February 12, 2009

The Isreali election some analysis

Here is a link to a fascinating description of the Israeli election by Vilno. I'd say Vilno does a very good job of discussing it in strictly non-normative terms and Sulla will seek to copy him in this. Vilno's discussion in turn is based on this Haaretz article setting out the result. Bear in mind the results are provisional so they may change slightly.

I'd mostly agree with Vilno's analysis. Clearly at least in terms of parties the result of the last three years has been a shift to the more rightwing", hawkish parties among the Israeli electorate - with the parties more hawkish than the previous central Kadima party now holding the "centre" on security issues.

The big change is that Likud went up from 12 to 27 seats. Kadima - despite presumably losing many of its own voters - only seems to have gone down one or maybe not even at all . The " left" of Labor (19-13) , the Pensioners Party (7-o) and the more leftist Meretz (5-3) all have collapsed. The parties generally perceived as more hawkish than Likud stayed the same (22). So in other words, the big stories were the rise of the (in Israeli terms) center right and the collapse of the Zionist left. Presumably a lot of former Kadima voters defected to Likud and Labor etc voters in turn to Kadima - though I imagine post election surveys will find it more complicated than that.

Unsurprisingly perhaps this swing towards Israel's hawkish parties was not shared among Israel's substantial Arab minority. In fact, the "Arabic" parties support actually rose to 12 (Hadash as Vilno rightly indicates is technically not an arabic party being an ex-communist party but gains it's support overwhelmingly among more secular and non-Muslim Israeli Arabs).

I would point out to Vilno that Shas is still doing better than it was doing in the 1980s by some way. It's support rose in the 1999 election in large party because of the conviction of it's then leader Deri on corruption charges Rabbi Yosef (who essentially completely controls Shas) somewhat hysterical attack on support for Lieberman as equivalent to supporting "Satan" also may mean that they lost some support to Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu (not as unlikely as one might think Shas supporters tend to be more hawkish than their leadership which was actually quite ambiguous on the Oslo peace process). Similarly given the right-wing majority, if kadima insist on the premiership, I think they're unlikely to get it - at times of perceived security crisis, their common hawkish electoral base will overcome Lieberman's and the religious parties' differences on Synagogue-state issues.

I would also like to flag up three points of my own. Firstly, Lieberman and Yisrael Beitenu have gained most of the press attention for their 15 seats. This was arguably rightly (Labor once the eternal party of government were after all beaten by Lieberman) as it represents a new departure for the Israeli "right of Likud". On the one hand, he supports in principle a "two state solution" (until fairly recently anathema even for Likud). On the other hand, he is talking about making all Israelis (including the Arab minority) take a loyalty oath to Israel (including among other things its nature as a Jewish state) and to be willing (if male) to serve in the military or equivalent or be denied citizenship ( the large majority of Isreali Arabs don't serve in the military). In other words he and his party are both territorially more wiling to give up Israeli held land and more hostile towards Israeli Arab particularism than previous sizeable parties "to the right of Likud". Whatever one thinks of such changes I submit they are significant.

Secondly Kadina is one of many center parties that have flashed across the Isreali system only to die a swify and painfull death. However, it was the first such party to come first in any election- and now it may have done this a second time - in a way an even more remarkable achievement. However since this has occurred in the context of a general "swing to the right", psephologically there is a case for arguing that Kadima may be replacing Labor and challenging its sway over the Kibbutznik and middle class left-wing votes. Vilno rightly identifies as labor's core of the last few decades, rather than becoming a permanent "center" party.

Thirdly, Israel has at least three major types of political issues that influence voting. Security (how conciliatory Israel should be to it's neighbours and both Palestinian and Israeli Arab discontent), economic (how big the state should be in both intervening in the market and in providing a welfare state) and religious/court (how much recognition of Jewish law there should be by the state and to a large degree also how much power the courts which are much more secular than the Knesset should have). Obviously, voters' and even parties' views do not necessarily correlate with any simple notion of the "right", so for example Lieberman and Yisreal Beitenu are more free market than United Torah Judaism and much more secular (unsurprisingly given the latter's name!). Likud on the other hand is both less secular and more free market than Kadima. The complications are shown well in this test. Though non Israelis may lack clear (or informed) enough views to be able to see meaningfully where they would stand if they were Israelis the three different "compasses" (and the very different relations between parties that exist depending on the issue) that emerge at the end of the survey show why Vilno is most correct of all when he shows that Israeli coalition building is a very messy business indeed.


Vino S said...

Interesting blog post. I agree with you that Kadima is one of a number of centre parties to emerge in Israel [perhaps 2 of the other most notable ones being Shinui in its 1977 and 2003 incarnations]. I think the difference is, though, that it contained a lot of government ministers and other key figures (Sharon and Peres) and so was more likely to be able to come first in 2006 and 2009.

I suspect there may well be a danger of Kadima supplanting Likud [as someone with views to the right of mine, perhaps you don't see it as a danger but an opportunity ;) as Kadima seems to have become the 'stop Likud' party in a way that Labour was in the 1990s.

You are right to emphasise the number of axes that divide Israeli politics - it is one of the main reasons for their fragmented party system. There is people's views on the national question, on the religious question and on the role of the state in the economy. It is thus the case that a party can be quite 'conservative' (like Shas) on religious issues but be quite dirigist and quite willing to make compromises to try and solve the national question.

Vino S said...

sorry, meant Labour rather than Likud in the 2nd para of my last article! The perils of typing too fast ;)

Marius said...

Did someone ring?

Sulla said...

The most notable one I’d say was Shinui in 1977 it did include celebrities like Moshe Dayan- I think key was labour (very wisely) won't in the coal8ition and liked was the major player-so they were squeezed between Likud and Labor

it'd be interesting to see how Kadima effects Israeli politics in terms of both policy and politics. In terms of from a left progressive point of view (and hence of course from a right conservative point of view) it strikes me as a seriously mixed bag. On the one hand Kaduna seems fairly Cleary market (though frankly with the exception of Perutz’s brief leadership labour have pretty well abandoned social democracy in a clearly distinguished way - motivated in part by the wealth and increasingly private sector employment of their primary base) and seem quite hostile to a politically active judiciary (admittedly something British left-wingers might agree on) and are dominated by ex likduniks. O the other they do support unprecedented territorial concessions and I think have fairly strong secular tendencies as well. I have to say these are only impressions -there's not nearly enough written in English or in reports on the real differences between the "three"

Now obviously there's a very strong case labor is a better party from a leftwing perspective. However the fact is that electoral the Israeli Zionist left has been in serious trouble since the late 1970's. Their support has been in long term decline and their base is very aged. The tiny numbers of electrons they've actually won are a good indication of that-this is all pre Kadima.

So particularly if in fact it ends up being similar to the post 80's labour ( a big if of course) there's quite a strong case from a leftwing point of view for anima as shaking up the system and ending the perpetual likud/ right of likud majority in Israeli political life.

And I think the fact it's filled with ex Likudniks s shouldn't be read too much into. Don’t forget Gladstone was a Peelite. Or in a more contemporary setting that the leader of the most rightwing party to be in the Knesset in recent Israeli history was a former labour supporter or that Reagan was both the most rightwing Republican president of the seventh years (I think it's safe to say) and also the only one to start as a Democrat.

Though I think Vilno wouldn't disagree if I said most people are more rightwing than him I don't really want to talk about my political views on the blog.

Vino S said...

Yes, demographically, Labour do seem to have aged. Election by election since 1977 they seem to have fallen back. Perhaps you are right and that Kadima will take their place in the political spectrum. However, it seems to me that Kadima is more pro-market than Labour even if it takes a similar stance on the national question and is willing to do a land-for-peace deal. I agree the Israeli Labour Party's economic views, though, are not clear and that - since the 1940s and 1950s - they have swung to the right. Israel in the 1950s was a very different economy from now and, I suppose, as employment has expanded and new economic sectors have emerged, fewer people work for the state or for Hisadrut. Also, Labour appear not to have been able to reach out to the post-1948 Sephardic and post-1990 Russian immigrants.