ANALYSIS: Young Israelis Trending to the Right

YERUSHALAYIM -

While many young American Jews are moving toward the left politically, their Israeli counterparts seem to be heading rightward.

May Golan, just elected on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud list, exemplifies the trend.

The 32-year-old from South Tel Aviv was blogging with fervor in the run-up to Tuesday’s election:

“The right wing government is in danger,” she warned her followers.

“There could be a leftist government here,” she said. “We have so many hopes and dreams. We have hoped for a secure future, to return governance and sovereignty from the legal activism that’s strangling us, and those leftist nonprofits that end up making the most important decisions here.”

Statistics indicate that young Israelis are more likely to support right-wing politicians than older people.

The 2018 Israeli Democracy Index found almost two thirds (64 percent) of Israeli Jews aged 18-34 identify as right wing, compared to 47 percent of those 35 and older. Similarly, support for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and center-left challenger Benny Gantz broke down into clearly defined age groups, with Netanyahu capturing the youth vote.

Some 65 percent of Israeli Jews 18-24 said they were for the PM shortly before the elections, and 53 percent of those 25-34, favored him. Gantz scored 17 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in the same cohorts.

“There are young people who like Netanyahu’s ideology,” Eli Hazan, a Likud campaign spokesman, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “They see the diplomatic achievements of Netanyahu and believe in him. Those are the facts and that’s the reality.”

Regarding the cause of the change, Tamar Hermann, co-editor of the Democracy Index and a professor of political science, explained it in terms of their particular life experience.

Older Israelis, who grew up with the peace process in the 1990s, when there was such a process, or at least appeared to be, were imbued with hopes for peace with the Palestinians.

But Israelis coming of age in the 21st century, perceived a different reality. In the wake of Oslo came the bloody terror rampage of the second intifada. Then the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, a unilateral Israeli move for peace, led to hundreds of Hamas rockets launched against Israel’s southern border.

They were born after the Oslo process started, they were exposed to the bloodshed during the second intifada, they are coming right after military service,” Hermann told JTA.

Religiosity is also a significant factor.

As Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli political analyst and a public opinion expert, commented:

“[How religious you are] is the best predictor of whether someone is left, right or center,” Scheindlin said. And the age divide is growing, she added, “given that religious people have more children and higher population growth.”

Only two days after the election, it’s too soon for analyses of the impact of age on the Netanyahu-led right-wing victory. But if the younger voters weren’t for Netanyahu and other right-wing candidates, the experts will be very surprised.