Is Israel facing a 5th round of elections?

The elections and the Jewish-Arab and secular-Haredi tensions

A survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute several days after the election revealed the depth of dissatisfaction of the majority of the Israeli public with the election results. Two-thirds of the public is dissatisfied with the results [including the majority of Jewish voters for the right, left and center parties] and 80% believe that Israel is facing its fifth round of elections in the coming year.

61% prefer no Haredi parties in Government61% prefer no Haredi parties in Government

As is well known, a large portion of the media coverage and political discourse evolves around the possibility of forming a government that would rely upon the support of one or both Arab parties. The reason for this is first and foremost the recognition of both political camps competing for power that neither would be able to form a majority without direct or indirect support from the Arab parties. They have made public announcements that such reliance is unacceptable to them, and wouldn’t enter their thoughts. It now turns out that most politicians who made such announcements are open to making a 180-degree reversal, and beyond confirming the public's cynical attitude towards politicians and their promises, there is much interest in the public’s views on this issue. IDI's findings are encouraging, showing that a majority in the Arab public supports the formation of a government with outside support from the Arab parties to prevent fifth elections (65.5%). Even among the Jewish public there is considerable support for this, and the support rate has been increasing. 44% support while 41% oppose, and support has increased significantly since February 2020 when only 23% of Jews supported this option.

The break-down of the findings among Israel’s Jewish public by political camp shows significant differences, as might be expected. The left-wing camp expresses much support for such a move (79%), in the centrist camp, support is lower, but it is still a majority (55%). On the right, only approximately one third support the formation of a government with outside support from the Arab parties (34%). However, compared to February 2020, most of the increase in support for the formation of such a government took place in the right and centrist camps. Such is the case In the three political parties in which a majority of voters oppose the formation of such a government with outside support from the Arab parties (Likud, Religious Zionism and Yamina). Resistance today is lower than it was one year ago (Likud: February 2020 - 80% oppose, today - 51%; Yamina and Religious Zionism: February 2020 - 83% oppose, today - 63%).

Precisely in light of these findings, and because we are sending this newsletter out on Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is of importance to focus on MK Betzalel Smotrich’s (the leader of "Religious Zionism") comments, reacting to MK Ahmad Tibi (Head of Ta’al party, which is part of the Joint Arab List faction), who vehemently rejected a public message from Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu (Chief Rabbi of Safed, known for extreme positions and outspoken opposition to Arab residence in Safed). Tibi reacted to what Rabbi Eliyahu stated, that “there is room for cooperation with the Arab parties if they accept that everything is done according to the will of God, that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish People, and that He is behind the victories of the State of Israel over all Arab armies since the establishment of the State until today”.

This is what Smotrich wrote: “I heard that after Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita said that a true Muslim should know that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People. Ahmad Tibi opened his mouth against him. So, Ahmed, a true Muslim must know that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People, and Arabs like you who do not recognize this will not stay here for long. Along with Rabbi Shmuel and tens of thousands of his students, we'll take care of that.” It's hard not to be shocked by these words, especially for Diaspora Jewry, which remembers the horrors of the Holocaust this day and the attempts to expel the Jews from their places of residence!

Reading these words, there is no doubt as to the the negative contribution of those who claim to speak for Judaism in the fundamentalist camp, to the idea of equal citizenship and the healing of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. Instead a Jewish message of human equality [Genesis 5:1-2. “1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him; 2 male and female created He them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”], these spokespeople convey a nationalist, hostile and exclusionary message. On top of this, there is the great tension between the secular and the ultra-Orthodox, as is evidenced in Hiddush’s annual indices.

So, Ahmed, a true Muslim must know that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People, and Arabs like you who do not recognize this will not stay here for long.

With this in mind, the findings of a survey published by the Gesher movement approximately two weeks ago should be viewed with great concern. According to the survey, the "secular - ultra-Orthodox" conflict is the primary and most contentious conflict in the eyes of Israelis. 73% of the Israeli public consider the secular - ultra-Orthodox conflict a real "danger" to the future of Israeli society; 62% responded that they believe that the crisis will further worsen. While the ultra-Orthodox sector argues that the main cause of this crisis Is the "lack of familiarity between sectors" (73%), among the secular public, the main reason is attributed to the "inequality in the sharing of the civic burden" (67%). It should also be emphasized that only 41% of the secular public believes that the crisis can be remedied.

A fuller context for the severity of the tension between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews can be seen in the fact that in comparison only 10% of the Jewish public considers the "Jewish-Arab" conflict to be the State of Israel’s most acute crisis. Only 38% believe that this national tension will worsen, while 52% believe it is a repairable crisis.

In addition, according to a survey published by the Anti Defamation League about a month ago, in preparation for its annual Social Cohesion Summit in Israel, only about 30% of the Israelis consider the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs as an integral part of Israeli society. As for the ultra-Orthodox society, the conduct of the sector and its leadership during the Covid 19 pandemic further eroded their image. 56% of the representative sample answered that it caused their opinions of ultra-Orthodox society to change for the worse. Instead of a deep soul searching on the part of the ultra-Orthodox leadership, its response has been to accuse their critics of anti-Semitism and racism!

The ultra-Orthodox parties are experiencing a crisis, and even their past supporters are raising questions as to the future. Against this background, one can understand their strong opposition to the possibility of holding fifth elections. While they maintained the size of their representation in the Knesset in the last round, this must be seen in the context of the decline in the voting rate in the last election [from 71.52% to 67.44%], which allowed the ultra-Orthodox parties to maintain their power, despite the decline in the number of their own voters. This happened even though the ultra-Orthodox population has grown since the last election, and the two parties expected an increase in the number of their voters. [Shas votes have dropped by 36,845 votes compared to the March 2020 elections, and Torah Judaism by 26,046 votes.]

According to a survey conducted by Channel 12 before the election, a large majority of the public [61%] opposes the inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox parties in forming the next coalition. Even among right-wing voters, there is a majority that opposes this. These findings are consistent with the many surveys that Hiddush has conducted on this subject in recent years.

This reality and these tensions are not going to go away, and as long as the next coalition includes the ultra-Orthodox parties and submits to their dictates [see the editorial], opposition is expected to increase, especially among the secular public. This will have implications for the next election, even if we do not yet know their date.

Take Action!