Thursday, March 19, 2015
Israel Elections 2015: A Few More Interesting Points
So I thought I would put together a few interesting points about the results and the aftermath. This information is available on YNet, Haaretz and some other news sources - but I have selected a few points that I found notable.
Results By City
I have provided a link to the YNet map of results by Israeli city (and even neighbourhood). It is in Hebrew but if you have a map of Israel handy, it should be easy enough to decipher.
As with elections in many other democratic countries, voters in large cities tend to vote for more liberal parties. There are some exceptions, of course, (like if the city happens to be a religious capital) but, not surprisingly, this can be seen to some extent in the Israeli electorate. So in Tel-Aviv, the Zionist Camp picked up 34% of the vote, followed by 19% for Likud and 13% for Meretz. In Haifa, the Zionist Camp won 25% of the vote, followed by 20% for Likud and 11% for Yesh Atid. On the other hand, 24% of Jerusalem voters chose Likud while 21% voted for the Ultra-Religious Degel HaTorah party. Another 10% of Jerusalem voters picked Shas.
Outside of those three cities, Likud fared quite well in cities of the next tier in size. Likud wins included Rehovot (27%), Ashdod (27%), Ashkelon (40%) and Tiberias (45%).
Closer to home, 33% of Ra'anana voters cast their ballots for the Zionist Camp while Likud (21%) and Yesh Atid (14%) finished second and third respectively.
Then there is "home away from home"... in Kiryat Eqron, 45% of the population voted for Likud with another 14% voting for Kulanu. But just down the street from Kiryat Eqron, 32% of voters in the town of Mazkeret Batya chose the Zionist Camp.
As in any country, the results show that Israel is very divided geographically. It is beyond the scope of this short blog to discuss the various socioeconomic factors for each area, but there are obviously a wide range of significant differences between the various geographic locations and their populations.
How Many Israelis Does it Take to Win a Knesset Seat?
Official Israeli election results show that 72.3% of eligible voters voted. All "eligible voters" are automatically registered. So whereas in some countries, the percentage of voters is reported as the percentage of registered voters who voted, that is not an issue in Israel. There were 5,878,000 eligible voters in Israel. 4,253,000 of them cast ballots. 43,800 voters spoiled their ballots.
This means that each Knesset seat was worth 33,482 votes. However, with a 3.5% threshold, a party needed 136,808 votes to make it in to the Knesset.
In case you were wondering, the Green Leaf party picked up 38,264 votes. Under the old Israeli rules in which the threshold was 1%, Israel would have elected one Green Leaf party member - who could have sat in the Knesset and put forward bills (probably rolled up) sponsoring the legalization of cannabis. Unfortunately for those voters, it does not look like Israel is about to become the Netherlands anytime soon. That being said, I am quite sure that there are many places across the country where finding access to cannabis is not extremely difficult. Worst case, Israelis can take advantage of the El Al seat sale and fly to Amsterdam or they can go a bit further and visit Colorado or Washington State for some drug tourism...
Quickest Revoked Resignation
Meretz chair Zehava Galon resigned on Wednesday after it was reported that her party had only won 4 seats. After some absentee ballots were counted, Meretz increased its presence to 5 seats. Galon decided to retract her resignation and stay on with the party. She noted that many of the absentee ballots were cast by soldiers and she would not want to let Israeli soldiers down after receiving their support. Continuing to earn an MK salary may also be a factor but she didn't mention that.
Quickest Orwellian Retraction of a Campaign Statement
As the election campaigning was drawing to a conclusion and Netanyahu was worried about the possibility of losing, he decided to try and shore up his right wing base by announcing the he was retracting his support for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. I'm reasonably sure that this was what he said...and it was picked up everywhere as a "game changer." Maybe we were all hallucinating? (Thinking about the Green Leaf party winning a seat...)
After the election, U.S. President Obama promptly suggested that if Israel would not support a two state solution - the U.S. might end its policy of blocking U.N. resolutions that impose a two state solution.
Surprise, surprise - Prime Minister Netanyahu promptly announced on NBC that he was in favour of a "peaceful, two state solution" and he had not really said what was attributed to him (or something like that) - or had not really meant what he had said... Okay well, we know now that Prime Minister Netanyahu cannot be confused with Horton ("I said what I meant and I meant what I said...a politician is faithful...100%...) (See Dr. Seuss if you missed the reference...). Naftali Bennett on the other hand, insisted that he would not negotiate to give up even one centimetre of land.
Now this, of course, all raises several interesting questions.
For one thing, given that Netanyahu used this statement to shore up his base and siphon votes from the more right wing Bayit Hayehudi party, how is it that his voters will accept this prompt about face? More importantly, which members of his right wing coalition will agree to negotiations for a two state solution after he campaigned by swearing it would not happen under his watch? Will Bennett also retroactively change his words? That seems unlikely.
While this Netanyahu about-face is certainly a positive development (albeit a small one) for those in the centre or on the left hoping that somehow there will be a negotiated solution with the Palestinians - it is unclear how Prime Minister Netanyahu could possibly negotiate one unless he assembles a national unity government with the Zionist Camp or includes some centrist or left-leaning parties in his coalition. I don't see how this can happen given the statements he made while campaigning. He would face a mutiny in his party.
It is much more likely that there will be another election before Netanyahu takes any real steps towards a peace deal with the Palestinians.
So that is my wrap up for now. I'll take a break for while on election postings and write again about this issue once some type of coalition starts to take shape.