The Israeli election results last week sparked a debate about the “big shift” of voters to the right. The Likud party’s strong showing (30 seats, 25% of the votes) created the impression that Israeli voters veered sharply to the right, giving Netanyahu a strong mandate. Ari Shavit eloquently summarized liberal Israel’s mood following this apparent outcome.
But the numbers tell a different story. Here is the total number of seats by ideological block, compared to the previous elections:
- RIGHT: 43 > 44 (Likud, Lieberman, Bennett)
- LEFT/ARABS: 40 > 42 (Labour, Meretz, Kadima/Tnua, Arabs)
- CENTER: 19 > 21 (Yesh, Kulanu)
- RELIGIOUS: 18 > 13 (Shas, Aguda)
Bottom line: the right block is up 1 seat, while the left and center blocks are up by 2 seats each. These additional 5 seats come at the expense of the religious parties, whose voters are mostly right-wing. So, if anything, the left block increased its relative power in the Knesset. The fact it cannot form a government is due mainly to the fact the Arabs are not considered “government material” by both blocks.
So is there hope? Probably not. Israeli demographics are such that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the left to garner enough votes among the Jewish population. Only a dramatic event – either in the form of a tragedy (war with many casualties) or in the form of renewed hope (realistic peace initiative) – can bring about a change. Sadly, at this point in time, the former looks more likely than the latter.