Last updated: 12 March, 2015

Key candidates in Israel’s general election

Israel holds its second general election in just over two years on Tuesday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved parliament following the breakdown of his coalition government.

Here are brief profiles of the leaders of the main political parties.


Known as “Bibi”, Netanyahu heads the rightwing Likud party and is seeking a third consecutive term, his fourth overall.

Polls show the centre-left Zionist Union slightly ahead of Likud but analysts say Netanyahu, 65, is best placed to form a parliamentary majority with support from ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties.

The son of a Zionist historian, Netanyahu presents himself as the guardian of Israeli security against Iran and radical Islam.

Educated in the United States, he served in Israel’s special forces and is considered close to the American school of neo-conservative politics.


The head of the opposition Labour Party, Herzog has joined forces with the centrist HaTnuah to form the Zionist Union.

A 54-year-old lawyer and son of Israel’s sixth president, Herzog has been a member of parliament since 2003 and held several cabinet posts. A social rights activist, he has repeatedly called for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Despite his political pedigree, critics accuse Herzog of lacking charisma.


A former justice minister and chief peace negotiator, Livni was sacked by Netanyahu in December for “acting against the government from within” after opposing a controversial bill aimed at enshrining Israel’s status as the Jewish state in law.

Livni, a 56-year-old lawyer, is a former undercover agent for the Mossad spy agency and a one-time foreign minister who cut her political teeth with Likud.

Often described as Israel’s most powerful woman and compared with former prime minister Golda Meir, Livni has defied her staunch nationalist background and become convinced that the only way to preserve Israel as a Jewish state is to relinquish at least some of the land occupied in the 1967 Six Day War.


The head of the far-right Jewish Home party, Bennett, 42, is a champion of the settler movement and a key challenger of Netanyahu to head Israel’s rightwing.

A slick communicator, he is a savvy user of social media who is fluent in Hebrew, English and French. He held the economy portfolio in the outgoing government.

He openly opposes a Palestinian state and pushes his own “peace plan” which would see Israel annexing 60 percent of the West Bank.

Born to American immigrants, he served as a commando with the special forces before starting a lucrative career in high-tech.


The outgoing foreign minister and head of the hard-right Yisrael Beitenu party, Lieberman is known to his critics as the “doberman”.

A firebrand with ambition to lead the right, Lieberman, 56, has been dogged by corruption allegations for nearly two decades but in 2013 was acquitted on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

Born in what is now Moldova, he immigrated to Israel at 20 and worked as a nightclub bouncer before entering politics.

He is known for his blistering attacks on Israel’s Arab minority as well as on the Palestinian leadership.


The former finance minister and head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, Lapid was sacked by Netanyahu in December alongside Livni.

A former news anchor and newspaper commentator, the telegenic 51-year-old entered politics in 2012 pledging to defend Israel’s middle class, his party storming to success in elections a year later.

Despite his economics-driven campaign, Lapid failed as finance minister to tackle the soaring cost of living and reduce spiralling rent prices.


A popular former Likud minister who left politics before the previous election two years ago, Kahlon returned to set up his centre-right Kulanu party in late 2014.

Kahlon, 54, earned fame as communications minister for smashing Israel’s mobile phone monopoly, cutting prices for consumers.

The son of immigrants from Libya, Kahlon says he backs a two-state solution but sees “no partner” on the Palestinian side.