By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
Election results in a real democracy are unknowable in advance, and the Israeli electorate is especially fickle. Even so, the results of yesterday’s legislative elections have surprised almost everyone.
Analysts and commentators — backed up by polling data — predicted a shift rightwards. And to be sure, the right did enjoy some success. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s combined Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc won a plurality of seats with 31 out of a possible 120, but far fewer than the two parties won separately last time around. And a new right-wing force, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, has burst onto Israel’s political scene with 11 seats. Bennett is firmly opposed to the creation a Palestinian state, and wants Israel to formally annex a big chunk of the West Bank.
But the biggest surge belonged to the centrist Yesh Atid party, led by former television journalist Yair Lapid. It finished second, with 19 seats. Lapid aimed his campaign at Israel’s broadly secular middle class, whose members worry about the cost of living, the quality of Israel’s public services, and especially the lack of affordable housing. Significantly, he is confronting Israel’s growing community of ultra-orthodox Jews by arguing that they too must serve in the army and work for a living. (Many choose extended study instead.) Continue…