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Jan 23, 2013

Election Results: There is no Right and Left in Israel

Many of the headlines this morning were about how the right and left blocs came out surprisingly even in this election about 60-60 or close to it. They are hailing the return of the Left, the shift of Israelis back toward the Left.

In my opinion, that information is faulty. Here is why:

1. 60 on the left includes the Arab parties. The Left has never included the Arab parties in their coalition governments. If Labor were to form a government today, that concept might theoretically, not definitely, change, but it is far from a given that the Arab parties go with the Left.

2. when counting the 60 on the Left, included in the number are the parties that consider themselves Center (whatever that is). There is no reason to assume Center goes with the Left any more than it goes with the Right. That is why Center is not called "Left" - they can go either way. The only real Left parties to count are Labor (15), Meretz (7) and Chadash (4). Lapid (19), Livni (6), Kadima (2) are all called Center, and the Arab parties are a differnt category. According to my calculation, the Left is only 26 mandates big. the Center is a separate category holding 27, and they are not really a bloc as they have consistently refused to work together. Even the categorization on the Right is questionable, as Shas and UTJ aren't classic right wing parties.

3. This is the main point I wanted to get to - the entire categorization of Right and Left is inaccurate in this election season, and is irrelevant. "Right" and "Left" in Israel have been classically defined based on any given party's stance regarding issues of peace and "Land of Israel" issues.

In this election, those issues were mostly ignored - even classic peace and Land of Israel parties ignored it, such as Bayit Yehudi saying it is irrelevant, Meretz focusing on social issues and the economy, and others. Even the Likud did not make that a focus of their campaign. Very little of the campaigning was centered on issues of peace.

Most of the campaigning, of all the parties, was done revolving around issues of the economy and social issues, be it religion, education, sharing the burden of the army service, and lowering cost of living. On these issues, the classic categorizations of "right" and "left" do not apply. People did not vote for the Left parties because of their stance on the peace process, but because of their stance on social issues. Among the Center parties only Tzippi Livni focused on the peace process, while Lapid focused on social issues. I don't even know what Kadima focused on - they seemingly focused on the persona of Mofaz (he shot a terrorist in the head), so I guess it was mostly security related, but they used his persona to describe someone who can solve the social issues.. Even the Right parties, Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Shas, focused on social issues while making security and peace to be a minor discussion.

The blocs are no longer to be divided up as "right" and "left", but we need new categorizations that target the party policies regarding social issues. There is no Right and Left in Israel right now.

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  1. In the US, right and left define how much government intervention is desired to resolve social issues.

  2. In the US, right and left define how much government intervention is desired to create or ezacerbate social issues.

  3. In Israel, also, Right and Left originally referred to a party's economic and social positions. Just like everywhere else in the world. Some of the Left could be quite hard-line on territorial and 'peace' issues back in the early days.


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