Will Israel’s recent economic hurdles impact Israeli votes?

While it seems likely that the votes will remain stagnant, there are economic factors to consider.

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the cabinet meeting, November 7, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the cabinet meeting, November 7, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

To the surprise of perhaps nobody, Israel is heading for another election, following the recent dissolution of the governing coalition. While polls have shown that many Israelis have steeled themselves and are prepared to continue voting as they have for the past few elections, there is a question as to whether the nation’s current economic situation will impact the vote somehow.

For Levi Levith, a bellboy for a hotel in Northern Israel, housing and rent are two subjects that should be addressed by any candidates.

“The lack of any accountability in those markets is appalling – in the last year, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem both are, for some reason, two of the most expensive cities to live in,” said Levith. “If there’s a candidate that can actually provide clear solutions to our overblown housing and rent situation, then I’d seriously consider him.”

Despite his concern for the ever-increasing rent around the country, however, he still believes that a focus on security is a critical factor in a candidate. “As it’s been for the last few years, [security and the economy] are our country’s two biggest concerns, and while I think we need rent and housing to go down and be more affordable, things globally have been heating up, and that should take precedence,” said Levith. “Ideally, someone with eyes on both would have a stronger case.”

The chances of finding a candidate interested in revolutionizing the country’s rent and housing issues are slim to none, according to Barak Daon, owner of Tel Aviv-based Daon Group Real Estate. He explained that, despite residents’ concerns about surging rent costs (which has even led to a nationwide protest movement), it’s simply not in most politicians’ interests to reform the system.

''We certainly are - and you? Housing protest 2022'' (credit: ZACHY HENNESSEY)''We certainly are - and you? Housing protest 2022'' (credit: ZACHY HENNESSEY)

“The majority of the people who are supposed to represent us [as renters] actually own real estate and have people pay them rent,” said Daon. “Even if there’s a tzadik (selfless person) somewhere from one of the parties who puts forth an idea for rent control and what a contract should look like - it never moves forward. And the reason why it doesn't move forward is because anyone - doesn't matter from what party, right, left, middle - who owns a property for rent doesn’t want their life affected.”

"Anyone - doesn't matter from what party, right, left, middle - who owns a property for rent doesn’t want their life affected"

Barak Daon, owner of Tel-Aviv-based Daon Group Real Estate

Israel's housing crisis

The real estate market is an even tougher sell. “The average consumer for real estate sells and buys twice in a lifetime. Let's assume you're in that boat, and you’ve had to deal with real estate. [By the time you’re finished,] you're exhausted by it. Come the new elections - you don't care about voting about it anymore, because you're done,” Daon said.

He noted that even though there are thousands of people looking to buy, they aren’t likely to stray from their voting fundamentals – and even those who do won’t be enough to make politicians angle their platforms accordingly. “It only affects people who are planning to buy in the next year or two, or three. And that’s not a big cut of the population. It’s not enough votes to affect things.”

The biggest economic factor to consider is the cost of living, which has been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic. But to software engineer Adina Paley, none of this seems like it would be sensible to center your vote on. “Housing and cost of living are bad – and getting worse – but has there been a steep increase in the past year that is specifically linked to this government?” she wondered. “I would think that any change they could make wouldn’t have affected [things] yet.”

She touches on an important point. In a political climate that has now seen five elections in four years, there’s little weight behind the idea that any coalition could make a major impact on the economy’s challenges in a short period of time – which is typically all a coalition gets.

“Most of the issues I see – housing, cost of living, transportation – are steadily getting worse, but I’m not sure I strongly believe one party or coalition (especially such a divided one) can just come in and make drastic changes whose effects you’ll see this quickly,” she said. “In my opinion, a lot of this is just smart future planning that needs to be done – both on the smaller municipality level and on the national level.”