Comments by Benyamin Netanyahu and Yair Garbuz, said to be the "racism" of right and left, remind us that Israelis, like the voters of numerous other countries, bring their family backgrounds with them to the polls.

Ethnicity, religiosity, and social class explain a good deal of recent voting, but not all of it.

The major parties of Israel, i.e., Labor in whatever name it currently uses (Zionist Union), and Likud are each a bit to the left and right of center. Their supporters do not fit the classic left/right working class/middle and higher. The recent pattern in Israel is for Labor and the more left wing party Meretz to attract the better educated and more well-to-do, while those lower in the pile tend to Likud. However, Likud's nationalism and overt suspicion of the Palestinians has attracted a portion of the better educated, and has gotten votes on what had been the Labor preserves of the kibbutzim.

Ethnicity is not far beneath the surface. Jews of Middle Eastern origin tend to be most wary of dealing with Arabs, as well as having less education and lower incomes than westerners, and are the nucleus of Likud voters. Jews of Western European and North American origin are more likely to vote Labor. There is also a component of animosity, or sense of condescension that leads Jews of Middle Eastern origin and Jews of Western European or North American origins to vote against one another's party.

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union have supported parties that appeal to them in Russian. First it was a party led by Natan Sharansky, and more recently Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman's decline from 15 seats won in 2009 to six seats in this election comes along with the acculturation of the large Russian immigration.

Significant rates of intermarriage between the ethnic clusters of Jews, especially apparent among secular Israelis, serves to blur ethnic voting.

Arabs have had their own parties. Several of them coalesced for this election in response to an increase in the threshold required to enter the Knesset.

The choice of "Zionist Union" or "Zionist Camp" (i.e. closer to the Hebrew המחנה הציוני) was not a good decision for what Herzog and Livni created. Reports are that the "Zionist" label cost them Arab votes

Religiosity is another item with political relevance. The National Religious Party served, for many years, as the vehicle of Orthodox Jews, especially of the Ashkenzim, and was a leader in demanding adherence to Shabbat and Kashrut. After 1967 it became increasingly a party of settlers, or Orthodox Jews who supported settlement, and eventually morphed into Jewish Home. Party leader Naftali Bennett has sought to broaden the party's appeal to secular Jews who live in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, or who support a settlement movement and a conservative posture with respect to Palestine.

The ultra-Orthodox have had two parties, one for the Ashkenazim (once Agudat Israel and now called Torah Judaism) and one for the Sephardim (SHAS). Especially among the Ashkenazim, there has been a tradition of strong rabbis who have split on one or another esoteric issue or  personal rivalry. This time SHAS hived off Yachad, with each of Ariyeh Deri and Eli Yishai claiming to speak for the deceased founder of SHAS.

What follows is a selective report for several distinctive locales, derived from an interactive map published on It should be viewed in the contest of national results, which showed Likud receiving 23 percent of the total vote, Zionist Union 19 percent, United (mostly Arab) List 11 percent, Yesh Atid (Lapid) 9 percent, Kolanu (Kahlon) 7 percent, Jewish Home 7 percent SHAS 6 per cent, Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman) 5 percent, Torah Judaism 5 percent, and Meretz 4 percent. Just below the threshold (3.25 percent) came Yachad at 3 percent. The most successful of the fringe parties was Green Leaf (concerned primarily with marijuana) at a bit over one percent.

Turnout was  72 percent overall, and 64 percent for Arabs.

There is a lot of detail here, but that's the nature of Israel's social and political mosaic, and the imperfection of most generalities. 

Locales to the left
  • A well established and sizable kibbutz (Ginosar) 58 percent Zionist Union, 10 percent each to Likud and Lapid, 7 percent Meretz, and 4-5 percent to each of Jewish Home, Kahlon, and Green Leaf
  • Upscale precincts north of Tel Aviv 35 percent Zionist Union, 22 percent Likud, 15 percent Lapid, 9 percent Kahlon, 7 percent Meretz, 4 percent Jewish Home
  • An upscale neighborhood of Jerusalem (Beit Hakerem) 34 percent Zionist Union, 20 percent Likud, 19 percent Meretz, 11 percent Lapid
 Locales to the right 
  • A "development town" south of Beer Sheva with a sizable portion of Sephardim, 33 percent Likud, 25 per cent SHAS or other ultra-Orthodox parties, 11 percent Jewish Home,  and 8 percent to each of Zionist Union, Kahlon,  and Lapid
  • Ashdod, with a sizable Russian-speaking population, 39 percent Likud, 14 percent Lieberman 10 percent SHAS, and 8 percent Zionist Union
 Jewish settlements
  • The area of the West Bank including numerous large and small settlements gave 25 percent of its votes to Jewish Home, 24 percent to Likud, and split 34 percent among three ultra-Orthodox parties; Zionist Union polled only 5 percent and Meretz one percent (lower than Green Leaf)
  • A Jewish settlement south of Bethlehem, 55 percent Jewish Home and 31 percent Likud
Of all the communities of Israel, those of the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs are most inclined to block voting

Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods also tilt ethnically--Ashkenazim or Sephardim--with families preferring to live alongside others like them. They send their children to schools associated with their congregation, expose the kids to acceptable marriage partners, and vote accordingly.
  • One Ashkenazi Jerusalem neighborhood voted 95 percent Torah Judaism, 3 percent Yachad, 2 percent SHAS
  • Another, 87 percent Torah Judaism, 7 percent SHAS, and 5 percent Yachad
  • Another, 74 percent Torah Judaism, 16 percent SHAS, and 7 percent Yahad
  • A largely Sephardi ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem 56 percent SHAS, 23 percent Torah Judaism, 13 percent Yachad, and 6 percent Likud
  • Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem over the 1967 lines, where an announcement of new construction produced one of the scandals with the Obama administration, 63 percent Torah Judaism, 28 percent SHAS, and 8 percent Yachad
  • A largely ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv (Bnei Brak) voted 59 percent Torah Judaism, 24 percent SHAS, 6 percent Yachad, 5 percent Likud and 2 percent Jewish Home, 
  • A Bedouin area in the Negev: 83 percent United List and 11 percent Meretz
  • A sizable Arab town in the Galilee 93 percent United List
  • A sizable Arab village west of Jerusalem with a history of cooperation with Jews from 1947 onward and the site of restaurants favored by Jews from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv (Abu Ghosh) 84 percent United List and 6 per cent Zionist Union
Mixed areas
  • A small village of Arabs and Jews committed to co-existence (Neve Shalom) polled 59 percent United List, 27 percent Meretz, 10 percent Zionist Union, 2 percent Kahlon; residents provided one vote to Green Leaf and none to Likud
  • Tel Aviv as a whole voted a bit to the left of center with 27 percent Zionist Union, 11 percent Lapid, and 7 percent Meretz, but with 21 percent Likud and between 3 and 8 percent to Kahlon, Lieberman, Jewish Home, and ultra-Orthodox parties
  • Haifa has a reputation of having been a "red" city, with a sizable working class population, and a sizable Arab population. This time it divided  votes between Likud at 25 percent and Zionist Union at 24 percent, with lesser amounts to Lapid, Kahlon, Jewish Home, and the United List
  • Acco is a city with a population of Arabs and working class Jews; it voted 30 percent Likud, 26 percent United List, 10 percent Lieberman, and 7 percent to Zionist Union
  • An upscale neighborhood of Jerusalem (Bekaa), with a substantial proportion of English-speaking Orthodox 27 percent Zionist Union, 26 percent Likud, 16 percent Meretz, and 12 percent Jewish home
  • Our own neighborhood of French Hill, with its mixture of university personnel, secular and Orthodox Jews, a growing ultra-Orthodox segment and a few Arab families 30 percent Zionist Union, 23 percent Likud, 11 percent Meretz, and lesser percentages for Lapid, Jewish Home, Kahlon, ultra-Orthodox parties, and United (Arab) List.
 That's us.

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