Israeli demography and politics: The growth of the Ultra-Orthodox

     Rapid growth among the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) sector of Israel’s population has been a two-edged sword for Israel’s right-wing political parties. On one hand, the Haredim’s intensely youthful age structure contributes a larger cohort into the voting-age population with each successive election, yielding an increasingly larger contingent from United Torah Judaism (UJT), a voting list comprised of two Ashkenazi-Haredi parties: Degal HaTorah and Agudat Israel (See a 2013 article, published by FPRI, on the changing demographics of Israeli elections, also available on the FPRI website).

On the other hand, the ever-increasing Haredi voting power and its reflection in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset chafes hard on several of the right-wing and centrist parties (as well as the Knesset’s dwindling Left) and their constituents. Like Avigdor Lieberman’s Party, Yisrael Beitenu (representing immigrants from the former-Soviet Union), these parties are adamant that Haredim young men perform service in Israel’s Defense Force–a duty that is accepted by all other Jewish Israelis (including new immigrants), as well as by many among the Druze and Circassian minorities.

The recent 2019 Knesset election has brought this problem to a head. However, it’s nothing new — “the deal” with the Haredim has been a potential sticking point for right-wing governments for the past decade. Ironically, the Haredim’s sustained high fertility rates guarantee a larger and larger share of right-wing votes, but their presence in government and insistence on special privileges (family subsidies, exemptions from military service, and control of many aspects of Jewish law) has made it increasingly difficult to form a government (see article in Al Monitor by Ben Caspit).

Israel: Ethno-religious Demography and the Future of Electoral Politics

View “Government without the Ultra-Orthodox?: Demography and the Future of Israeli Politics” by Richard Cincotta, published in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s E-Notes, December 2013.

It would be hard to conjure up a more grave and immediate set of peacetime challenges than those that Israel faces—from the advances in Iran’s nuclear program, to the political instabilities that continue to play out along the length of its borders. Yet, the outcome of the January 2013 election of the 19th Knesset appears to have been shaped less by the Israeli public’s perceptions of foreign threats, and more by its domestic concerns.

This brief note raises two questions: How did Yesh Atid rise from a virtual standing start to claim a critical position in Israel’s 33rd government? And what does this party’s electoral achievement mean for the future of Israel’s democracy?

Download “Government Without the Ultra-Orthodox?” here … 

Israel: Unpromising Demography in a Promised Land

Read the NIC occasional paper entitled, “Unpromising Demography in a Promised Land: The Growth of Dissonant Minorities and the Escalation of Demographic Politics in Israel,” written by Richard Cincotta and Eric Kaufmann (U. London) and published in 2010.

Israel’s demographic challenge is more complex and immediate than most Middle East analysts assume. Secular and religiously traditional Israeli Jews, both native-born and immigrant, upon whose Zionist hopes and political ideals Israel was founded and maintained, are experiencing a “demographic squeeze”–the rise of two dissonant ethnoreligious minorities: the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews), who typically harbor sympathies to the right; and Israeli Arabs, whose political sympathies lie largely to the left. With each passing year, Israeli Arabs and Haredim, both of whom express grievances with the Zionist political and sectarian order, assume a larger proportion of the country’s population.

Download the rest of this National Intelligence Council occasional paper “Israel: Unpromising Demography in a Promised Land” here