Thursday, January 24, 2013

Israel's two big cities had vastly different voting patterns

Israel's two big cities had vastly different voting patterns

The White City and the Holy City, in a sense, represent Israel’s two polar extremes, and nowhere is this more pronounced than in how each one votes.
By Judy Maltz

Tel Avivians take advantage of the warm weather on Election Day. Photo by Ofer Vaknin

Netanyahu casts his ballot in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2013. Photo by GPO

Barring major traffic, the drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem takes less than an hour. But as most first-time visitors will quickly take note, despite this physical proximity, Israel’s two biggest cities are worlds apart.

Tel Aviv is on the coast, Jerusalem in the mountains. Tel Aviv is humid, Jerusalem dry. Tel Aviv is overwhelmingly secular, Jerusalem predominantly religious. Tel Aviv is known for its nightlife, Jerusalem for its holy sites.

The two cities, in a sense, represent Israel’s two polar extremes, and nowhere is this more pronounced than in how each one votes. Borrowing terminology from abroad, Tel Aviv has become the equivalent of America’s “Blue States” and Jerusalem, its “Red States.”

A city-by-city breakdown of the latest election results shows that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party was the biggest winner in Tel Aviv, capturing close to 21 percent of the vote in the country’s cultural and business capital – compared with 14 percent in the entire country. In other words, more than one out of every five Tel Avivians voted for the party that turned out to be the big surprise of this election, emerging as the second-largest party after Likud-Beiteinu with 19 Knesset seats.

Just for comparison’s sake, Yesh Atid, which didn’t exist until this election, barely won 7 percent of the vote in Jerusalem, where the big winner was the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, which captured 22 percent of the vote. UTJ took just 5 percent nationwide, and in Tel Aviv, the Ashkenazi-Haredi party barely crossed the 1 percent threshold.

Interestingly, the one and only similarity in election outcomes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was that in both cities Likud-Beiteinu – the party that despite its disappointing showing held onto its position as Israel’s largest party with 31 Knesset seats – came in second place.

Another party that did much better in Tel Aviv than elsewhere was Meretz, which won more than 14 percent of the vote in the White City. In Jerusalem, by contrast, the leftist party captured only about 4.5 percent of the vote, similar to its showing nationwide. The party managed to double its Knesset representation from three to six seats.

The Labor Party, which until a day ago was considered the frontrunner for the title of Israel’s second largest party, also captured a much larger share of the vote in Tel Aviv than it did in Jerusalem, emerging as the third-biggest party in Tel Aviv. Close to 17 percent of Tel Avivians voted for the party that ruled Israel for its first three decades of existence, as compared with barely 7 percent in Jerusalem. Nationwide, Shelly Yacimovich and her list won 11.5 percent of the vote.

What Labor was for Tel Aviv, Shas was for Jerusalem. Shas emerged as the third-largest vote-getter in Jerusalem, winning 15.5 percent of the ballots in the capital. In Tel Aviv, by contrast, the Sephardi-Haredi party barely took 6 percent of the votes, compared with a stronger showing of close to 9 percent nationwide.

Another first-time party, Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah, which ran on a platform of returning to negotiations with the Palestinians, captured barely 2 percent of the vote in Jerusalem, compared with more than 7 percent in Tel Aviv, and 5 percent nationwide. By contrast, the extreme right-wing Otzma Leyisrael party – which apparently did not get enough votes to get into the Knesset – did better than Livni in Jerusalem, where it got almost 3.5 percent of the vote, compared with just 1 percent in Tel Aviv.

A similar number of voters went to the polls in each of the two cities – 394,134 in Tel Aviv and 373,238 in Jerusalem – but the percentage of eligible voters who cast their ballot was higher in Jerusalem, where it reached 65 percent, compared with 62 percent in Tel Aviv, and 63 percent nationwide. That could easily be chalked up to the unusually warm, sunny weather that seemed to draw many people to the beach.

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