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Special Analysis of Sweeping Change

If the elections were held again today it is fair to assume that the results would be substantially different. Labor, though doubtless it would still emerge weakened, would very probably not come out losing a massive 18 seats out of 51, and the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC), which took most of these votes from Labor, would very likely be significantly reduced.

For what happened in yesterday’s elections was, basically, that erstwhile Labor supporters, anxious to punish Labor for what they felt were its failures particularly in internal affairs, swung over to the newly-created and moderately based DMC–and thereby enabled Menachem Beigin to fulfill his lifelong ambition, lead his rightist Likud Party to relative victory as the new Knesset’s largest faction.

For Likud, despite Beigin’s historic victory address at 3 a.m., only gained two seats more than it had in the previous Knesset. Labor’s huge defeat was almost entirely at the hands of the DMC which thereby, as some analysts noted, “let in Beigin through the back door.” This was particularly apparent when the voting was broken down by expert analysts into areas and types of population.

VOTING TREND ASSESSED

In the kibbutzim, for instance, traditionally the strongest bastion of Labor Alignment support, the DMC made substantial inroads winning up to 10 or 12 percent of the vote, while Likud remained at a negligible 2 percent. And in the “well-established” uptown suburbs of the large cities the swing to DMC was particularly marked. In Haifa–another Labor stronghold, DMC pulled over 20 percent according to an analysis of midcount returns.

The avalanche from Labor to DMC in a massive protest vote against the present government seems, then, to be the major trend in this historic election. But analysts have already noted another significant factor: the election appears to have been, for the first time, a victory for “the second Israel” over “the first Israel.”

These quasi-sociological terms denote, of course, the Israel of the development towns and big city slums–mainly of Oriental origin–as opposed to the long-established families mainly of European origin. Paradoxically, it is always the lower classes in Israel, the “second Israel,” who account for the backbone of Likud’s support, while the better established sectors generally favor the establishment represented by Labor.

But Labor Party managers, and especially the late Pinhas Sapir, have always been aware of this undercurrent and have successfully combatted it, investing much effort to woo votes for their party in the development towns of the “second Israel.” This time, without Sapir, Labor failed abysmally to do this, as a breakdown of the voting in the development towns clearly shows. Likud scored its biggest successes in these areas, as did Shlomzion and Flatto-Sharon.

That, coupled with the flight from Labor of many of its traditional white collar and intellectual supporters in the big cities and the agricultural settlements, dealt the ruling party its mortal and mortifying blow.

STRONG ELEMENT OF PUNISHMENT

Many observers, among them particularly Labor stalwarts, spoke of the public having sought “to punish” Labor–rather than seeking a genuine shift of policy and ideology to the right. Certainly there was a strong element of punishment. But it would be wrong, nevertheless, to discount or belittle the political-ideological element in this election result.

There was a swing to the right–as witnessed by the growth of support for the National Religious Party which has adopted of late a stridently nationalistic posture. Counting Shlomzion and Poalei Aguda, which also takes a hawkish position, the rightist forces, in terms of a peace policy, can be said to number 57 Knesseters, and that is without counting DMC, even though it also harbors within its ranks a number of professed hawks such as Knesseter Meir Zorea.

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