Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Israel outside Tel Aviv voted for Likud

In his perceptive analysis of the aftermath of the Israeli elections for the Wall St Journal, Jonathan Spyer identifies three elements driving support for the Likud party in the Israel which the media always neglect : the first is that Israel needs to stay strong in the face of unrelenting Arab rejectionism. The second is a deeply felt attachment to religious tradition.(With thank: Michelle)

Dr Jonathan Spyer

The third element is a resentment toward elites—cultural, judicial, professional and academic. This is most plainly expressed in accusations that Israel’s Supreme Court has overstepped its authority. Another example is Mr. Netanyahu’s claims, which his supporters largely find credible, that his own legal travails reflect an effort by those elites to destroy him.

 Who are the Israelis who identify with these views, and where are they from? In liberal, Western-looking Tel Aviv, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White list took 54% of the vote to Likud’s 9%. All told, the center-left won 79% of the vote in Tel Aviv.  In more conservative and nationalist Jerusalem, by contrast, Likud scored 25% of the vote, Blue and White only 10%. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism list came second with 23%.

 In the town of Sderot, bordering the Gaza Strip, Likud won 43.5% to 9% for Blue and White. This part of Israel traces its recent familial origins largely to other parts of the Middle East—Morocco and Kurdistan, Iraq and Tunisia—and also to the former Soviet Union. This Israel speaks less English and finds itself of far less interest to the global media than the West Bank settlers, Tel Aviv liberals and elite-class Palestinian Arabs whom the West treats as the main players in events between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

 That focus should change. In spite of their self-perception as outsiders, this public increasingly sets the tone for the Israeli mainstream—in elections, cultural atmosphere and demographic realities. According to the 2018 Israeli Democracy Index, 64% of Israeli Jews age 18 to 34 identify as right-wing, compared with 47% of those 35 and older.

In many ways, Likud was a prototype for the populist insurgencies whose successes are now a notable feature of political life across the democratic world.

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