*Labor, with 44 seats in the current Knesset, has led the government since 1992. Under the late Yitzhak Rabin, it initiated the peace accords with the Palestinians and negotiations have continued under his successor, Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Labor recently removed its opposition to a Palestinian state.
*Likud, with 32 seats in the Knesset, has formed a joint list with the right-wing secular Tsomet Party, which has five seats and is led by Rafael Eitan, and Gesher, a new party formed by former Likud foreign minister and Knesset member David Levy. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu heads the joint list, which opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and calls for expanding Jewish settlements.
*Meretz, with 12 Knesset seats, is the left-wing partner in the current government and favors the creation of a Palestinian state. Headed by Yossi Sarid, it is a bloc that combines the Citizens Rights Movement, Mapam and Shinui.
*National Religious Party, with six seats, is a party of religious Zionists that until 1992 was a partner in every Labor-Likud coalition government. The party, headed by Zevulun Hammer, opposes territorial compromise.
*Shas, the ultra-religious Sephardi party, has six Knesset seats and was an original partner in Rabin's 1992 coalition but left the government two years later. Rabbi Arieh Deri heads the party, which is open to territorial compromise.
*United Torah Judaism, with four seats, is a confederation of two ultra-religious parties, Agudat Israel and Degel Hatorah. Though generally supported by a more hardline electorate, the party's leaders maintain an ambivalent position regarding territorial compromise. Rabbi Meir Porush heads the list.
*Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), with three seats, is a Jewish-Arab list that derives most of its support from Israeli Arabs. Hashem Mahameed leads the party.
*Moledet, with three seats, opposes any territorial compromise and advocates the transfer of Arabs from Israel. Rehavam Ze'evi heads the list.
*Arab Democratic Party-United Arab List is a joint bloc of the Arab Democratic Party, which has two seats in the Knesset, and a new list backed by the Islamic Movement in Israel. ADP head Abdel Wahab Darawshe has taken the second slot to allow Islamic movement activist Abed el-Malec Dahamshe to head the list.
*Yisrael Ba'aliya was founded and is led by former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky. It is primarily interested in immigrants' rights, and has expressed its willingness to join a coalition with either major party.
*The Third Way was founded by Labor Knesset members Avigdor Kahalani and Emanual Zisman to oppose a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
*Yemin Israel is a new party founded by former right-wing Moledet Knesset member Shaul Gutman and Kiryat Arba resident Miriam Lapid, who heads the list. It is supported by the most extreme settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.
Other new parties include Gimla'ei (retirees), headed by Nava Arad; Hityashvut Party, led by Eliezer Levinger; Men's Rights, headed by Ya'akov Shlusser; Moreshet Avot, led by Yosef BaGad; Organization of Democratic Action, formed by Assaf Adiv; Progressive Confederation, a new Arab party led by Muhammed Zaidan; Telem, headed by Yosef Azran; and Unity for Defense of New Immigrants, led by Ephraim Gur, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union.