As I go around the community in Tucson, many people ask me what I think about Israeli politics. Who is going to “win,” what will the future look like, plus questions about how our political system with its many parties works and how it relates to the world and American politics.
Indeed, this is a fascinating time to follow Israeli politics. Next month, we are going to vote for the third time in less than a year, with sub-currents in Israeli society, the prime minister’s legal situation, and the rise of the political center all integrated into a complex and intricate system of powers and positions.
There are, however, a few trends I can highlight to shed some light on these internal processes. These include the aforementioned solidification of a strong and large center, party groupings and the assimilation of political agendas, and young adults’ voting trends.
The trend of creating a large political center is not new to Israeli politics. Since the early 2000s, the Israeli public was offered the notion of a central worldview. Former prime ministers Ariel Sharon, who served from 2001-2006, and Ehud Olmert, 2006-2009, headed Kadima, the center party of their time, and managed to create some changes in the Israeli reality — most memorably, moving out of the Gaza Strip. A big group of voters in Israel identify an opportunity in centrist parties and are expected to vote, for the third time, for “Blue and White,” an alliance of three centrist parties (Israel Resilience Party, Yesh Atid, and Telem) that was formed to run in the April 2019 elections.
The process of grouping between parties has a long history in the Israeli political map as well. Small parties that fear they will not get enough votes to get into the parliament have grouped together, with each bringing its voter base (and sometimes losing parts of it). In 2015, The Arab Joint list brought together four very different parties in a successful attempt to overcome a challenging electoral threshold, the minimum number of votes necessary to gain seats in parliament. In the September 2019 elections, they ended up being the third-largest party in the parliament, after Likud and Blue and White. A new development is the grouping of small right-wing parties, with a similar process happening on the left.
The third trend that might have some influence in the March 2 elections is the way young people in Israel tend to vote. A recent survey conducted by researchers Noa Lavie and Irit Adler from the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa suggests that young adults in Israel (ages 18-35) tend to vote in greater numbers than their peers in the United States and their votes tend to reflect a relatively more conservative worldview.
As these three trends unfold, they all add to the complex political situation in Israel. On March 22, Tucson’s Ruth and Irving Olson Center for Jewish Life and the Weintraub Israel Center will co-sponsor a symposium focusing on Israel in the 21st century. David Graizbord, Ph.D., associate director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Judaic Studies, will give the opening lecture, speaking about the historical roots of Israeli politics. For more information on the symposium, which will be held at the Olson Center, 180 W. Magee Road #140, call 505-4161 or email northwest
Inbal Shtivi is the shlicha (Israeli emissary) for Southern Arizona and director of the Weintraub Israel Center.