The 2013 Israeli elections were supposed to have been boring. The pundits promised that the final result is already clear and there is nothing new under the sun. However, with less than two weeks to go until the polls open, we are in the throes of one of the most fascinating election campaigns that Israel has known. It is a campaign that faithfully reflects the deep currents of change in Israeli society. Nobody can yet predict its final outcome.
Here is my analysis of what is taking place, from Left to Right. First, though, we must understand the factors that influence the power of any political party:
The political world is very similar to the financial world. The “stock exchange” of the political world is elections. The value of the stocks – the political parties – is actually determined by a number of parameters. There is the stock’s current value, namely the number of people who voted for the party in the previous elections. There is also its real market value and the value at which it is traded at the given moment.
For example, the current value of Kadima is 21 mandates (seven elected members have left the party since the last election). But the real market value of the party (which has established mechanisms and registered members) is much lower. At the current moment, Kadima is being traded even below its low value and will apparently disappear off the charts.
When we try to understand what is happening now in Israel’s political arena, we must first assess the true value of the different parties. In this way, we will be able to differentiate between deep processes and processes that have no long-term significance.
The true value of a party is determined by the following six factors:
1) Message: When all is said and done, political parties are supposed to herald some sort of message. That is why they are established.
2) A consistent nucleus of voters that identifies with the party (in the financial world, this is called “trademark”).
3) Identification of voters at large (the market) with the party’s message.
4) Identification of voters at large with the party’s actions or accomplishments.
5) The party structure: Namely, an independent party that has established respectable party institutions, an internal voting mechanism and member participation in decision-making and choice of representatives.
6) The party leaders.
When Kadima was established and leapt to victory in the last election, I said that it would disappear off the political map within a few election campaigns. The reason for this evaluation was the understanding that Kadima’s “stock” was overvalued. The party enjoyed an extraordinarily strong Factor #6 in the person of its powerful and charismatic leader, Ariel Sharon. However, it lacked all the other components and it was clear that it was living on borrowed time.
At the same time, when many were already eulogizing the Likud, I publicly went on the record with the assessment that the Likud would return to the helm of government. The reason for this evaluation was that the Likud, on one level or another, enjoys all the other components listed above. So if it won only 12 mandates due to a political “accident,” its market value did not reflect the true value of the stock but rather its current value at that given time.
With these six components in mind, here now is the analysis of the current political picture:
On the Left end of the political spectrum in Israel are Meretz and the Arab parties: Hadash, Ra’am, Ta’al and Balad. No real change can be expected for any of these parties. They have all six components and we can expect them to more or less maintain their strength.
On the political Right, things are a bit more complex. Otzma LeYisrael, led by Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari), the rightist parallel of Meretz, certainly has a clear message with well-known leaders and public identification with its message that should get it past the two percent threshold for Knesset representation. But it is a new party with no clear party structure.
The same is true for Am Shalem, Rabbi Chaim Amsalem’s party. It has a message and leadership, but it is not clear if it has the critical mass of the other components to create a real party and get it over the threshold.