal of its charismatic leader, high-tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, to secular Jews.

Yesh Atid: Founded by former TV personality Yair Lapid, the party represents secular, middle class interests and says less money should be spent on settlements and stipends for the ultra-Orthodox.

Hatnua: The party of former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was formed less than two months ago expressly to present an alternative to voters distressed by the stalemate in peacemaking throughout Netanyahu's four-year tenure. Livni has promised an aggressive push for peace with the Palestinians.

Shas: Founded in the early 1980s by ultra-Orthodox Jews of Middle Eastern origin who felt marginalized. Its followers tend to be hawkish and the party traditionally has been a Likud ally, even though two decades ago, its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, ruled that saving lives is more important than keeping territory. The party emphasizes social welfare for its low-income constituency.

A look at Israel's main political parties 01/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:56am]
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