United Torah Judaism

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Posted by pompos 03/03/2009 @ 12:15

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United Torah Judaism

UTJ ballot used in the 2006 elections reading  "Torah Judaism and the Shabbat Agudat Israel - Degel HaTorah"

United Torah Judaism (Hebrew: יהדות התורה המאוחדת‎, Yahadut HaTorah HaMeukhedet; UTJ) is an alliance of Degel HaTorah and Agudat Israel, two small Israeli Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) political parties in the Knesset. It was first formed in 1992.

The two parties have not always agreed with each other about policy matters. However, over the years they have cooperated and united as a voting bloc in order to win the maximum number of seats in the Knesset, since many extra votes can be wasted if election thresholds are not attained under Israel's proportional representation parliamentary system.

When UTJ joined Ariel Sharon's coalition in 2004 it split into its two constituent factions of Degel HaTorah and Agudat Israel. Before the 2006 election, Degel HaTorah and Agudat Israel agreed to revive their alliance under the banner of United Torah Judaism to not waste votes and achieve maximum representation in the 17th Knesset.

United Torah Judaism (Yahdut Hatorah - UTJ) is a coalition of two ultra-Orthodox parties, Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah, which submitted a joint list in the 1992 election, in which it won four Knesset seats. In the 1999 elections, UTJ won five Knesset seats. UTJ, led by Meir Porush, opposes negotiations with the Palestinians and the formation of a Palestinian state, and it wants to maintain a status quo relationship in regard to religion and state issues. UTJ also supports increasing settlements throughout Israel for economic, social and security reasons.

Degel HaTorah's pre-eminent sages and guides are presently Rabbis Yosef Shalom Eliashiv and Aharon Shteinman, both well into their nineties. Rabbi Eliashiv lives in Jerusalem and Rabbi Shtainman in Bnei Brak. Policy decisions are also weighed and decided by a Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah ("Council of Torah Sages"), a council of experienced communal rabbis, made up of mostly senior and elderly heads of yeshivas all very learned in Talmud, devoted to halakha (classical Jewish law), and guided by their knowledge and application of the classical "Code of Jewish Law", the Shulkhan Arukh.

The Agudat Yisrael faction takes its directions from the Hasidic rebbes of Ger, Vizhnitz, Boston and Sadigura also steeped in Torah law and mysticism, who exert much influence in the daily lives of their followers (the "Hasidim"). The Belz rebbe, a prominent political and religious figure in his own right, is also closely involved in Agudat policy-making, and his followers are loyal UTJ supporters, though inter-party politics resulted in Belz failing to get any of their representatives into a high position on the UTJ list in the 2006 Knesset elections, and consequently, resulting in a faction with no Belz members present, for the second Knesset in a row.

Before the formation of UTJ and the establishment of Degel HaTorah, the two factions were united under one united Agudat Yisrael party, but the late mentor and supreme guide of the non-Hasidic group, Rabbi Elazar Shach (1898-2001) broke away from the Hasidic wing when it was clear that the party was not living up to its mandate to represent all Torah Jewry. At that point he split from them, and created the Degel HaTorah party for the "Lithuanian" Haredi Jews (also known as "Mitnagdim" by some). He chose the name Degel HaTorah meaning "Flag The Torah" to be a contrast to the well-known flag of Israel and its connection with the secular-dominated State of Israel (an "anti-Torah" entity in his opinion). Rabbi Shach was known as an outspoken critic of the secular Israeli way of life.

The UTJ party also had considerable influence on the Israeli Sephardi Jews' Shas party. In fact, the Shas party was founded by Rabbi Shach at an earlier juncture when he was previously also frustrated with the policies of the Hasidic rebbes, so he turned to the Sephardic Jews, and urged his own Ashkenazi followers at that time, to vote for the new Shas party, which they did in record numbers. Later, Shas broke with Rabbi Schach as it adopted its own independent political stance under Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Yet, Shas always "looks over its shoulder" to see what the Ashkenazi Haredi parties are up to, and usually goes in the same direction as it has similar needs and interests within the state.

In January 2004, the party split back into its two factions following a disagreement over how to join Ariel Sharon's coalition, which had been negotiated by Rabbi Eliashiv. Rabbi Eliashiv wanted the five MKs to have a three-month "waiting period" before accepting jobs in the government. Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the Gerrer rebbe, however, thought that all Agudat members should accept positions immediately. The Agudat MKs argued that they should be entitled to follow their own rabbis' ruling, while their Degel HaTorah counterparts accused them of disrespecting Rabbi Eliashiv. The Agudah faction proceeded to follow the rebbe of Ger's instructions, with MK Yaakov Litzman accepting the position as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. This infuriated Degel HaTorah and its leaders, and in response they left the party, dissolving a twelve-year-old partnership.

In December 2005, there was a meeting between representatives of the two factions, presumably to smooth over the ill-feelings of the previous year and to attempt to regroup before the March 2006 elections. A number of issues were worked out, such as Degel HaTorah's insistence on the joint list being equally divided between the two parties. (In the past, Agudat Israel has received slightly more votes than Degel HaTorah.) Degel HaTorah has reorganized itself. It has a fully equipped modern party office on Hamabit Street 10 in Jerusalem's Geulah neighborhood. It conducted a party convention, its first in 15 years, in December 2005.

In early February 2006 Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah agreed to run together as United Torah Judaism, despite the fact that the contentious "sixth seat" issue remained undecided. The two groups finally compromised by proposing dividing the sixth seat between two representatives on a rotating schedule, (as was done in the last Knesset between the Belz and Vizhnitz communities for the fifth seat). This solution seemed to mollify the respective groups and paved the way for the re-establishment of a joint list for the 2006 elections, although the Belz court was reportedly irked that once again, it was being asked to sacrifice part of its representation.

UTJ MKs told reporters that any decision to join future government coalitions will be dependent on achieving two "central posts" to be split between Agudah and Degel. Similarly, in order to avoid the problems that led to the 2004 split, disagreements about joining a coalition will not be determined by a majority vote of MKs, but rather taken to the party's rabbinic leaders.

Various media interviews with the party's Knesset members confirmed that it would strongly consider joining a coalition with the Ehud Olmert-led Kadima party should it be offered to them after the elections.. In March 2006, the rabbinical leaders of UTJ, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, issued public declarations urging the Haredi public to vote for the party's list. In the election the party increased its mandate by one to six seats. Presently the party is represented more by the Agudah faction, as the sixth seat is being held by Yaakov Cohen, the longtime dean of a Ger yeshiva, bringing the ratio of the faction 4-2 Agudah. This marks the second time since the coalition's founding that Ger has secured two simultaneous MK positions in UTJ, and could indicate an increase the court's clout and influence.

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Agudath Israel of America

Agudath Israel of America (or Agudas Yisroel of America or Agudat Yisrael of America or simply the Agudah [agudah is Hebrew for "gathering" or "union"), is a Haredi Jewish communal organization in the United States loosely affiliated with the international World Agudath Israel.

Agudah in the United States has been very successful in retaining its major Hasidic factions, with members from the Ger Hasidim in America working together within the organization and its non-Hasidic Lithuanian rosh yeshivas as partners. Agudah represents many members of the yeshiva world, sometimes known by the old label of mitnagdim, as well as sectors of Hasidic Judaism; all are commonly known as Haredim or "ultra-Orthodox" Jews representing Torah Judaism in North America. Not all Hasidic Jewish groups are affiliated with Agudath Israel. For example, the Hasidic group Satmar dislikes Agudah's relatively moderate stance towards the State of Israel.

It has ideological connections with both the Agudat Israel party and with Degel HaTorah (Hebrew, "Flag of Torah"), two Israeli Orthodox Jewish political parties that have representation in the Knesset (Israel's parliament). In Israel, Degel and Agudah are in a political coalition called United Torah Judaism (UTJ).

AIA is also a part of the World Agudath Israel organization, which convenes international conferences and religious conclaves.

The original Agudath Israel movement was established in Europe in 1912 by some of the most famous Orthodox rabbis of the time, including the Chafetz Chaim,Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzenski of Vilna, Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky, and Rabbi Meir Shapiro. It grew during the 1920s and 1930s to be the political, communal, and cultural voice of those Orthodox Jews who were not part of Zionism's Orthodox Jewish Mizrachi party. See more information at World Agudath Israel.

Rabbi Eliezer Silver, an Eastern European-trained rabbi, established the first office of Agudath Israel in America during the 1930s, organizing its first conference in 1939. After the Holocaust, some prominent rabbis made their home in America who established a moetzes (" council") and the movement began to grow rapidly with the rise of the yeshiva-based and Hasidic Orthodox communities.

Mike Tress lead the expansion of the movement during the early 1900s until his death during the mid-1960s as its chief lay leader. His cousin Rabbi Moshe Sherer then took control. He was succeeded by Rabbi Shmuel Bloom after his death in the 90s, and in 2008 Leibish Becker has taken over as Executive Director.

In 2007, it was among over 530 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $30 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Since 2002, the Carnegie Corporation has donated more than $115 million.

The organization has a lay staff, many of whom are also ordained rabbis, but not of a caliber comparable to the rosh yeshivas and rebbes. After the passing of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, its last significant "lay" leader, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow who is also the Novominsker rebbe and a member of the Moetzet, was appointed as the Rosh Agudat Yisrael ("Head of Agudath Israel"). The past Noviminsker Rebbe, Rabbi Nochum Perlow was considered a key figure in the Agudah. The present official head is now his son, also known as the Noviminsker Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow who works closely with his fellow leaders on the Moetzet.

The staff includes Rabbi Leibish Becker as the Executive Director, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel as the Executive Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin as the Chief Financial Officer.

There are AIA-affiliated synagogues across the United States and in Canada.

The AIA takes sides on many political, religious, and social issues, primarily guided by its Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah. It uses these stances to advise its members, to lobby politicians, and to file amicus briefs. See below, under "Activities".

In 1956 for example, the moetzes issued a written ruling forbidding Orthodox rabbis to join with any Reform or Conservative rabbis in rabbinical communal professional organizations that then united the various branches of America's Jews, such as the Synagogue Council of America. This position was not endorsed by the Modern Orthodox. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik of Yeshiva University had initially aligned himself with Agudah but later established his independent views on these matters and a host of other issues, such as attitudes towards college education and attitudes towards the secular-led Israeli governments. Rabbi Soloveitchik felt it important to nurture the modern Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). However, at times, a few of the more traditionalist rabbis at Yeshiva University aligned themselves with Agudah's positions.

With its head office in Manhattan and the bulk of its members living in the New York-New Jersey area, the Agudah ensures that it monitors and intercedes on behalf of causes important to it in the politics of New York City, its five boroughs, and in the state government of New York State.

With the growth of Orthodox Judaism throughout the country, AIA also has active branches in Chicago, Ohio, Maryland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Texas, Florida, California and New Jersey, where they lobby the judicial and legislative branches of these state, and local governments on any issue it deems important morally or religiously or important to its constituency. Agudath Israel's National Director of Government Affairs is Rabbi Yehiel Mark Kalish who manages the state government effort under Zwiebel.

Agudath Israel's federal activities are coordinated by Rabbi Abba Cohen, the Director and Counsel of the organization's Washington Office. Agudah was the first Orthodox Jewish group to open a Washington Office, in 1988, and maintains ongoing relations with the White House and executive agencies, as well as with the U.S. Congress, on numerous domestic and foreign issues.

Agudath Israel World Organization also has a representative at the United Nations.

AIA also files amicus briefs in cases at all levels of the judiciary, often signing on as one of many organization signatories to a brief authored by Nat Lewin or COLPA.

Agudah maintains a network of summer youth camps attended by several thousand children. It has a number of social service branches that cater to the elderly, poor, or disabled. It has a job training program called COPE, a job placement division, and a housing program. The Agudah is also responsible for the funding of many other national institutions and projects, including the Bais Yaakov girls' school system, the National Siyum Mishnayos, the national Daf Yomi Commission, and countless others. In addition, there are hundreds of local "Agudah" synagogues scattered in communities throughout the country, all of which are affiliated with AIA.

Agudath Israel does not have its own website, since its official policy is for its members not to use the Web for uses other than work-related. However, its message, as relayed in the pages of its magazine, the Jewish Observer, is intermittently republished to the Web by a third party, the Shema Yisrael Torah Network. AIA does allow the use of e-mail, and uses it to disseminate information to its members.

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Agudat Israel

Agudat Israel (Hebrew: אגודת ישראל‎, "Union Israel", also Agudat Yisrael, Agudath Israel, or Agudas Yisroel) began as the original political party representing Haredi Judaism in Israel. It was the umbrella party for almost all Haredi Jews in Israel, and before that in the British Mandate of Palestine. It originated in the original Agudath Israel movement founded in Europe in the early part of the twentieth century.

In the 1980s Rabbi Elazar Shach, leader of Israel's "Lithuanian" Haredi Jews and its pre-eminent rosh yeshiva ("yeshiva dean") at the time, split with Agudat Israel and created the new Degel HaTorah ("Flag Torah") party, that was controlled by Lithuanian-style Haredi leaders as opposed to the Hasidic leaders who controlled Agudat Israel. Rabbi Shach later assisted Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in splitting from Agudath Israel and creating a Sephardic Haredi party known as Shas. Agudath Israel and Degel HaTorah have not always agreed with each other about policy matters; however, over the years the two parties have co-operated and united as a voting bloc in order to win the maximum amount of seats in the Knesset since many extra votes can be wasted if certain thresholds are not attained under Israel's proportional representation parliamentary system. The two parties chose to function and be listed under the name of United Torah Judaism (Yahadut HaTorah).

When both parties joined the government coalition of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 the UTJ union was broken due to rivalries. For the Israel legislative election, 2006 Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah have once again put their differences aside and have officially revived their United Torah Judaism alliance in order to win the maximum amount of seats in the 17th Knesset.

Though Agudat Israel has never elected more than a handful of members in the Knesset, it has often played crucial roles in the formation of Israel's coalition governments because Israel's system of proportional representation allows small parties to wield the balance of power between the larger secular parties. This political leverage has been used to obtain funding for yeshivas and community institutions and to pass legislation regarding observance of the Shabbat and kosher ("dietary") laws, often to the consternation of secular Israelis.

Political power is presently vested in the Hasidic rebbes of Ger, Vizhnitz and Belz.

In addition, policy decisions of Agudat Israel are ratified by its Council of Torah Sages which includes several other prominent Hasidic leaders and scholars, many being the leading rabbis from the main constituent groups. When participating in government coalitions, the party generally refrains from accepting actual cabinet posts. Its positions on Israeli foreign policy and the Palestinian question has been flexible in the past since the party formally rejects political secular Zionism and does not view such issues ideologically. Therefore, it has been able to participate in both Likud and Labour led coalitions. In more recent years it has become alarmed by Palestinian terrorism, becoming more sympathetic to the settler movement in the West Bank and thus more security conscious on military issues affecting Israel's survival. Agudat Israel supported Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan of 2005.

In 1948, Rabbi Yehuda Meir Abramowicz was appointed as General Secretary.

Rabbi Meir Porush, as well as Yaakov Litzman, and Yisrael Eichler, from the Hasidic courts of Ger and Belz have represented the party in Israel's Knesset recently. Another longtime Agudat MK is Rabbi Shmuel Halpert, a member of the court of Vizhnitz.

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Politics of Israel

Office of the President of Israel in 2007.

Politics of Israel takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Israel is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Knesset. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system of the State of Israel and its main principles are set out in 11 Basic Laws.

The Knesset (Hebrew: כנסת‎, lit. Assembly) is Israel's unicameral parliament. Its 120 members are elected to 4-year terms through party-list proportional representation (see electoral system, below), as mandated by the 1958 Basic Law: The Knesset. As the legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset enacts laws, supervises government activities, and is empowered to elect or remove the President of the State or State Comptroller from office.

The March 2006 elections produced five prominent political parties; Kadima, Labor, Shas, Likud and Israel Beytenu, each with more than ten seats in the Knesset. However, only once has a single party held the 61 seats needed for a majority government (the Alignment from 1968 until the 1969 elections). Therefore, aside from that one exception, since 1948 Israeli governments have always comprised coalitions. As of 2006, there are 12 political parties represented in the Knesset, spanning both the political and religious spectra.

Israel's electoral law is based on a Basic Law (The Knesset) and the 1969 Knesset Elections Law.

The Knesset's 120 members are elected by secret ballot to 4-year terms, although the Knesset may decide to call for new elections before the end of its 4-year term. In addition a motion of confidence may be called. Voting is carried out using the highest averages method of party-list proportional representation, using the d'Hondt formula. General elections are closed list; that is, voters vote only for party lists and cannot affect the order of candidates within the lists and since the 1992 Parties Law, only registered parties may stand. There are no separate electoral districts; all voters vote on the same party lists. Suffrage is universal among Israeli citizens aged 18 years or older, but voting is optional. Polling locations are open throughout Israel; absentee ballots are limited to diplomatic staff and the merchant marine. While each party attains one seat for 1 in 120 votes, there is a minimum threshold (recently increased to 2% ) for parties to attain their first seat in an election. This action was intended to bar smaller parties from parliament but spurred some parties to join together simply to overcome the threshold. The low vote threshold for entry into parliament, as well as the need for these small-party seats to form coalition governments, causes the political spectrum to be highly fragmented, with small parties exercising disproportionate coalition power relative to their electoral strength.

The president selects the prime minister as the party leader most able to form a government, based on the number of parliament seats her or his coalition has won. After the president's selection, the prime minister has forty-five days to form a government. The members of the cabinet must be collectively approved by the Knesset. This electoral system, inherited from the Yishuv (Jewish settlement organization during the British Mandate), makes it very difficult for any party to gain a working majority in the Knesset and thus the government is generally formed on the basis of a coalition. Elections are often held earlier than scheduled, due to difficulties in holding coalitions together. The average life span of an Israeli government is 22 months. Over the years, the peace process, the role of religion in the state, and political scandals have caused coalitions to break apart or produced early elections.

The Judicial branch is an independent branch of the government, including secular and religious courts for the various religions present in Israel. The court system involves 3 stages of justice.

In December 1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.

Some issues of family law (marriage and divorce in particular) fall either under the jurisdiction of religious courts or under parallel jurisdiction of those and the state's family courts. The state maintains and finances Rabbinical, Sharia and various Canonical courts for the needs of the various religious communities. All judges are civil servants, and required to uphold general law in their tribunals as well. The High court of Justice serves as final appellate instance for all religious courts. The Jewish religious authorities are under control of the Prime Minister's Office and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. These courts have jurisdiction in only five areas: Kashrut, Sabbath, Jewish burial, marital issues (especially divorce), and Jewish status of immigrants. However, except for determining a person's marital status, all other marital issues may also be taken to secular Family Courts.

The other major religions in Israel, such as Islam and Christianity, are supervised by their own establishments of religious law. These courts have similar jurisdiction over their followers, although Muslim religious courts have more control over family affairs.

Golda Meir, a former Israeli Prime Minister, joked that "in Israel, there are 3 million prime ministers". Because of the proportional representation system, there is a large number of political parties, many of whom run on very specialized platforms, often advocating the tenets of particular interest groups. The prevalent balance between the largest parties means that the smaller parties can have disproportionately strong influence to their size. Due to their ability to act as tie breakers, they often use this status to block legislation or promote their own agenda, even contrary to the manifesto of the larger party in office.

Israeli politics is dominated by Zionist parties which traditionally fall into three camps, the first two being the largest: Labor Zionism (which has social democrat colors), Revisionist Zionism (which shares some traits with tories or conservatives in other countries) and Religious Zionism (although there are several non Zionist Orthodox religious parties, as well as anti-Zionist Israeli Arab parties). In 2009 the two main Arab political parties, the National Democratic Assembly (also known as Balad) and Ra'am-Ta'al, were initially banned from contesting the next election by the Central Election Committee, but this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of Israel.

From the founding of Israel in 1948 until the election of May 1977, Israel was ruled by successive coalition governments led by the Labor Alignment (or Mapai prior to 1967). From 1967 to 1970, a national unity government included all of Israel's parties except for the two factions of the Communist Party of Israel. After the 1977 election, the Revisionist Zionist Likud bloc, then composed of Herut, the Liberals, and the smaller La'am Party, came to power forming a coalition with the National Religious Party, Agudat Israel, and others.

In those elections - the first direct election of a prime minister in Israeli history - Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu won by a narrow margin, having sharply criticized the government's peace policies for failing to protect Israeli security. Netanyahu subsequently formed a predominantly right-wing coalition government publicly committed to pursuing the Oslo Accords, but with an emphasis on security first and reciprocity. His coalition included the Likud party, allied with the Tzomet and Gesher parties in a single list; three religious parties (Shas, the National Religious Party, and the United Torah Judaism bloc); and two centrist parties, The Third Way and Yisrael BaAliyah. The latter was the first significant party formed expressly to represent the interests of Israel's new Russian immigrants. The Gesher party withdrew from the coalition in January 1998 upon the resignation of its leader, David Levy, from the position of Foreign Minister.

On 27 May 1999, Ehud Barak from One Israel (an alliance of Labor, Meimad and Gesher) was elected Prime minister, and formed a coalition with the Centre Party (a new party with centrist views, led by former generals Yitzhak Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak), the left-wing Meretz, Yisrael BaAliyah, the religious Shas and the National Religious Party. The coalition was committed to continuing negotiations; however, during the two years of the government's existence, most parties left the coalition, leaving Barak with a minority government of the Labor and the center party alone. Barak was forced to call for early elections.

On February 17, 2001, elections resulted in a new "national unity" coalition government, led by Ariel Sharon of the Likud, and including the Labor Party. This government fell when Labor pulled out, and new elections were held January 28, 2003.

Based on the election results, Sharon was able to form a right-wing government consisting of the Likud, Shinui, the National Religious Party and the National Union. The coalition focused on improving Israeli security through fighting against terror, along with combating economic depression. However, when Sharon decided on his 2004 disengagement plan, which included evacuation of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories (particularly the Gaza Strip), the National Union and National Religious Party withdrew from the coalition. Sharon's attempt to add the Haredi United Torah Judaism to the coalition drove Shinui out, and forced Sharon to bring the Labor Party back into his coalition.

Since not all Likud Knesset members supported Sharon's disengagement plan, he still lacked a clear majority in the Knesset. Apparently calculating that his personal popularity was greater than that of the party, Sharon pulled out of the Likud on November 21, 2005 and formed his own new Kadima party. He was joined only days later by Shimon Peres, who pulled out of the Labor party to join Sharon in a bid for a new government. This represents a cataclysmic realignment in Israeli politics, with the former right and left joining in a new centrist party with strong support (unlike previous centrist parties in Israel, which lacked the popularity Kadima now seems to enjoy).

On January 4, 2006 Prime Minister Sharon suffered a massive stroke and went into a coma, in which he still remains. Designated Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took power, becoming interim Prime Minister 100 days after Sharon's incapacitation. He did not become full Prime Minister due to elections being held in March and a new government being formed.

Following the March 2006 elections, which left Kadima as the largest party in the Knesset, Olmert became prime minister. He included Labour, Shas and Gil in a 67-seat coalition. In November 2006, Yisrael Beiteinu (11 seats) also joined the government, but departed from the coalition in January 2008.

1 14 Knesset members joined Kadima in November 2005, 13 of them from Likud. 2 One Nation (3 Knesset members) merged with Labour (19 Knesset members) in 2004. 3 Israel Ba-Aliya (2 Knesset members) merged with Likud (38 Knesset members) in 2003, 13 MKs split and joined Kadima in 2005. 4 Israel Beytenu (3 Knesset members) split from the National Union (7 Knesset members) in 2003. 5 National Religious Party (6 Knesset members) joined the National Union (4 Knesset members after the split 4) prior to the election. 6 9 Knesset members split from Shinui and joined Hetz prior to the elections. 7 Only 2 Knesset members were left from the original faction after the split6 prior to the elections.

Israeli politics are subject to unique circumstances and often defy simple classification in terms of the political spectrum. Groups are sometimes associated with the political left or right, especially in international circles, according to their stance on issues important to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The political centre (represented in Knesset by Kadima and Gil, and in the past represented by Shinui) combines the Israeli right's lack of confidence in the value of negotiations with the Palestinians and the Arab states with the assertion of the Israeli left that Israel should reduce the Israeli presence in the areas of the West Bank. As a result of that, the Political centre supports unilateral actions such as the Israeli West Bank barrier and Israel's unilateral disengagement plan alongside the continuation of militaristic actions (such as the Selective assassination policy) as a means of fighting against terrorism. Economically, the centre is liberal and supports Economic liberalism and has a capitalistic approach. Until recently, the Political centre in the Knesset was relatively small - it never won more than 15 seats on average and centre parties tended to disintegrate within less than two terms (for example: Democratic Movement for Change, the Centre Party and Shinui). Other centre parties split up into factions which joined one or both of the two major parties, like Yachad (Ezer Weizman's party, which merged into the Alignment in 1987), Telem (Moshe Dayan's party, which eventually split up between the Alignment party and Likud), Independent Liberals (also merged into the Alignment) and the General Zionists (which together with Herut created Gahal, the forerunner of Likud).

Also parties which do not identify themselves as political right or political left are considered to be centre parties. For example: The Greens which focuses on environmental subjects and up until today has not been able to enter the Knesset.

BSEC (observer), CE (observer), CERN (observer), EBRD, ECE, FAO, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, OAS (observer), OPCW, OECD (Trial member), OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNFM, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO.

For governmental purposes, Israel is divided into six districts: Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv. Administration of the districts is coordinated by the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for the administration of the occupied territories.

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Source : Wikipedia