The centre ground of Israeli politics: yes it exists, and yes it's in disarray

The centrists in Israel need to get a grip on their messaging and commitment if they're to make strides in upcoming elections

by Nathalie Tamam on 16 January 2013 16:16

recent poll in Israel showed that 45 percent of Israelis believe that a two state solution will not end the conflict with the Palestinians. On the other hand, 40 percent support the idea as a way to bring peace to the region. Talk about good old fashioned Middle East logic.

Perplexing as that might be, it does go some way to explaining why the Israeli centre and centre-left continues to struggle along.

For all their good intentions, many Israelis are sceptical of the notion that peace with the Palestinians is on the horizon. They want to be optimistic, but experience dictates otherwise. At the ballot box, they want their leaders to be compassionate and searching for peace but at the same time resolute in the need for Israel to remain strong and secure.

Perhaps this thinking explains the widespread uncertainty amongst centrist voters. Polls are showing that those responding with an intention to vote on the centre and centre-left are much more uncertain of their choice than those on the right who are expressing themselves as sure in much higher volumes.

It doesn’t help that there are so many parties vying for ground on the centre left. Two notable new examples are Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Both centrists, both struggling in the polls, Hatnua has been predicted to get between five and ten seats and Yesh Atid between six and twelve seats. Not really good enough.

What's more is that voters are flip-flopping between the two parties like Romney on Red Bull. A Haaretz poll on January 2nd showed that 40 percent of Livni’s supporters and 50 percent of Lapid’s supporters are vacillating between the two. It’s clear that while votes are very much up for grabs they are being pulled in several different directions.

The centre left’s failure to launch boils down to concerns amongst the Israeli public over how genuine its intentions are. Will these parties have the determination, the grit and the values to protect Israel when the chips are down? Or are they just telling people what they want to hear?

This is a continuing problem for centrist parties and politicians, in Israel and beyond. An unwillingness to commit to any real political ideology often presents a message of opportunism that perhaps the voting public just can’t swallow.


This blog is the third in a series on the upcoming Israeli elections. 

Read the first, on Israeli elections, here. 

The second, on the Likud Beiteinu balancing act, is here.

This article is written in a personal capacity. The views expressed are those of the author's alone

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