Israel Election: It's The Economy, Stupid

A final survey by Calcalist focused not on the candidates, but on the issues. It doesn't sound good for incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli voters are trying to cope with the growing costs of raising children, among other things
Israeli voters are trying to cope with the growing costs of raising children, among other things
Uri Toval

TEL AVIV — What's driving Israeli voters as they go to the polls for Tuesday's national elections?

Beyond the candidates, a survey commissioned by Calcalist tried to understand the issues that will be guiding voting, and to unravel the line in Israel between economics and security.

The results are unequivocal: 55.2% of respondents said they will vote according to socio-economic issues, and only 28.4% put security and diplomacy at the top of their considerations.

Israel's state comptroller recently published a scathing report on the country's housing crisis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to it by saying, "When people are talking about cost of living, I don't forget life itself. The main challenge is the Iranian nuclear."

Israelis, however, believe it's the other way around. Ninety percent of respondents said cost of living will influence their vote, compared to 69% whose voting will be influenced by Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Respondents weren't asked which specific candidate they intended to support. Instead, the survey's goal was to understand what Israelis today care about, and whether the parties responded to these. The findings might, in fact, worry the Likud, Israel's current ruling party.

The survey was conducted last Tuesday by Midgam research firm, with the online forum ipanel. It included a sample of 500 Hebrew-speaking interviewees aged 18 and up. The maximum sampling error is 4.5%.

Israeli voters have many concerns. They are trying to cope with rising housing expenses and the growing costs of raising children. On the other side of the Separation Barrier, the Palestinian dynamite barrel awaits. And across the region, violent forces — such as Iran, Hamas and ISIS — are gaining momentum. All of these will need to be weighed into a single ballot.

This survey reveals the Israeli voter's priorities, and cost of living top the list: 89.7% of the respondents said this issue will affect their vote, either strongly or somewhat.

Perception and reality

Interestingly, this issue will influence 91% of those who reported they earn more than the national average. For those in the 45-54 demographic, that's 91% of men and 88% of women.

In Tel Aviv, voting with their wallets? — Photo: Bezalel Ben-Chaim

The second-biggest concern is Israel's approach to the Palestinian issue, with 83% percent saying this will influence their voting. Of those under 24 years old, 63% said the issue will strongly influence their choice. It could be the result of a generation growing up through the horrors of the Second Intifada and still not experiencing the difficulties of Israel's middle class.

Among those in the 25-34 age group, 77% are driven by the Palestinian question. But housing costs are much more of an issue, with 84% citing this as either strongly or somewhat affecting their vote.

And these trends have changed in the past two years. In the 2013 elections, socio-economic issues dominated the voting of 46% of the respondents. This time, they guide the voting of 55% of the respondents. At the same time, 33% of the respondents voted in the previous elections mostly on security issues, whereas this time security will be the prime concern of only 28% of voters.

This is noteworthy because Netanyahu's current tenure has been much more intense on the security and diplomatic front: Operation Protective Edge, terror attacks in Jerusalem, the collapse of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, tension with the Obama administration, the nuclear talks with Iran, and several incidents on the border with Syria. And yet, the economic situation attracts much more attention.

On the economic front, it's not always possible to find a link between the national situation and that of the common citizen. In recent years, Israel's growth rate was higher than the average in the OECD, and even in the United States. Unemployment has also been low, the deficit relatively more tamed, and available income per household is on the rise.

Nevertheless, for the average Israeli, the figures appear less positive: Salaries have stagnated over the years, the rate of household debt is increasing, buying a house now requires a greater percentage of both savings and future income, and income gaps are widening.

But the results of this survey suggest a perception gap. While 22% of the respondents say their economic situation has worsened over the past two years, 54% believe it is the entire nation's economic situation that is on the decline.

Curiously, a similar trend has been observed in Israeli perceptions of security. Whereas 38% of the survey respondents argued their personal sense of security has deteriorated over the past two years, 49% believe the nation's overall security situation has worsened.

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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