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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Israel’s Political Map: After Cancellation of Direct Election of the Prime Minister

Filed under: Israel, Peace Process
Publication: Jerusalem Viewpoints

No. 471     February 2002

The Tribes of Israel, Surveying the Future Political Map, Expect Increased Political Divisions, Direct Election was Good for Labor, The Arab Sector, The Moderating Effect of the Two-Ballot System

Following the last prime ministerial elections held in Israel in February 2001, the Knesset voted to change the electoral system and restore the former system. Instead of separate ballots for prime minister and for political party, in the next nationwide elections, currently scheduled to take place by the fall of 2003, voters will again be given only one ballot — for political party — and the leader of the party that is able to put together a majority coalition in the Knesset will become prime minister.

The Tribes of Israel

In Israel, when referring to a political party, we mean its cultural, religious, and social identity more than its ideological identity. In fact, parties may be seen to represent tribes which have developed over the years in the State of Israel. This is not a new phenomenon, but it has become more pronounced over the years. Already in the 1970s we could identify the two largest tribes, with most Sephardi and traditional Jews voting for Likud, and most secular and Ashkenazi Jews voting for the Labor party. This is a deep-seated phenomenon that goes beyond ideology. Whoever votes for right-wing parties in Ramat Aviv is almost considered a traitor to the tribe, while on the other side, a resident of the Hatikva Quarter in Tel Aviv who votes for the Labor party is considered to be an anomaly and an exception.

As this phenomenon has increased, a number of additional tribes have appeared on the new political map:

A. The Arab tribe: In the initial decades of the state, the Zionist parties and their satelli