Evangelicals use clout to help Israel

As ‘capital of the Bible Belt,’ Atlanta plays role in growing relationship

The small room full of guests at the Israeli consulate general on Spring Street listened attentively as two members of Rosh Ha’ayin Yemenite Mandolin Orchestra played a selection of songs.

Soon, the guest of honor — a top official from the Israeli government — arrived to a warm welcome. Not from members of Atlanta’s Jewish community, but from about half a dozen Christian ministers and the prominent leader of a conservative organization.

Formed in the 1970s, the conservative Likud holds 40 seats in the Knesset. Likud’s platform includes a peace treaty based on “peace for peace,” maintaining the status quo in religion/state issues and reforms in public health, education and welfare. It is headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Labor-Meimad coalition

The Labor Party, the dominant left-of-center political party, and Meimad hold 19 seats in the Knesset. Labor is committed to a comprehensive peace with security in the Middle East. It is temporarily headed by Shimon Peres. Meimad was established in 1988 as a spinoff of the National Religious Party. It joined with Labor and the Gesher party in 1999 to create the One Israel party. Meimad is headed by Michael Melchior.

Shinui

Shinui was formed in 1974. It is in favor of territorial compromise for peace. Shinui holds 15 seats in the Knesset and is headed by Joseph “Tommy” Lapid.

Shas

Founded in the early 1970s as an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic alternative to the Agudat Israel party, Shas believes all governmental policies should be based on strict Jewish law. The party, which has 11 seats in the Knesset, supports autonomy for Palestinians but opposes a Palestinian state. It is headed by Eli Yishai, but spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yossef plays a key role.

Mafdal

(National Religious Party)

Established in 1956, the party stands for strict adherence to religion and traditions. It opposes creation of a Palestinian state and argues for retention of the occupied territories. Headed by Effi Eitam, Mafdal has six seats in the Knesset.

Ha-ichud Ha-leumi

(National Union)

Ha-ichud Ha-leumi was formed in 1999 and later merged with Israel Beitenu and Moledet. The party, which holds seven seats, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, backs Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and supports the transfer of Palestinians in the territories to other Arab states. It is headed by Avigdor Lieberman.

Meretz

The party was formed in 1992. It backs Palestinian self-determination, separation of religion from the state, and a halt to settlement in the occupied territories. Meretz holds six seats in the Knesset and is headed by Yossi Sarid.

Yahadut Hatorah

The party is a coalition of two ultra-Orthodox parties, Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah. It opposes Israeli territorial concessions and the formation of a Palestinian state. The party has five seats in the Knesset and is headed by Meir Porush.

Am Ehad

(One Nation)

The party represents the interests of workers and is affiliated with the Histadrut trade union federation. It has three seats in the Knesset and is headed by Amir Perez.

Balad

Formed in 1999, Balad supports cultural autonomy for Arabs, creation of a Palestinian state and the return of Arab refugees. It is headed by Azmi Bishara and has three seats in the Knesset.

Hadash-Ta’al

The party represents Israeli Arabs. It was one of the first parties to approve contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization, call for complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, and support the establishment of a Palestinian state. The party has three seats in the Knesset and is led by Mohammad Barakeh.

United Arab List

Formed in 1996, the party has two seats in the Knesset. It wants all Jewish settlements dismantled and backs a Palestinian state. It is led by Abdulmalek Dehamshe.

Compiled by ALICE WERTHEIM / Staff