Ballots in Israeli elections..
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Israeli definitions for the political Left and Right are idiosyncratic in the
extreme. The world resorts to our characterizations without quite understanding
what we mean by them, erroneously dubbing our Right conservative and our Left
Yet these epithets bear scant connection to the Israeli lexicon.
Our peculiar classifications hinge around attitudes to the historic Land of
Israel, settlement, territorial concessions and the creation of a Palestinian
Going by the local designation, the moderate Right had emerged
victorious yet again – especially if we do not count Yair Lapid’s neophyte
party, Yesh Atid, as knee-jerk Left-of-center, something that political analysts
tend to do without sufficient foundation.
Yet all this is hardly related
to the traditional divisions abroad that are contingent on socioeconomic
If we do stick to the criteria common in other countries,
though, a similar picture emerges that quite contradicts the superficial
It has become trendy to claim that the election
results reflect the sentiments of the 2011 social protests. Yet the
demonstrations’ slogans were extremely left-wing, unambiguously anti-capitalist,
anti-privatization and politically hostile to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Although claiming to speak for the middle class, they were in fact spearheaded
by the socialist left wing.
But last week’s election returns didn’t
reflect anything resembling a swing to socialism. The true socialists can be
found in Labor and further left in Meretz and Hadash.
This entire bloc
did un-spectacularly, to say the least. They remain a marginal segment of
The big surprise of the vote, Yesh Atid, did clearly make a
pitch for middle-class votes, with messages hitting hard against bureaucracy,
high prices, high taxes, etc. A powerful populist streak is undeniable.
Nonetheless, all that Yesh Atid advocates falls unmistakably and unequivocally
within the bounds of free-market economics.
It may be argued, and not
without some merit, that its appeal may not reflect clear preferences on the
Left-Right spectrum, because Yesh Atid constituted an unexpected fad, whose
supporters might not have evinced great familiarity with its platform. It may
well be that not all followers of political fashion truly know what they were
Yet Lapid’s slogans were not vague or evasive. Moreover, it
is interesting to note who voted for Lapid. His greatest popularity was scored
in the most prosperous communities.
He was least popular in development
towns and blue-collar areas.
The relatively well-to-do, grumble and
chronically carp as they might, opted for Lapid. He is even more affluent than
they are. He is a multi-millionaire and a capitalist par excellence. In this
respect, his underlying orientation fits hand-in-glove with Netanyahu’s outlook
and with that of his partner, Avigdor Liberman.
This combo will encounter
no opposition in the socioeconomic sphere from Bayit Yehudi, which looms as the
most rightist component of the hypothetical new coalition – by strictly Israeli
If we see these three lists as the likely mainstays
of the shaping coalition, then that coalition will incontrovertibly espouse free
enterprise and growth generating policies.
This tendency would be only
underscored if parties like the diminutive Kadima or Tzipi Livni’s list do in
the end climb on board.
Moreover, pro-business free market inclinations
would not be offset by the possible cooption of haredi parties, including the
ultra-populist Shas. The haredi ardor for assorted entitlements, handouts and
welfare benefits would have to be considerably restrained in a situation where
parties like Shas and United Torah Judaism no longer tip the political balance
and consequently do not call the shots.
If the just-ended campaign proves
anything, it is that the electorate bothered a whole lot less with what the
world is obsessed about – the territories, a Palestinian state and the moribund
purported peace process.
It may be that a sizable portion of Jewish
Israelis (perhaps with the exception of Livni’s and Meretz’s supporters) have in
effect given up on the prospect of successful negotiations with the Palestinian
Authority. In contrast to previous campaigns, they focused on very domestic
issues. This is the essential mandate they gave their representatives – fix
things inside the Jewish state rather than concentrate on a Palestinian state.