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Settlements in Focus - Vol. 2, Issue 6: The Settler Vote in the Israeli Elections

What do the results of the recent Israeli elections say about Israeli attitudes about settlements and territorial compromise?

What do the results of the recent Israeli elections say about Israeli attitudes about settlements and territorial compromise?

The recent Israeli elections represented an historical shift in Israeli politics, with a political map long-dominated by two large parties representing the right and the left - Likud and Labor - wholly redrawn. In the process, voting patterns shifted, revealing a new political landscape.

The left, represented by Labor and Meretz, held its own, as did the ultra-Orthodox and Arab parties. The right splintered and contracted, with the Likud party reduced to a shadow of its former presence in the Knesset. A new major political force emerged on the scene in the form of the Kadima party, capturing the Israeli political center. The other big winner in this election was a newcomer, the Pensioners Party. In addition, Avigdor Leiberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party (which calls for its own brand of "disengagement," including redrawing Israel's borders to leave out certain areas home to a large Israeli-Arab population) emerged as a significant force on the political right. Missing completely from this new political landscape is the last election's big winner, Shinui, which failed to win any seats at all.

The issues of settlements, territorial compromise, and final borders of Israel played a major role in the elections, with politicians selling the election as, in large part, a referendum on both the disengagement from Gaza and the Olmert "convergence" plan to make further territorial withdrawals in the West Bank. For a description of the platforms of the major parties regarding the future of the Israeli settlements, see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 2, Issue 5.

Within this context, the election results are a clear vote of support for territorial compromise and a vote against the right-wing dream of the settlements and Greater Israel. The majority of the seats in the new Knesset were won by parties who support giving up additional territory - either unilaterally or in the context of a bilateral peace process - and some kind of a two-state solution. At the same time, the election showed that ideological support for the settlement enterprise and the "Greater Israel" concept that underlies it is very limited (even among settlers), with the parties representing the traditional settler ideology (the National Union and NRP) receiving enough votes to earn only 9 seats in the new Knesset. In addition, around 28,000 votes were cast for the far right-wing National Jewish Front, but these were not sufficient to win any seats at all. All told, these votes translate to about 8% of the total Israeli population.

Are these results a surprise?

They shouldn't be. For more than a decade, public opinion polls have consistently shown that about 70% of Israelis support or would support a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the concept of territorial compromise - i.e., giving up part or all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is not to understate the disagreements that still exist in Israel among those who support territorial compromise - disagreements, for instance, over substance (how much to concede) and tactics (negotiations versus unilateralism). Such disagreements also played a role in this election.

How did settlers vote?

Complete results of the 2003 and 2006 Knesset elections are available (in Hebrew) on the Knesset website: http://www.knesset.gov.il. Profiles of the voting in selected settlements (in English, as translated by APN) at the end of this document. Details of the individual settlements (location, photos, year of establishment) can be found at: http://peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=57

Given the current trend toward unilateralism and evacuation of territory, one might assume that settler voting patterns would have in general moved to the right, and that this phenomenon would be more pronounced in settlements located beyond the route of the security barrier (i.e., on the Palestinian side). However, a look at the actual vote shows that this assumption would be incorrect. An examination of the elections results underscores the fact that "the settlers" are not politically or ideologically homogeneous. Rather, the settlers embody a range of loyalties and ideologies (not unlike the rest of Israeli society), and settler voting patterns show clearly that support for the concept of "Greater Israel" comes today mainly (though not only) from religious settlers in the West Bank.

National Union-National Religious Party: The NU-NRP joint list attracted 29.7% of the vote in the West Bank, compared to 6.9% of the vote inside Israel. As will be discussed in more detail below, the NRP, while originally a moderate, religious, Zionist party in coalition governments with the Labor party, since 1967 has been the traditional supporter of the religious-nationalist Gush Emunim settlers. These two independent parties chose to run on a single, combined slate, in an effort to improve their joint electoral prospects.

United Torah Judaism and Shas: UTJ and Shas, the two ultra-Orthodox parties, attracted 12.6% and 10% of the West Bank settler vote, respectively, for a total of 22.6% of the total vote. This compares to 4.8% and 9.6%, respectively, inside the Green Line. As will be discussed below, these votes came overwhelmingly from the ultra-Orthodox settlements in the West Bank.

Likud: The Likud experienced a drastic decline in support across the West Bank, polling at 11.3% - only slightly better than the 8.9% it enjoyed inside Israel, and only slightly better than the new Kadima party did in the West Bank.

Kadima: Running on a platform of "convergence" - a plan that would entail the dismantling of many West Bank settlements, Kadima still won 10.4% of the settlers' votes in the West Bank, compared to 21.8% of the vote inside Israel. (While Israelis inside the Green Line voted in large numbers for Labor, and to a lesser extend for Meretz and the hitherto unknown Pensioners Party, in the West Bank Kadima represented more or less the totality of the moderate, left-leaning vote).

Yisrael Beiteinu: In this election veteran settler and Russian immigrant Avigdor Leiberman succeeded in establishing his party on the Likud's right flank, winning 8.9% of the settlers' votes in the West Bank, and 9% of the votes inside Israel.

Labor: Not surprisingly, Labor does not generally do well in West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, in this election the party won 4.7% of the settlers' votes (compared to 15.1% inside the Green Line), outpolling the racist National Jewish Front and the Pensioners Party).

National Jewish Front: The National Jewish Front list, headed by Baruch Marzel (a former leader of the Kach party, which has been outlawed in Israel and designated by the U.S. as a foreign terrorist organization) won 4% of the settlers' votes- a not insignificant percentage, but less than Labor won overall in the settlements. The NJF did not win enough votes overall to obtain any Knesset seats.

Pensioners: The newcomer Pensioners Party - whose platform dealt exclusively with the protection of retirement benefits - won 3.7% of the settlers' votes, compared to 5.9% inside Israel.

Other Parties: Other parties (like Meretz and Arab parties) received few if any votes in the settlements.

How did settlers in national-religious settlements vote?

The national-religious settlements are the traditional Gush Emunim settlements, located mainly in the West Bank heartland and Gush Etzion. These settlers stuck to traditional voting patterns in the 2006 elections, voting mainly for the joint NU-NRP list. The percentage in these settlements voting for the NU-NRP list is roughly the same as the combined percentages who voted in the last election for the two parties (who ran separately in that election), accounting for 70% or more of the votes in most of these settlements. This was true regardless of which side of the barrier the settlement is located on. For example, in Elkana, which is within the barrier, 74.5% voted for the NU-NRP joint list; in Elon Moreh, which is far outside the barrier, 73% voted for this same list. Similar numbers can be seen in Neve Daniel, located inside the barrier in Gush Etzion (74% for NU-NRP), and nearby Karmei Tzur, located south of Gush Etzion and outside of the barrier (82%).

Similarly, NU-NRP was strongly supported in other national-religious settlements located inside the route of the barrier (or expected to be included) - Efrata (60%), Rosh Tzurim (80%), Migdal Oz (76%), Peduel (80%), Kedumim (77%), as well as those outside the route of the barrier - Ofra (83%), Eli (74%), Ateret (80%), Itamar (72%).

In a handful of settlements known to be among the most extreme in the West Bank - located on both sides of the barrier - the radical National Jewish Front list drew a relatively significant degree of support. Such settlements included:

  • Bat Ayin, located outside of the barrier in the Etzion bloc, where over 42% voted for the NJF, and only 38% for the NU-NRP list;

  • Yizhar, located south of Nablus and outside the security barrier, where 61% voted for the NJF and 30% for the NU-NRP list;

  • Kfar Tapuah, located east of Ariel and outside the security barrier, where 29.5% voted for the NJF, and 50% for the NU-NRP list.

How did the ultra-Orthodox settlers vote?

In the recent elections, voters in the ultra-Orthodox settlements on both sides of the security barrier stuck to traditional voting patterns in the current election, casting most of their votes for the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and UTJ. The main difference in the voting between the ultra-Orthodox settlements located inside and outside the route of the barrier was the voting for the far right-wing parties, the NU-NRP list and the radical NJF. The phenomenon of the ultra-Orthodox in smaller settlements and their growing support for parties on the nationalist far right was discussed in Settlements in Focus, Vol. 1, Issue 12, (http://www.peacenow.org/briefs.asp?rid=&cid=1644).

Inside the barrier:

  • Betar Illit (pop. 25,020): 38% (Shas), 54% (UTJ), 2% (NU-NRP), 4.5% (NJF)

  • Immanuel (pop. 3054): 51.5% (Shas), 23% (UTJ), 6.5% (NU-NRP), 14.5% (NJF)

  • Matityahu (pop. 1386): 4.5% (Shas), 81% (UTJ), 5.5% (NU-NRP), 1% (NJF)

  • Modi'in Illit (pop. 27,301): 19% (Shas), 78.5% (UTJ), 1.3% (NU-NRP), 0.5% (NJF)

Outside the barrier:

  • Asfar (pop 327): 16.5% (Shas), 44.5% (UTJ), 31% (NU-NRP), 1% (NJF)

  • Kochav Yaakov* (pop. 4377): 48% (Shas), 16% (UTJ), 20.5% (NU-NRP), 12.4% (NJF)

  • Ma'ale Amos (361): 16.5% (Shas), 68% (UTJ), 7% (NU-NRP), 7% (NJF)

  • Nahaliel (340): 41% (Shas), 6.5% (UTJ), 12.5% (NU-NRP), 37% (NJF)

*Kochav Yaakov, while technically a "mixed" religious/secular settlement, is home to Tel Zion, a large and expanding ultra-orthodox community. The voting patterns evidenced in this community appear largely consistent with those of other ultra-Orthodox settlements, and are this included in this section.

How did secular settlers vote?

Not including the Jordan Valley settlements - which historically and sociologically differ from other settlements in the West Bank - most of the secular settlements in the West Bank are located relatively close to the Green Line, and therefore are within the area annexed by the barrier. This is mainly a result of the early 1980's Likud government policy which sought to attract non-ideological, secular, middle class Israelis to participate in the settlement enterprise by offering incentivized housing with easy access to jobs, schools, and all of the other services and resources located inside the Green Line. This includes settlements like: Shaked, Reihan, Zufim, and Sali't. In addition, there are a small number of secular settlements located deeper inside the West Bank, and thus far not included within the route of the security barrier. These include Migdalim, Hermaesh, Mevo Dotan, Adora, Telem, and Shima.

Given that the social and religious background of the populations in these settlements is generally similar, a comparison of their voting patterns can shed some light on how location (with respect to the security barrier) impacts, or fails to impact, voting. Additionally, since the Likud won the majority of votes in all of these settlements in the two previous elections, the results of this latest election shed some light, too, on how Likud fared among its traditional settler base.

The results of the 2006 elections disclose several interesting trends among voters in secular settlements:

  • There was basically no difference in voting trends between settlements located east and west of the security barrier.

  • In most of these settlements, the percentage voting for Likud dropped by around 50% compared to the past two elections.

  • After doing relatively well in these settlements in the 2003 election, the Shinui party basically vanished (consistent with the results inside the Green Line).

  • Kadima, running on a platform that calls for the evacuation of an unspecified number of West Bank settlements, won 25%-40% in all secular settlements - a higher percentage than Kadima won inside the Green Line. This is especially interesting when one considers that the general support to Kadima in West Bank settlements was around 10.4%, a bit higher than the percentage of the vote that went to the Yisrael Beitenu party, which won around 9% of the overall West Bank settler vote.

  • In secular settlements (compared to national religious or ultra-Orthodox settlements) there is much lower support for the parties which represent the hard-line traditionally pro-settler positions (i.e., opposition to dismantling settlements and support for the idea of "Greater Israel"). This is regardless of the secular settlement's location with respect to the security barrier.

  • Taken together with the results from the national religious and ultra Orthodox settlers, these results underscore the fact that settler voting pattern reflect, first and foremost, the level of religiosity of the voter.

How did settlers in the very large settlements vote?

The very large, non-ultra Orthodox settlements -like Ma'ale Adumim, Alfei Menashe, Giva't Zeev, and Ariel - are traditional strongholds of the Likud party, with Likud winning a strong majority of the votes in past elections. All are located within the route of the barrier (although the sections of the barrier dealing with Ariel and Ma'ale Adumim are noted as areas where the route if "Subject to Completion of Further Inter-Ministerial Examination." For a map of the approved route of the security barrier, see: http://www.securityfence.mod.gov.il/Pages/ENG/route.htm).

In the March 2006 election, the Likud party lost 50%-60% of its support in all of these settlements, with the support swinging mainly to Kadima and Yisraeli Beiteinu (particularly in settlements like Ariel which have a large Russian population). Some of this support also went to the Pensioners Party, which received significant support in settlements like Alfei Menashe (12.5%), Ariel (5%), Maa'le Adumim (5%) and Givat Ze'ev (8%).

How did Jordan Valley settlers vote?

The settlements in the Jordan Valley were historically affiliated with the Labor Party, which was the party that initially established the settlement drive in the area (for background on the Jordan Valley settlements, see Settlements in Focus, Vol. 1, Issue 11). However, during the 1980s the Likud party established a large support base in the Jordan Valley and in the 2001 elections was the largest vote-getter in most of the Jordan Valley settlements, although Labor still drew a substantial amount of support.

In the March 2006 election the Likud suffered a significant defeat in the Jordan valley, winning an average of less than 10% of the votes. Kadima replaced the Likud as the main power in most of the settlements, winning 30% or more of the vote in most of the settlements. Labor remained relatively strong, and the NU-NRP list and Yisrael Beiteinu both did well in settlements that have more recently attracted religious settlers and Russian immigrants. For example, the settlement of Yitav has a population of around 143, many of whom are Russian immigrants. In Yitav, Yisrael Beiteinu scored 40.5% of the vote. Similarly, in Gittit (pop. 188), where a large portion of the inhabitants are religious, the NU-NPR scored 40% of the vote, while in Kochav Ha'shachar (pop. 1391), NU-NRP scored 81.5% of the vote.

Which settlements were the most supportive of the far right?

As discussed earlier, the national-religious settlers voted in large numbers for the far right-wing NU-NRP list. The very strong support for the NU-NPR list - in the range of 65%-80% - was in evidence on both sides of the barrier. Many of these settlements - and a handful of others - also exhibited strong support for the National Jewish Front (NJF) list, led by extremist Baruch Marzel.

Looking at support for the NJF as a measure of the most extremist elements in the settlements, NJF scored close to or more than 10% of the vote in the following places:

61% - Yizhar (pop. 578), located south of Nablus and outside of the barrier
37% - Nahaliel (pop. 340), located northeast of the Modi'in Illit bloc and outside the barrier
36% - Jewish settlements inside Hebron (pop. 400), located outside the barrier
29.5% - Kfar Tapuah (645), located north of Ariel and outside the barrier
17% - Kiryat Arba (pop. 6090), located adjacent to Hebron and outside the barrier
17% - Susiya (pop. 639), located south of Hebron and outside the barrier
16% - Pnei Hever (pop. 318), located south of Hebron and outside the barrier
14.5% - Ma'ale Michmash (pop. 1104), located northeast of Jerusalem and outside the barrier
14.5% - Immanuel (pop. 3054), located northwest of Ariel and inside the barrier
13% - Itamar (pop. 555) located northeast of Ariel and outside the barrier
12.4% - Kochav Ya'akov (pop. 4377), located north of Jerusalem and outside the barrier
11.5% - Tko'a (pop. 1232) located east of the Etzion bloc and outside the barrier
10.5% - Kochav Ha'ahachar (pop. 1391) located northeast of Jerusalem and outside the barrier
10% - Elon Moreh (pop. 1205), located east of Nablus and outside the barrier
9.5% - Ateret (pop. 344), located north of Ramallah and outside the barrier

How did "the Russians" vote?

Avigdor Leiberman's Yisraeli Beitenu party, whose traditional base of support has been Russian immigrants, drew only 8.9% in West Bank settlements - despite the fact that Leiberman is himself a settler and strongly supportive of the settlement enterprise.

The exception to this occurred in settlements with a large Russian population (an issue discussed in Settlements in Focus, Vol. 1, Issue 16). For example, Yisrael Beitenu won 35% of the vote in Ariel, where about half the population is originally from the former Soviet Union; 40% of the vote in Nokdim, where Leiberman and many other Russian immigrants live; and 40.5% in Yitav, also home to a large Russian population.

SAMPLE OF VOTING IN SETTLEMENTS

1. National Religious settlements:

Outside of the barrier: Eli (pop. 2296), located in the northern West Bank heartland

2006:
NU-NRP 74.0%
Yisrael Beitenu 6.0%
NJF 6.0%
Shas 5.5%
Likud 5.0%
Kadima 1.5%

2003:
NRP 42.5%
National Union 24.1%
Likud 13.8%
Herut 8.5%
Shas 4.9%
Yisrael Baaliya 2.7%
Shinui 2.1%

Inside the barrier: Efrat (pop. 7483), located in Gush Etzion

2006:
NU-NRP 64.0%
Likud 14.5%
Yisrael Beitenu 5.5%
NJF 4.5%
Shas 3.0%
Kadima 2.0%
Pensioners 1.5%
Labor 1.0%
UTJ 1.0%

2003:
NRP 33.6%
National Union 23.5%
Likud 20.2%
Yisrael Baaliya 8.4%
Herut 6.5%
Shas 2.1%
Labor 1.2%
UTJ 1.0%

2. Ultra-Orthodox Settlements:

Outside of the barrier: Ma'ale Amos (pop. 361), located in the southern West Bank heartland

2006:
UTJ 68.0%
Shas 16.5%
NJF 7.0%
NU-NRP 7.0%
Yisrael Beitenu 1.0%

2003:
UTJ 71.4%
Shas 11.9%
Herut 9.5%
National Union 4.8%
NRP 1.2%
Green Leaf 1.2%

Inside the barrier: Modi'in Illit (pop. 27,301), located near the Green Line, north of Jerusalem

2006:
UTJ 78.5%
Shas 19.0%
NU-NRP 1.3%

2003:
UTJ 76.2%
Shas 20.5%
Herut 1.1%

3. Secular settlements

Outside the route of the barrier: Mevo Dotan (pop. 313), located in the northern West Bank

2006:
Kadima 39.0%
NU-NRP 20.0%
Likud 13.0%
Yisrael Beitenu 8.0%
NJF 7.0%
Shas 4.0%
Pensioners 3.0%
Labor 2.5%
Meretz 1.0%

2003:
Likud 58.2%
National Union 15.3%
Shinui 10.2%
Herut 6.1%
Labor 2.0%
Another Israel 2.0%
Am Echad 2.0%
Shas 2.0%
NRP 1.0%
Meretz 1.0%

Inside the route of the barrier: Shaked (pop. 556), located in the northwest corner of the West Bank

2006:
Kadima 29.5%
Likud 19.0%
NU-NRP 13.0%
Yisrael Beitenu 11.5%
Pensioners 9.5%
Labor 8.0%
Shas 3.0%
NJF 2.0%
Meretz 1.0%

2003:
Likud 56.3%
Shinui 13.2%
National Union 8.5%
Labor 8.1%
NRP 3.7%
Meretz 2.6%
Shas 2.6%
Herut 2.2%
Am Echad 1.1%

4. Large Settlements (other than ultra-Orthodox)

Ma'ale Adumim (pop. 30,346), located east of Jerusalem

2006:
NU-NRP 19.5%
Likud 19.0%
Kadima 15.5%
Yisrael Beitenu 15.5%
Shas 9.5%
Labor 7.0%
Pensioners 5.5%
NJF 1.5%
UTJ 1.0%
Meretz 1.0%

2003:
Likud 49.8%
National Union 11.9%
Shinui 8.4%
Shas 7.4%
NRP 7.3%
Yisrael Baaliya 3.4%
Labor 3.2%
Herut 2.2%
Meretz 1.4%
Am Echad 1.4%
Kadouri 1.3%

Givat Ze'ev (pop. 10,926), located northwest of Jerusalem

2006:
Likud 19.5%
Kadima 17.5%
NU-NRP 13.5%
Yisrael Beitenu 10.5%
Labor 9.5%
Shas 9.5%
Pensioners 8.0%
UTJ 3.5%
Meretz 1.5%
NJF 1.5%

2003:
Likud 52.5%
Shinui 11.1%
Shas 8.1%
National Union 6.5%
Labor 6.0%
NRP 4.0%
UTJ 3.3%
Herut 1.8%
Meretz 1.8%
Green Leaf 1.4%
Am Echad 1.4%
Yisrael Baaliya 1.1%

Ariel (pop. 17,555), located in the northern West Bank heartland

2006:
Yisrael Beitenu 35.0%
Likud 24.0%
Kadima 12.5%
NU-NRP 8.5%
Pensioners 5.0%
Labor 4.0%
Shas 4.0%
NJF 2.0%

2003:
Likud 53.3%
National Union 22.1%
Shinui 9.6%
Shas 3.4%
Yisrael Baaliya 2.4%
Labor-Meimad 1.9%
Herut 1.8%
NRP 1.6%

5. The Jordan Valley Settlements

Ma'ale Efraim (pop. 1696)

2006:
Kadima 31.5%
NU-NRP 15.0%
Yisrael Beitenu 14.0%
Likud 10.0%
Pensioners 7.5%
Labor 6.0%
Shas 5.5%
NJF 2.0%
Meretz 1.0%

2003:
Likud 48.4%
Shinui 14.3%
National Union 11.2%
Labor 6.6%
NRP 4.6%
Yisrael Baaliya 2.7%
Shas 2.4%
Green Leaf 1.9%
Meretz 1.7%
Herut 1.4%
Greens 1.2%
Center 1.0%


Produced by Dror Etkes, Settlements Watch Director, Peace Now (Israel), and Lara Friedman & Noam Shelef, Americans for Peace Now (USA)