According to the Parties Law (1992), a party is defined as a group of people who have come together in order to pursue legally political or social goals, and to bring about their representation in the Knesset. Since the passing of this law, there are clear regulations regarding the establishment of parties, their registration with the Parties Registrar, their institutions, assets, activities, finances, etc... The law also determines the limitations on a party's potential registration. The following prohibitions are included in these limitations:
- Any rejection (in the party's goals or activities) of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.
- Any incitement to racism.
- Any support of the armed struggle of an enemy state or terrorist organization against the State of Israel
- Any hint of a cover for illegal activity.
Only a party or parties are allowed to present a list of candidates to run for the Knesset.
Lists of Candidates
The bodies which participate in the Knesset elections are called "lists." A list of candidates must consist of at least one registered party, but it could also contain several parties. For example, in the elections for the Sixteenth Knesset, the list "Labor-Meimad" consisted of the Labor Party and Meimad, both registered parties.
A list may also include individuals and movements that are not registered as parties. Such was the case in the elections for the Fourteenth Knesset in the United Arab List which consisted of the Arab Democratic Party (a registered party) and individuals from the Islamic Movement, which is not registered as a party.
Factions (also called "Parliamentary Groups")
Once a list of candidates is elected to the Knesset, it becomes a Parliamentary Group, even if the distinct parties in it continue to function individually on the outside. According to the Parties Financing Law (1973), the individual parties are eligible for financing according to the number of Knesset members representing them respectively.
The Knesset Committee may, after the elections, recognize a new parliamentary group in any of the following situations: One which broke off from an existing parliamentary group (such as in 1984, Mapam broke off from the Alignment); a new parliamentary group which is made up of Knesset members who were originally part of other groups (such as the Knesset members who split from the Likud at the end of the 16th Knesset and began a new political party called "Kadima" but in the Knesset called themselves "Achrayut Leumit" and was joined by the "Noy" party of MK David Tal); or a new parliamentary group which is created through the unification of two existing parliamentary groups (which occurred in the Twelfth Knesset when Meretz was formed from Ratz, Mapam, and Shinui).
The law does provide conditions that have to be met when forming new parliamentary groups.
The law does not recognize movements as distinct legal entities. However, a movement may register as a party, a non-profit organization, a company, or as any other legally recognized body. In other words, "movement" is simply a word also used as part of a name ("youth movement," "Herut Movement"), but by itself has no legal standing.