Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Israeli Elections: The Blanket Can Only Cover So Much

December 31, 2012 11:39 pm 3 comments

Israeli Knesset Hall. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Do you know the feeling, on those cold winter nights, when you and your partner mindlessly pull the shared blanket in opposite directions, and a foot or an arm gets left out in the cold? Sometimes the baby crawls into bed to snuggle up, and kicks the blanket off altogether. I’m sure that you wished then that the blanket would cover the whole bed, and you wouldn’t wake with a shiver to find yourself in the cold.

The political spectrum is like this blanket, meant to cover the whole family. The middle of the blanket covers much of the family, and the main conflict is about the ends. Everyone is continually trying to cover their own needs, and naturally pulls the cover away from the other side. Now consider what happens in a family with a lot of kids on a cold winter night. I know about that firsthand. Mollie and I have eight kids. Remember that old nursery rhyme, “There were ten in the bed, and the little one said ‘Roll over, roll over,’ so they all rolled over, and one fell out”? That’s us.

As the biggest one of the bunch, sometimes I “fight” for my place in the center of the blanket, but at other times I’d just rather be warm and get another, smaller blanket to cover my own needs. I could leave the rest of the tribe with the main blanket.

Israel is currently undergoing its 19th Knesset election campaign. In Israel’s multiple party system, each eligible voter can pick one party in the election booth. The parties themselves each have a set list of candidates that they have submitted to the Central Election Committee ahead of the elections. The votes are divided among 120 positions in the Knesset. The number of seats a party wins determines how many candidates from that party will fill the allotted positions.

If a party has 10 people on their list, but only wins five seats, only the top five receive seats in the Knesset. Each party’s own committee determines who their candidates are, and what placement they have on their party’s list. Some parties hold pre-elections within their membership, while others have a non-democratic internal system of choosing candidates.

Back to the blanket. There are basically two types of parties out there now. A handful are competing for the position of the main central body, and they  must deal with the reality that one of their appendages will stick out whenever they turn left or right. The other type of party consists of all those “special interest” parties, the ones on the right and left fringes that don’t expect the center position. They just want a piece of the blanket.

The dilemma of the parties that strive to compete for the center – the mainstream – is that while trying to prove that they can cover those special needs, they alienate themselves from the parts of the population who have strong conflicts with those interests.

Recently, Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party has been very effective in widening its support base by reaching out to voters who were not traditionally supporters of the National Religious Party. In addition, they have been very successful in positioning themselves as a young and dynamic force, set to protect national interests in Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu’s leading Likud party has been feeling the heat. On the one hand, Netanyahu wishes to cover the central-left part of the population and compete for votes that could go to candidates like Lapid and Livni. On the other hand, he knows that he also needs support from the right, and from the leaders of the Judea and Samaria communities. So the dilemma of the parties fighting for the mainstream vote remains how to cover the central part of the body, and stretch the blanket to the ends without losing it all together.

Robert Dahl, known as the “Dean of Political Scientists,” identifies two of the main causes of voter apathy in democracies: first, the lack of belief that the individual’s vote will really make a difference; and second, the similarities between the competing parties. The strategy utilized by Likud, Jewish Home and other parties – attempting to claim each other’s voters by proving how much they are the same – can actually backfire on the mainstream parties. This can cause more of their potential voters to stay home, because they don’t see what difference it makes which of these parties gets more seats. Thus, smaller special interest parties, with more loyal and motivated voter bases, will get more bang for their buck. Their actual votes will amount to a larger share of the overall  votes cast, compared to the mainstream parties. In sum, those in the center of the blanket can rest assured that they will remain covered, while those on the edge grab corners and use leverage wisely.

3 Comments

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Personalities Sports Book Pitches World War II as Lasting Part of Hank Greenberg’s Legacy

    Book Pitches World War II as Lasting Part of Hank Greenberg’s Legacy

    JNS.org – Baseball fans might most vividly remember Hank Greenberg for his chase of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1938 and his other impressive exploits on the field. The smaller universe of Jewish baseball fans may remember him for sitting out a crucial game on Yom Kippur decades before Sandy Koufax would do the same. But author John Klima wants readers of any background to know the unsung story of Greenberg’s World War II service. As indicated by its […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →