Israel’s Religious Right Parties Splinter Ahead of Vote

With More Voters Looking at Ultra-Orthodox, Shas Could Lose Its Traditional Role

In Israeli elections the religious right is more of a given than a race, with the Shas Party and the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) factions usually the only two factions standing at the end, and splitting 15-20 seats between them, usually making them important kingmakers in close votes.

With Likud-Beiteinu running a combined list and religious voters running for the hills, this was expected to be a breakthrough year for the ultra-Orthodox parties, and while it still may be, those parties are splintered and battling in a way few expected.

Shas’ role as the dominant power of the religious right is being openly challenged, and Shas’ rabbinical leadership are facing challenges from rival rabbis with rival parties which may end up splitting the vote.

Early polls have showed Jewish Home surging, while Shas has seen early gains evaporate and is roughly back to that 10-12 seat range they usually find. UTJ, though not as directly involved in the fighting, seems to be getting the worst of it, with some polls showing they may not even break the threshold for the Knesset this time around.

The threshold and the emergence of yet more new parties vying for votes could significantly impede the ultra-Orthodox vote gains, meaning a major swing in votes toward them won’t necessarily mean as big of a swing into Knesset seats, and with Likud-Beiteinu openly spurning some of the groups, they may struggle to find their way into a ruling coalition.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.