Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision this week to go to early elections
elicited a nationwide groan – and a few excited hurrahs for the extra election
On Monday the election process will gain momentum as
everyone waits for Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to disperse the parliament for
a campaign recess.
With no real contenders in Shelly Yacimovich, Yair
Lapid, Shaul Mofaz or Ehud Barak, Netanyahu’s only real potential challenge will
come in the form of Ehud Olmert – if he decides to run.
With an Arab
Spring, Arab Winter, or whatever you’d like to call it still taking place in
countries surrounding Israel; the rise of radical Islamists in those countries;
continued threats from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran and a worldwide economic
crisis, it is difficult to see what politicians from other parties can offer to
bring to the premiership that Netanyahu hasn’t already.
In terms of
foreign policy, Netanyahu probably has the most experience and is best suited to
deal with Israel’s security.
In terms of domestic issues, it’s not as
clear and other contenders for the premiership may be on equal footing with
To compare, efforts in the election campaign of 2009 to
capture right-wing voters included focusing on the peace process and the war in
Mario Sznajder, a researcher at the Department of Political Science
of the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem writes, “We know that there is a shift to the right associated with
the ongoing problem between Israel and Gaza, and an Iranian link that
strengthens existing feelings of an existential menace. The ambivalent attitudes
of the left and centre-left wing parties – Meretz and Labor – towards the 
military operation in Gaza – initially offering their complete support, and
later morally criticising it and demanding the operation be stopped – projected
a confused imaged that cost these parties many votes.”
Now, with a
stagnant peace process and no official war with Hamas in Gaza, it is possible
that parties will attempt to attract voters by focusing on the possibility of a
secondterm Obama, a scenario which, to some, indicates trouble for Israel, and a
potential strike on Iran which would most likely involve a war with Hamas and
Social issues will also likely play a prominent role in this
year’s elections, and it could be interesting to see what promises the
candidates will make to try and woo voters.
BASED ON research conducted
after the 2003, 2006 and 2009 elections, it appears that fewer citizens are
motivated to go out and vote.
Voter turnout in the 2006 election was 63.2
percent, the lowest in Israel’s history.
In 2009, the number of voters
rose to 65.2%.
It is unclear what 2013 will bring, but unless candidates
can convince citizens of the importance of voting, and unless candidates can
appeal to them by tackling the issues, there won’t be much of an improvement –
if any – in turnout.
Voting patterns have changed as
According to political scientist Asher Arian, over the years,
voters in Israel have felt less connected to a specific party and instead feel
more attached to either the right, central or left political blocs. Arian
emphasized, “The party system has undergone dealignment... the blocs are alive,
well and vigorous... It is no coincidence that we observe the growth in vitality
in bloc alignment and the simultaneous weakening of political parties and party
Israeli voters often communicate with one other in groups and hold
lengthy discussions on politics. The average individual also reads newspapers,
listens to the radio, watches television and views outdoor
Thus, a voter will likely act in a predetermined manner on
election day based on inner beliefs and outside influences.
Downs, a scholar in public policy and public administration and a senior fellow
at the Brookings Institution in Washington, argues that parties will shift their
ideologies to gain more votes and therefore more power. Downs also claims some
voters will use irrational judgment in choosing the party they will vote
Often, voters do not know the party’s position on any number of
issues, but will be influenced by family and friends to vote for the party
Voters also display individual behavior and collective
Political events can shape the way a person thinks as an
individual. Alternatively, voter reaction can be based upon the reaction of
others. This “feeding” or collective behavior also helps shape voters’ political
stance at the polls.
Samuel Popkins, author of The Reasoning Voter, says,
“year-to-year changes in party identification reflect voter reaction to recent
political events and have a clear and direct effect on voting.”
people become educated and are aware of other parties’ positions on political
issues, and as the Internet assists in informing the individual, voter
dealignment becomes more common. People no longer feel loyal to a specific
The rightward shift will probably continue in this election as
well, though left-wing parties will likely focus heavily on social issues and
recruitment of haredim into the army to draw more voters.
In 2009, the
right-wing bloc led by Likud and Netanyahu had better possibilities than did
Livni and Kadima, since it could count on the support of at least 65 of the 120
members of the Knesset. Although Kadima won the largest number of votes, the
left-ofcenter bloc was smaller than the right-ofcenter bloc.
It is likely
that this election will bring a similar scenario and a large enough rightwing
bloc enabling Netanyahu to put together another government.
between now and election day, anything can happen on an international level or
domestically. We’ll just have to wait and see.