These are the Top Issues in Israel’s Upcoming Election

While matters of religion and state brought down the government, those aren’t the issue motivating voters at the ballot box

By David Lazarus | | Topics: Election
Photo: Flash90

A survey was conducted just a month before the upcoming election by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) to determine how the Jewish public in Israel will vote on matters of religion and state. 

A large majority of Jewish Israelis want to be able to open businesses and have access to public transportation on buses and trains on Shabbat, get married in a civil ceremony as an alternative to the required Orthodox wedding, and require military recruitment of Orthodox Jews. However, these issues will not determine the outcome of the upcoming election, according to the survey.

Although these are the very issues that have created crisis upon crisis within the administration’s coalition, leading to a breakdown of the government and new elections, the survey found that these are not going to be the issues that will bring Israelis to the voting booths on September 17. 

What issues will decide the upcoming election?

If it is not these burning issues of state and religion in the Jewish nation, what will determine which party Israelis will vote for in just a few weeks? It turns out that even after all the bickering, court cases, anger and media obsession, the two most important topics for Jewish voters in the upcoming election remain socio-economic issues and matters of security and foreign affairs, not state and religion.

Naturally, the ultra-Orthodox still consider issues of religion and state of paramount importance (67.5%). However, among National Religious Jews (those who serve in the IDF) and Traditional Jews (non-Orthodox who keep Jewish traditions) close to 50% said that the issues of security and foreign affairs will determine who they vote for this time around. Among the secular, 45.5% view economic and social issues as the key consideration when deciding for which party to vote. 

Making changes to the status quo concerning religious bylaws protecting the Shabbat, kosher laws, marriage laws and other traditional Jewish aspects of life are important to the secular majority, but not a high enough priority to get them to choose which party to vote for in the upcoming election. Only 15.5% of Jewish Israelis think that the issues related to the separation, or integration, of religion and state are “extremely important.”

That is startling given the following statistics reported in the survey.

Orthodox military recruitment

68.5% of Jews support “recruiting young ultra-Orthodox” for military service. 79% of secular and non-religious, 70.5% of religious, and 59% of national-religious support this. Among the ultra-Orthodox, 91.5% oppose this idea.

Public transportation on Shabbat

60% of the Jewish public thinks that public transportation should be allowed on Shabbat throughout the country, except in areas where there is a religious or ultra-Orthodox majority. As expected, there is overwhelming resistance (97%) among the ultra-Orthodox, in contrast with significant support from the secular public (86%). 60% of Jews also support the opening of supermarkets on Shabbat, except in areas where there is a religious or ultra-Orthodox majority.

Rabbinate’s monopoly on kashrut

63% of all Jews support putting an end to the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on kashrut; among the secular—89%; and the traditional non-religious—70%. 

In sharp contrast, 95.5% of the ultra-Orthodox, 63% of the national religious and 48% of the traditional religious oppose doing away with the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly.

Civil marriage

59.5% of all Jews support civil marriage; 84.5% of secular Jews; 68% of the non-religious, 41% of the religious and only 22.5% of the national religious support civil marriage for the citizens who choose this option. Not surprisingly, 96% of the ultra-Orthodox oppose civil marriage.

Egalitarian prayer at the Kotel 

About half (51.5%) of the Jewish public in Israel believes that egalitarian prayer for women and non-Orthodox denominations should be allowed in a separate plaza at the Western Wall, while most of the ultra-Orthodox (98.5%), most of the national religious (72.5%), 60% of the religious and 45% of the non-religious are opposed. In fact, only the secular majority (78%) supports such an arrangement.

All of this shows that the overwhelming majority of secular Jewish Israeli’s are more than willing to adapt to the status quo of today’s Israel. Only a small minority of secular Jews insist on changing the broad consensus of understanding that exists in Israel today to keep the tradition Jewish bylaws. Even among the religious, only the minority ultra-Orthodox refuse to compromise, and will vote next month to push for more religion in the state.

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