Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Idiot's Guide to Israeli Elections

Israel's much-awaited national elections happened yesterday, and while I must admit pleasant surprise that Kadima was so successful, when I looked at the breakdown of voting records, I was not at all surprised.

The two major contenders for ruling coalition/Prime Minister status were Kadima and Likud. Kadima is headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has made mouth noises about evacuating some West Bank settlements in a "land for peace" deal with the Palestinians. She is basically considered moderate, but the only visible leader willing to make concessions for peace. Likud is a right wing party headed by former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who makes no pretenses at all about his unwillingness to make concessions for peace. He believes in force and "Greater Israel," meaning the West Bank should belong to Israel, not Palestine.

Other major players in this year's elections were the Labor party and Yisrael Beitanu, which is a hardcore right wing party led by Avigdor Lieberman, who openly advocates that Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent should have their citizenship revoked. His party has also discussed forced expulsions.

(On a side note, Lieberman is right to be panicky about Israel's Arabs- studies show that they will outnumber Jewish citizens within the next 10 to 20 years.)

The minor players this year were the various religious parties, the Arab parties, and the peacenik parties. But they played a very important role: the Israeli blogosphere was abuzz this past week with religious voters saying they planned not to vote for religious parties because that would only give Kadima more power. A comparable situation in the U.S. would be a lefty activist suggesting that a vote for the Green Party is the same as a vote for the Republicans.

This Ha'aretz article breaks down voting by city, party, ethnic group, whatever you like. What it revealed was this-

  • Residents of settlements in the West Bank voted mostly for Likud (perhaps because of the analogy I just explained) but also for Yisrael Beitanu.
  • Residents of Southern Israeli towns, who have been bombarded with Gaza's missiles for several years, voted mostly the same as the settlements, but with quite a few votes for Kadima.
  • Residents of major city centers like Haifa and Tel Aviv voted mostly for Kadima and Labor.
  • Jerusalem voted about equally for Likud and the religious parties.
  • Wealthy areas around Tel Aviv voted about equally for Likud and Kadima

In addition to the by-city breakdown, the Ha'aretz data also shows that Kibbutzim voted mostly for Kadima, Labor, and Meretz (which one could call a socialist and/or peacenik party) and that Bedouin communities voted overwhelmingly (and when I say overwhelmingly, I mean 80%) for the Arab parties.

As it stands now, Kadima has 28 seats in parliament to Likud's 27, which makes Tzipi Livni the Prime Minister by default, provided she can set up a ruling coalition. However, preliminary results show that Likud has had more success with that. And let's not forget that Livni was given the chance to put together a coalition last summer, thereby avoiding the election alltogether, but she was unable to do it then.

We shall soon find out.

No comments: