Distorting the Israeli Election Results

February 6, 2013 1:44 am 0 comments

Prime Minister Netanayhu at his weekly cabinet meeting. Photo: Screenshot.

Immediately after the results of the recent Israeli elections were announced, many commentators were quick to point out that there was a near 60-60 tie between the two main blocs. Although it’s true that the additional seat given to Habayit Hayehudi after the final votes were counted changed the apparent deadlock, the perception of a near tie remained in the mindset of many Israelis.

The problem with such a claim, however, is that the reality in Israel is far more complex than two clear cut black and white blocs and, as a result, such an overly simplistic analysis is quite misleading.

Therefore, in order to attain a more accurate picture of the election results it would be more helpful to first define the different types of parties, or groups of parties, that exist in Israel and then afterwards analyze each group independently.

Looked at this way, the “right-wing” parties are for the most part those which prefer both a strong Jewish component in Israel and a firm attachment to the Land of Israel. Included in this group are the combined Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list, which dropped from 42 seats to 31, and the merged Habayit Hayehudi-National Union list, which increased from seven to 12. Overall this group witnessed a net loss of six Knesset seats (49 to 43).

Opposing this are the classic “left-wing” parties, which usually refers to those that are in favor of Israel being a nation of all of its citizens as opposed to a uniquely Jewish one, and are also diehard supporters of the two-state solution. In this category there is Labor, which increased from 13 to 15 and Meretz, which doubled from three to six. Thus, the left gained five seats from 16 to 21.

Between both of these groups are the “center” parties, those which in terms of their outlook bounce somewhere between the defining characteristics of the previously mentioned groups. While in 2009 the only party in this category was Kadima and its 28 seats, in the recent elections there were three parties in the center: Kadima (two), Hatnua (six) and Yesh Atid (19). Thus, the center dropped from 28 to 27.

Next in line are the haredi parties. Although it’s true that most of the people who vote for the haredi parties, as well as the haredi MKs themselves, are right-wing in the way explained above, they shouldn’t be lumped together with the other right-wing parties since historically they’ve had a different agenda and for this reason have occasionally been ready and willing to sit in a left-wing coalition. When analyzing this group we see that Shas remained the same with 11 seats while United Torah Judaism picked up two seats, climbing from five to seven. Hence, overall the haredi parties grew from 16 to 18.

Rounding out the picture are the two Arab parties, Balad and the United Arab List, as well as Hadash, a communist party that draws much of its support from Israeli Arabs. Together these three parties received 11 seats back in 2009 and 11 seats once again in the recent elections.

Analyzed this way we see that the right-wing parties are twice as large as the left-wing parties (43 to 21). Moreover, since it’s safe to assume that part of the six seats which were lost by the right signified a shift of some right-wing voters towards the center and concomitantly the five seats that were picked up by the left was most likely the result of previously center voters turning leftward, then the average center voter of 2013 is probably more right-wing in his outlook than his 2009 counterpart.

If this is the case, then perhaps the parties that comprise the two main blocs mentioned above should be right-center and left rather than left-center and right. Needless to say, if things were analyzed this way then the whole discussion of a 60-60 tie would be thrown in the trash. Moreover, this is even before the haredi parties and their mainly right-wing voters are factored into the picture.

Finally, outside of Meretz and perhaps Labor, there is no chance that any other party would form a coalition with the Arab-communist parties, which once again shows that the whole 60-60 discussion is meaningless.

Therefore, any way you slice it there is no fictitious 60-60 tie. Moreover, the majority of Israeli voters are far more right-wing in their outlook than certain figures in the media would like to admit.

This article was originally published by Ynet.

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