Since the beginning of the century, Israel’s once-dominant Labor party has faded from importance, only able to make itself viable through alliances with various parties of the political center or moderate right. Thus the past several elections have pitted the Likud and its right-wing allies against one form or another of the center-left. But recent polls have shown a precipitous decline in the proportion of Israelis willing to vote for a center-left party. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:
Over the course of twenty months, from April 2019 to December 2020, the number of seats won by Zionist parties that did not self-identify as “right” tumbled from 49 to 26, a 47-percent drop. [Looking more closely], on December 9, the center-left came to 39 seats in an average of several polls, while the “right without Likud” group polled at 45.6 seats on average. Just over two weeks later, on December 27, the center-left shrank more than six seats while the non-Likud right grew by ten. (The remaining seats may have come from Likud itself.)
It’s the appearance of a new party on the center-right, created by the former Likudnik Gideon Sa’ar, that might explain the most recent change, Gur writes. And there are also longer-term trends at play:
There’s a demographic reality that the Israeli left has yet to grapple with seriously, though it’s been known for decades. Israeli politics are tribal, with party allegiances usually dividing according to deep-seated cultural and religious differences, and the more left-leaning of those demographics are shrinking and growing older. [But this doesn’t explain] the evaporation in twenty short months of nearly half of the center-left electorate.
Put simply, center-left voters went to the anti-Netanyahu right.
The center-left has shrunk by almost half since April 2019, but it did so in ways that did not change the underlying deadlock. That is, those voters are still in the system, and still oppose Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued rule. Israel is now headed to a fourth election in two years. There’s growing evidence to suggest it may soon be headed to a fifth.