Who Did the Jewish Settlers Vote For?

Benjamin Netanyahu Failed With His Most Pandered-To Crowd

God On Their Side: A settler in Ofra casts his vote in the January 22 parliamentary elections.
Getty Images
God On Their Side: A settler in Ofra casts his vote in the January 22 parliamentary elections.

By Ori Nir

Published February 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

How did Benjamin Netanyahu do in West Bank settlements?

Considering his party’s pro-settlement policies and the staunch pro-settlement positions of its leading Knesset members, you’d expect Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu list to perform better among West Bank settlers than it did in Israel proper. It didn’t.

Surprising as it may be, overall, only 19 percent of the settlers’ vote went to Likud-Beiteinu, compared to 23 percent of the overall Israeli national vote, according to official Israeli data.

The settlers’ rejection of Netanyahu’s party is even more striking if you consider the voting patterns in national-religious “ideological” settlements, those whose residents were the chief pandering target of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his senior fellow travelers in the years and months that preceded the elections. Likud’s performance in such settlements was astonishingly poor: 8 percent in Beit El, 13 percent in Elon Moreh and Eli, 11 percent in Ofrah and Kedumim and as low as 5 percent in other, smaller ideological settlements.

The leaders of Israel’s largest party are now undoubtedly examining the voting trends among settlers, as they try to understand how Likud and Israel Beiteinu lost almost a quarter of their combined strength, deflating from 42 seats in the outgoing Knesset to 31 seats in the incoming Knesset. They are surely considering the price they paid for trying to appeal to the ideological settlers, a population that is perhaps 5 percent of the Israeli public, and an even smaller sliver of the Israeli electorate.

Why a small sliver? Because according to the settlers’ own data, only about 45 percent of Israelis living in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem) identify with the ideological national-religious hard core of the settlement movement. And because only 51 percent of the settlers are eligible to vote (a full half of this population is under 18), compared with an Israeli national eligibility rate of 72 percent. True, the turnout rate among the settlers is higher than the national average (around 80 percent compared to 67 percent nationally), but since the actual number of voters residing in the West Bank is so small, compared to the overall national number, that high turnout rate among settlers makes but a marginal difference.

So who did the settlers vote for? Well, the settler population is not monolithic. A distinction is usually made between the “ideological” settlers, those who chose to live across the Green Line to fulfill a biblically prescribed mission, and the “quality of life” settlers, who move to the West Bank in pursuit of cheaper housing. Most of the “ideological” settlers live in remote settlements, farther from the Green Line, while the others typically live closer to Israel, in so-called “settlement blocs,” which may be annexed to Israel in the context of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. The second category includes settlements that are largely secular and settlements that are largely or even exclusively ultra-Orthodox.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.