On March 17, Israelis will flock to the polls in order to elect their Knesset members and Prime Minister. Being a relatively young democratic state at the heart of the Middle East, Israel faces challenges in various spheres – security, society, economy, health, education etc. And while security has traditionally been the focus of Israeli elections, - and certainly leads in the headlines abroad – in recent years Israeli voters and candidates have shifted their focus to the economy.
This new focus comes in the aftermath of the 2011 social protest in Israel when hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest of the cost of living, and the resulting meteoric rise in the 2013 elections of the Yesh Atid party, who ran with the motto “Where’s the money?”
In the current campaign, economic issues have taken hold. In addition to Yesh Atid, former Likud MK Moshe Kahlon established his Kulanu party, focusing almost exclusively on the financial hardships of daily Israeli life. Similarly, the ultra-orthodox Shas and Yahad parties, which have traditionally stressed economic issues, are also campaigning on these same cost of living issues.
In a Channel 2 poll from two months ago, 57% of respondents said that economic issues would guide what party they voted for, compared to 25% who said they would be guided by security policies. Similarly, a poll published on The Marker website found that 61.5% of the people regarded cost of living as the main campaign issue, while 28% viewed the strengthening of Israel’s deterrence and security as the core issue. In media interviews, “undecided” voters say most of their questions and concerns relate to the social and financial gaps in society and the high cost of living.
As Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid said a number of days ago: “the elections are over the shopping cart”, meaning how Israeli afford their daily lives, and less about security challenges they may face in the future.