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Why Did the Left Lose?

The bloc of parties working together to form a coalition against Netanyahu, known as the ‘change government,' dismissed the crisis around cost of living, and now it pays the price | Opinion

The Meretz headquarters after early elections results. (Photo: Flash90)
The Meretz headquarters after early elections results. (Photo: Flash90)
By Gil Plotkin

Half of the people in Israel are poor and half are rich. This election, the poor man won. When you clear away the slogans and look at the data, it is easy to understand the voting patterns in Israel. The parties with the biggest voter turnout – Shas, United Torah Judaism, Likud and Religious Zionism –  come from the bottom socio-economic decile of the population. Then there are Yesh Atid, Meretz, Labor and Benny Gantz's National Unity Party, with voters coming from the top deciles. This vote is systematic, and has not changed for years. The economy wins every campaign.

The coalition of Lapid, Bennett and Lieberman did not succeed in gaining votes after a year in government. The coalition not only harmed the weak. The despair in the coalition also lies in the depth of the gap between its promises of change and its implementation. Paraphrasing Netanyahu's words in the past, one can say: "You get what you give."

Those who criticized the grants that Netanyahu distributed during the pandemic, and those who did not rush to give grants to the self-employed who were affected in the last year, paid a price. The taxation on single-use plastic items, in the name of environmentalism, has impacted the Haredi community economically disproportionality to secular Israelis. Those on the left who question and mock the Haredim for their impact on the environment found answers at the ballot box. 

The “change government” rolled its eyes at the cost of living and the wage freeze. Prime Minister Lapid said that the government was limited in its actions, even while tens of billions of excess taxes have been piled up in the state coffers. Lieberman saw the crisis as an opportunity to widen gaps by waiving taxes for the top deciles, and the leftist parties supported this.

Still, on the economic level, there is no great difference between the Netanyahu governments and the “change government.” Moreover, there is no big difference between all the governments that have served in Israel since the establishment of the state, excluding the Golda Meir government. They all supported the widening of social economic gaps. It can be seen that voters prefer to vote for their own tribe, which may have their backs a little in the economic field.

It is not clear why it is difficult for leftist voters to understand Shas voters. Did Labor or Meretz bother to take care of the Shasnik public [Mizrahi Haredi and religious Jews] in the last government?

It is likely that the upcoming Netanyahu government will not change the economic reality in Israel towards a welfare state, reducing disparities and eradicating poverty. But the "change government" also missed an opportunity to do so, missing out on an opportunity to gain new voters from the lower classes of Israeli society.  

Dr. Eli Cook, an expert in U.S. history from the University of Haifa, has recently been running the "populist party" on social media, as a joke. This is a party that once existed in the U.S. and finally joined the Democratic Party, until it disappeared within it. It consisted of peasants and lower class urban populations. The party demanded taxation of the rich, the granting of loans by the banks at low interest rates, the nationalization of the railways and more. Policies that ultimately work to narrow the economic and wealth gaps in society.

Cook offers an economic platform that can benefit the lower classes immediately. The suggestions are full of humor, but the intention behind them is serious: a government that can do a lot to promote the weaker sections of society, which can certainly happen in a rich and established country like Israel. This joke may one day become a reality, and if this happens, after many, many years, Israelis from the lower strata will be able to vote for a party with left-wing values. This may prove that the political balance in Israel can be changed.

This article was translated from Hebrew by Nancye Kochen. 

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