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Netanyahu might be on his way out, but Israelis remain firmly right wing

Voters might be weary of Netanyahu’s decade-long reign, but the numbers show that the vast majority of Israelis remain consistent in their voting habits.

Israelis protest against a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv on April 17, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israelis protest against a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv on April 17, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The cashier at an organic food shop in Tel Aviv was a burly man with a crew-cut. I asked if he had voted, but he didn’t understand the question. Then he explained in halting Hebrew that he had immigrated only nine months earlier from Russia. “I don’t understand Israeli politics,” he said. But he managed to convey one thing clearly: “Bibi, he’s been in power too long. I come from Russia, we have Putin. Too long. I don’t want Israel like Russia.”

Outside a ballot station in the city center, a 72-year-old woman named Dalia, who has always lived in Tel Aviv, was decisive: “I vote for Netanyahu, because there’s no one else like him – on security, on foreign relations, he’s a wonderful foreign minister.” With one eye on her grandchild, she added that Netanyahu is among the 18 people with the highest IQ in the world.

Do the corruption allegations bother her? As long as he hasn’t been convicted, she says she believes Netanyahu’s claim that the charges are baseless. The investigations are mainly due to the left-wing media. “They can’t tolerate when something good happens – they have to trip him up.”

Had he voted, the cashier could claim victory in Tuesday’s elections. Based on his assumed demographic group — most Russian-speakers from countries that were formerly in the USSR are firmly on the right — he is unlikely to be a left-winger. On Tuesday, a small percentage of right-wingers threw their support behind Avigdor Liberman, who had promised to prevent another Netanyahu-led right-wing religious government.

This is a tiny group: Liberman won 4 percent of the vote in April; with about two-thirds of the results published, he won just over 7 percent on Tuesday.

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The 3 percent difference, however, will be significant; by the final tally, Liberman will have eight to 10 seats. Netanyahu had 60 seats for the right-wing bloc in April and needed Liberman to reach 65. Liberman’s additional seats make him the kingmaker: without him, Netanyahu cannot come close to the number of seats he needs to form a governing coalition.

Israelis who voted for the right wing parties in April but who decided this time that they were ready to end Netanyahu’s reign voted for Liberman. Any other right-wing Israeli who still supported Netanyahu remained with the far-right Yemina party, one of the two ultra-Orthodox parties, or – like Dalia – with Likud itself.

Netanyahu’s rivals in the Blue and White party appear to have lost a few seats from April, when they reached 35; projections now show the party at 32. But the size of the center, the Zionist left, and the Joint List (known collectively as the center-left bloc) hardly changed from April. The one factor that kept the bloc the same size was a stronger showing for the Joint List, which is projected to win either 12 or 13 seats.

The two-point rise can probably be attributed to higher turnout; only 49 percent of the Arab electorate voted in April. It appears that this number rose dramatically to 60 percent, which has made a big difference in maintaining the size of the bloc.

These two population groups, 3 percent from the moderate right (some of whom might have voted for Blue and White in April), and the newly re-energized Arab Palestinian citizens who turned out, are the driving forces behind what might lead to a change of government in Israel toward a right-centrist unity government between Likud and Blue and White in Israel.

The remainder of Israelis remained extraordinarily consistent, voting as they did in April. Despite musical-chairs for the parties, the size of the ideological blocs – in other words, counting Liberman on the right – has not changed.

The next government is not yet known, and the direction and extent of change under a center-right unity government is not known. It is clear, however, that the vast majority of Israeli voters did not change their minds fundamentally about their ideology and vision for the country. The largest portion are still right wing by their own definition. A new government would be a political change, but deeper social change appears to be much further away.

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    1. Carmen

      Most israelis are addicted to the lie that is that of chosenness. It’s been hammered into their brains that they are more than anyone else, their jewish blood is more precious than the blood of the other, that their beliefs and traditions supercede those of all others; this is the criminality of zionism. It’s not a religion, it’s a political movement like ‘MAGA’; it’s based on racism and xenophobia so it’s a completely illogical, fear-based cult. The zionist state has commited innumerable crimes agains the indigenous people of palestine; however, the palestinian people have right on their side and are determined to be seen and heard and have the power to determine their own destinies; they won’t kowtow to zionist wannabee masters. The zionist state has also done irreparable damage to people of the jewish faith and has made antisemitism continue to thrive. I can’t help but believe that is the very intention of zionism. Zionism is the same as white supremacy and other similar nationalistic/xenophobic cults. It is the cause of endless bloodshed and war. israeli jews have been brainwashed and will continue to suck on the pipe because of the notion of ‘chosenness’. In amerikkka, the only way wealthy planters got control, way before there was a united states, was to instill among the poor white folks that it was their skin color that made them superior (crazy, but that’s all they had to offer); assure them they’d eventually make their way up (wink and nod) because their whiteness made them special, set the apart from the other and therefore entitled them to more, and if they were wealthy whities, entitled them to much much more. That lie is very intoxicating one and is still being told: By an orange clown across the big water and a blue-haired boobie right here.

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    2. Lewis from Afula

      Carmen’s problem is that she lives in her own private American Leftist Bubble World.
      From her bubble’s perspective, Israel should do “Tikkun Olam” by surrendering unconditionally to the PLO terrorist organization and / or the friendly liberal Hamas guys down the road. After that, Carmen will feel more comfortable discussing politics with her non-Jewish progressive friends.

      Well, sorry Carmen. Israel is not going to commit suicide to help your social circle.
      If that means your road to complete assimilation is going to be more difficult, so be it !

      Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        @Lewis from Afula
        ‘Well, sorry Carmen. Israel is not going to commit suicide to help your social circle.’

        Oh of course it will, don’t be a boob! But it’ll take the rest of the world with it.

        My social circle or my sewing circle – don’t have either. Assimilation to you means getting along with people different than myself to me. The ‘tribe’ is too fucking savage and self-destructive to be part of.

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