|Politics of Israel
Yisrael Beiteinu (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּיתֵנוּ, lit. Israel Our Home) is a secularist and right-wing nationalist political party in Israel. The party's base has traditionally been secular, Russian-speaking Israelis. The party describes itself as "a national movement with the clear vision to follow in the brave path of Zev Jabotinsky", the founder of Revisionist Zionism. It primarily represents immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Although it has attempted to expand its appeal to a more veteran Israeli public, it has not been successful, and most of its voters are Russian-speaking. It takes a strong line towards the peace process and the integration of Israeli Arabs, characterized by its 2009 election slogan "No loyalty, no citizenship". Its main platform includes a recognition of the two-state solution, the creation of a Palestinian state that would include an exchange of some largely Arab-inhabited parts of Israel for largely Jewish-inhabited parts of the West Bank. The party maintains an anti-clerical mantle and encourages socio-economic opportunities for new immigrants, in conjunction with efforts to increase Jewish immigration. In the 2009 election the party won 15 seats, its most to date, making it the third largest party in the previous Knesset. In the 2013 election, the party won 11 seats, running on a joint list with the Likud party.
- 1 History
- 2 Organization
- 3 Policies
- 4 Perception
- 5 Allegations of anti-Arabism
- 6 Knesset members
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Yisrael Beiteinu was formed by Avigdor Lieberman to create a platform for Russian immigrants who support a hard line in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman's actions were motivated by the concessions granted by his former boss, Benjamin Netanyahu (when he was director-general of the Likud) to the Palestinian Authority in the 1997 Wye River Memorandum, featuring the division of the West Bank city of Hebron. One of the partners in Netanyahu's coalition was Yisrael BaAliyah, a new immigrants' list led by Natan Sharansky that also had right-of-center leanings. After Lieberman left Likud, he registered great disappointment when Sharansky did not pull out of the coalition, as did two of Sharansky's colleagues in Yisrael BaAliyah, Michael Nudelman and Yuri Stern, both of whom broke away to form Aliyah.
For the 1999 elections, Lieberman, Nudelman and Stern formed Yisrael Beiteinu, and the new party won four seats. On 1 February 2000 the party joined an alliance with the National Union, itself an alliance of right-wing parties led by Binyamin Elon. In the 2003 elections the joint list won seven seats, with Yisrael Beiteinu being given four of them. The alliance joined Ariel Sharon's government and Lieberman was made Minister of Transport. However, the party left the government on 6 June 2004, in response to the disengagement plan. On 1 February 2006, shortly before the elections that year, the party split from National Union in order to run alone in the elections.
The election results saw the party increase in strength to eleven seats. Although it remained outside Ehud Olmert's government formed in May 2006, it joined the coalition in October 2006. The party was involved in a controversy in January 2007 after Labor Party leader Amir Peretz nominated Raleb Majadele for the position of Minister of Science and Technology, thereby making him Israel's first Muslim Arab minister. Lieberman condemned the nomination and called for Peretz's resignation, accusing him of harming Israel's security by ceding to "internal rivalries" within the Labour party, whilst Peretz accused Yisrael Beiteinu of being a racist party. Yisrael Beiteinu's member of Knesset (MK) Esterina Tartman referred to Peretz's decision as a "lethal blow to Zionism," adding that Majadale's presence in the cabinet would damage "Israel's character as a Jewish state" and that "We need to destroy this affliction from within ourselves. God willing, God will come to our help." Tartman's comments were immediately condemned as racist by other MKs.
In January 2008 the party left the government in protest against talks with the Palestinian National Authority, saying certain issues negotiated were not to be tolerated. Lieberman pulled out of the government and left his position as Minister of Strategic Affairs, and almost immediately afterwards, Arutz Sheva reported that an investigation against Lieberman and his daughter that had been "ongoing for years, suddenly became active again once he left the government last week."
On 22 December 2008, Lieberman approved the party's list for the 2009 elections. New names in the top ten include Orly Levy (daughter of former Likud MK David Levy) and Anastasia Michaeli, two former models and current television hosts. Knesset members Yosef Shagal and Tartman failed to make the list. The results of the election saw the party win 15 seats, making it the third largest after Kadima (28) and Likud (27). In March 2009, Yisrael Beiteinu joined Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition and party leader Avigdor Lieberman became Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, whilst the party received four other ministerial portfolios, and one deputy minister post.
On 25 October 2012, Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud would run together on a single ballot in Israel's 22 January 2013 general elections. “In view of the challenges we’re facing, we need responsibility on a national level ... We’re providing a true alternative, and an opportunity for the citizens to stabilize leadership and government.,” Lieberman said.
The supreme body in the party is the party conference which convenes every four years. The participants of the party choose the institutions of the party and among them the party court, the permanent commission, the municipal commission, and the comptroller.
Yisrael Beiteinu runs for local elections under the name of the city that they run in, e.g. Petah Tikva Beiteinu ("Petah Tikva Our Home").
Relations with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians
One of the party's main policies is that of drawing the borders in such a way that areas with large Arab populations, such as the Triangle area and the Wadi Ara, both gained by Israel as part of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, would be transferred to Arab sovereignty. Known as the Lieberman Plan, such an arrangement would mean that the majority of Jews would live in Israel and the majority of Arabs would live in a future Palestinian state. In most cases there is no physical population transfer or demolition of houses, but creating a new border where none existed before, according to demographics.
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 55/153, written in 2001, explicitly states: “When part of the territory of a state is transferred by that state to another state, the successor state shall attribute its nationality to the persons concerned who have their habitual residence in the transferred territory and the predecessor state shall withdraw its nationality from such persons,” and Lieberman claims that this means Israel can legally transfer territory and citizens as a means of peace and ultimate conflict resolution.
Avigdor Lieberman argues that the Arab residents see themselves not as Israelis but as Palestinians, and should therefore be encouraged to join the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman has presented this proposal as part of a potential peace deal aimed at establishing two separate national entities, one for Jews in Israel and the other for Arabs in Palestine. However, he is known to have an affinity for and is popular amongst the Druze population (the only Arab population to be fully drafted into the IDF), and has attracted a number of Druze voters, including some in the Golan Heights who voted for the party in protest. Druze candidate Hamad Amar was elected to the Knesset on the party's list in 2009.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch proposed to use "administrative detention against those carrying out so-called 'price tag' attacks." This was in reference to Jewish extremists perpetrating hate crimes against Arabs.
Nakba Day reform
Yisrael Beytenu was instrumental in passing a law which would fine bodies that receive state funding being spent in recognition of Nakba Day, and events that call for the end of Israel as a Jewish State.
The Iranian nuclear program
Yisrael Beytenu has taken a strong stance against the growth and development of the Iranian nuclear program. Lieberman has made clear that "there are no illusions as to the Iranians' intentions regarding their military nuclear program," after meeting US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in Jerusalem. Lieberman and the party have worked hard and collaborated with many world leaders in order to keep the issue at the top of the global agenda and to increase international pressure. “I do not believe the international community is under any illusions regarding Iran's willingness to give up its nuclear program," Lieberman said. 
A long-time and current standing goal of the party has been government reform. Yisrael Beytenu, since its inception, has called for the separation of the legislative and executive branches to increase accountability and uniformity within government. Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister, MK, and former international party chair, explained the party’s call for reform; “In Israel, there is no sufficient separation of powers. Around a third of the Knesset Members serve as ministers or deputy ministers and are thus forbidden to introduce laws or participate in committees. There are few apposite checks and balances, in fact, farcically, the opposite is true; as an MK, I am expected to conduct oversight of my role as Deputy Foreign Minister.” Between an impending nuclear Iran and the rising cost of living within Israel proper, Yisrael Beytenu has been committed to finding a solution within the Knesset that will allow for action to be taken. “The people want change, and are sick and tired of all the wheeling and dealing within the coalition that is necessary to pass the simplest of laws,” Ayalon further explains.
The Norwegian law
As the party seeks to increase governability, it supports the passage of the Norwegian Law, that will require MKs to resign their seats when appointed a Ministerial position and be replaced by another party member.
Relations with Gaza
Religion and state
Yisrael Beytenu does not advocate a separation of religion and state, but rather seeks to moderate the Israeli rabbinate. Following an attempt to delegitimize the conversion of soldiers that were made through the authority of the army's chief rabbi, MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov led the party in the passing of the a bill that formally legalized the conversions.
The party is also working to make marriage easier for secular Israelis by working to pass the Tzohar Law. The new law will end the restriction of Jewish couples to be wedded only by the rabbi of their locale, permitting them to choose any recognized rabbi in the country to perform their marriage. This will allow the couple to avoid the often burdensome bureaucracy associated with the marriage process.
- Potentially but not officially make the Law of Return applicable exclusively to born Jews, and Orthodox Converts as well as their offspring rather than converts to mainline sects of Judaism from other religions if those converts visited Israel at any point prior to conversion
- Make clearer delineations between the Law of Return and the Citizenship Law
- Broaden the power of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel by authorizing Chief Rabbinate-appointed municipal rabbis to carry out conversions and marriages for the converted
The Conversion Bill has been heavily criticized by various religious groups in both Israel and other countries; Shas and United Torah Judaism initially balked at the bill due to perceived contradictions against Jewish law, but eventually reached a compromise. Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movement heavily objected against the bill's further centering of religious power in the hands of the predominately-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate of Israel, discriminating against converts to Progressive Judaism and potentially alienating non-Orthodox Jews in the Jewish diaspora.
The party also supports increasing the police force, improving education, easing conversions and secular/non-religious civil unions. The last two points are particularly popular with the Russian immigrant community who vote heavily for the party. These items angered some of the religious parties such as Shas with Shas's Rabbi Ovadia Yossef claiming that "Whoever votes for Lieberman gives strength to Satan," and claims that the party is a danger to religious matters in Israel. While the party as a whole does not advocate the separation of religion and state, the local chapters generally push for measures that the religious public opposes, such as public transportation on Saturdays and the ability to sell pork (which is treif and haraam) in general stores.
A number of mainstream media sources, within and outside of Israel, have labelled the party, and Lieberman, as right wing and even far right or ultra nationalist. At the same time however, the party does recognize a two-state solution and it is a secular Party, with some of its particular religious policies described as "ultra liberal". These positions are contradictory to the tradition of both nationalistic and religious right wing politics in Israel. Some have called the party and its leader a "hard-line" or "self-styled" populist.
While various Arab and world media and politicians accused the party and its leader of being a fascist and racist, a number of Israeli media and politicians tend to disagree, and some even offered praise on occasion. For example, Kadima's Minister of Finance Roni Bar-On said "It's a Jewish party, Zionist and serious." The party phenomenon was explained by Gershom Gorenberg:
- Lieberman is not a right-winger, because he’s talking about giving up land. In fact, he’s even willing to give up land from sovereign Israel. [..] I think one of the reasons people say Lieberman is in the center is that they don’t realize he has, in effect, redefined the terms.
Yehuda Ben-Meir wrote in the left-wing Haaretz that he did not and would not ever vote for Lieberman. He also criticized the delegitimizing and demonizing of both the right and the left:
Lieberman is neither a racist nor a fascist, and depicting him as such does an injustice to his voters and harm to Israel.
What's racist is denying the Jewish people a state of their own. Certain Arab Knesset members talk incessantly about the Palestinian people's rights, including their own state. But in the same breath they refuse to acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people and deny the very existence of a Jewish people as a nation with national rights...Just as we must condemn right wingers' attempts to cast doubt over the patriotism of Yossi Beilin and his fellow subscribers to the Geneva Initiative – provocative as this plan might be to most Israelis – we must condemn the left's lamentable habit of denigrating Lieberman. The idea to change the state's borders in a peace agreement may not be practical or implementable in our circumstances, but we cannot deny its legitimacy and sense. And in any case, it has nothing to do with racism. Lieberman has said publicly that he supports the principle of establishing a Palestinian state.
According to Time.com, many Russian immigrants are attracted to the ideas of Lieberman's party. It also notes that analysts say that at this time "the dreary prospects for peace, and recent terrorist attacks inflicted by Israeli Arabs" have contributed to Lieberman's popularity among other segments of Israeli society.
Yisrael Beiteinu and its plan have many vehement critics from the left and the right in Israel.
Despite its support for increased Jewish immigration (aliyah) and settlement expansion, Yisrael Beiteinu's platform is based in part on the creation of a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel, and thus has alienated much of the religious right-wing settlement movement which refuses to acknowledge Palestinian claims to any of the 'Land of Israel.'
Yisrael Beiteinu has drawn equally strong criticism from the Left, in large part due to the Lieberman Plan's proposed land and population transfers along ethnic lines. This focus on ethnicity and religion has drawn comparisons with the now defunct Kach party.
The Lieberman Plan caused a stir among Arab citizens of Israel, which explicitly treats them as a 'fifth column' and as an enemy within. With few exceptions, Arabs in Israel argue that they have lived in the region for centuries, and should not have to renounce the villages and cities in which they, their parents, and their grandparents were born (although the plan calls for a transfer of sovereignty, rather than population). Others insist that as Israeli citizens, they deserve equal rights within the State, and should not be singled out according to their ethnic or religious background. Various polls show that Arabs in Israel in general do not wish to move to the West Bank or Gaza if a Palestinian state were created there.
Allegations of anti-Arabism
Two Israeli Arab journalists were excluded from a campaign gathering held by Yisrael Beiteinu in Haifa. Haifa Deputy Mayor Yulia Shtraim, a member of the party's municipal faction, said she would not allow the journalists to enter the hall "because of the Arabs' demonstration and what [the demonstrators] say about Lieberman." The Israeli Arab journalists were denied access, despite possessing press cards, being told that they were uninvited. However uninvited Jewish and foreign media were allowed in.
Young fans waiting outside a Yisrael Beiteinu conference shouted the slogans "No loyalty, no citizenship" and "Death to Arabs" at passersby. One of the youths explained that they meant death to those who support terror.
The party currently has 11 Knesset members, since 2013.
- Avigdor Lieberman
- Uzi Landau
- Yitzhak Aharonovich
- Sofa Landver
- Orly Levy
- Shimon Ohayon
- David Rotem
- Faina Kirschenbaum
- Robert Ilatov
- Hamad Amar
- Yair Shamir
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- As'ad Ghanem. Ethnic Politics in Israel. Routledge. "Most votes in the 2006 elections came from the Russian voters. Although Lieberman did his best to downplay the image of the party as a 'Russian' one (including having non-Russian candidates on the Yisrael Beitenu list), he was unsuccessful. Even in the 2009 elections, survey results indicate that most Yisrael Beitenu votes came from the Russians."
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- The party's platform http://www.beytenu.org/107/2193/article.html
- Shas' Rabbi Yosef: Voting for Lieberman gives strength to Satan http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1062315.html
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yisrael Beiteinu.|
- Official website (Hebrew)
- Official website (English)
- Official website (Russian)
- Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset website