There are dozens of political parties in Israel. many of which have representatives Israel has five major political parties: Kadima, Labor, Likud, Shas and Yisrael Beytenu. These five and smaller political parties comprise the Israeli parliamentary system of government. Knesset, a 120-member unicameral parliament, is elected every four years through a proportional representation system. The head of the political party that wins the most seats is responsible for forming the government and thereby becomes the prime minister. Since the formation of Israel in 1948, no single political party has won the majority of the seats, sixty-one, in Knesset. As a result, governments are formed through coalitions.
Kadima, a right-wing political party, was created in 2005 by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Kadima's primary aim is to create a strong Israeli and Palestinian State. It focuses on continuing Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan--to move Israeli settlements out of Gaza and strengthen security in Palestinian areas. This political party also hopes to reform the Knesset with more elections at different levels of government.
The Labor Party, formed in the 1930s, is probably the oldest of the five main Israeli political parties. Originally a left-wing socialist political party, it can now be classified as a left-of-center party. The Labor party advocates for less government and a stable monetary and fiscal policy. In terms of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this political party strongly supports territorial concessions and is opposed to military aggression against Palestinians. It is this stance that makes the political party sometimes unappealing to Israelis especially in times of frequent terrorist attacks.
The Likud Party, formed in 1973, advocates a free market for the Israeli economy and has established free trade agreements with the European Union (EU) and the United States (US). It is largely based on the idea of a "Greater Israel" which emphasizes the nation’s entitlement to the West Bank--the region within Israel that is west of the Jordan River. Still, it was the Likud Party that was the first political party to concede territory to Egypt. The Likud's lack of interest in the Disengagement Plan was what led Sharon to break off and form the Kadima party. Likud currently supports Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas and while it supports a Palestinian state, it supports a smaller Palestinian state than what most Arabs advocate.
In 1984, the Shas political party was formed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who continues to serve as its spiritual leader today. It was formed as a reaction to the government’s refusal to extend Rabbi Yosef’s term as Chief Rabbi of Israel. After the 2006 elections, its political leader, Eli Yishal, formed a coalition with Kadima since Shas had won a total of 12 seats in Knesset. Its practice of forming coalition has a large effect upon its policies toward Arab-Israeli relations, often being the same as the ruling political party with which it has aligned. Furthermore, it advocates social payments and restricting state authority.
Yisrael Beiteinu has two basic policies. One is the advocating a hard-line approach towards Palestine and the rest of the world. Since its foreign policies are largely based on realism, Yisrael Beiteinu believes other nations would prefer that Israel not gain control of the Gaza Strip. The second policy concerns creating friendlier socio-economic conditions for new immigrants. In the 2006 elections, Yisrael Beiteinu won 11 votes within Knesset and became a part of the Kadima-led coalition government.