In the wake of Israel’s parliamentary election on Tuesday, much has been said about whether the “left” gained ground against the “right.” Some pundits have even argued that conservatives, lead by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shed a significant number of seats and are now in a dead heat with liberals. But that’s an American way of looking at things. A more useful way to view the election is as a victory of Tel Aviv — and its young, tech-savvy work force — over ultra-religious voters in Jerusalem. At the least, this development looks far healthier for the country’s politics than the widely anticipated victory of a coalition of religious parties and hard-liners.
The surprisingly strong showing of political newcomer Yair Lapid, the anchor of a highly rated Friday night news show, was only a surprise because pollsters relied on land-line surveys that missed the cellphone-only generation that makes up the backbone of Lapid’s support. Lapid campaigned on a platform of ending special treatment for the ultra-Orthodox, who are exempted from military service and who often raise large families on public subsidies. This is a huge political issue that previous generations of Israeli politicians have avoided for decades. A key battle over Israel’s future is about to begin.