By Pablo Duer
Jerusalem, 31 oct (EFE).- The politicians, pacts and projections in play as Israel readies for its fifth general election since 2019 remain little changed but there is one new factor that could sway voters – the growing cost of living.
It is the leading concern among Israeli voters, eclipsing security issues in one of the deadliest years in the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as the fact that the polling favorite Benjamin Netanyahu is on trial for corruption and surveys point to a surge for the far-right in Tuesday’s election.
Israel is the seventh most expensive nation in the world, ahead of Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada or Denmark, according to a report by Numbeo, a global database for the cost of living.
A study by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), published last September, indicated that prices in Israel are 40% higher than those in the eurozone and 17% higher than in the United States.
Another poll, also published by IDI, showed that initiatives on dealing with the high cost of living will be a priority for 44% of the electorate.
The country is facing the worst inflation in over a decade (it rose 5.2% in July) and the cost of housing, which was already among the highest in the world, continues to rise.
The latest figures from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics reveal a 19% increase in housing prices so far this year. The country was ranked as the second most expensive country in the world to buy a house in a study conducted by Compare the Market.
“The cost of living has become more and more important over the last year due to what happens in the world economy, the war in Ukraine, problems in the supply chain and inflation in general”, said political analyst Amir Oren in an interview with Efe.
He explains that the subject has also gained attention because the conflict with Palestine is currently not paramount in the public discourse.
“If there are no security issues prominently at play right now, other issues, mainly domestic, like social or economic issues, come to the fore, so it’s a matter of priorities or perspective.”
The main political parties have repeated old slogans about security and religion for these elections, but the concern over the country’s economy has become the central campaign theme of all the political groups.
Former prime minister Netanyahu is leading the race with a campaign promise to reduce taxes and offer free education for children up to three years old.
The current premier, and leader of the anti-Netanyahu bloc, centrist Yair Lapid has promised to reduce the gender wage gap, enhance market competition and lower import tariffs, among other things.
Public opinion expert Mitchel Barak believes that even as the cost of living has become one of the most important subjects for the electorate, it will not determine the results:
“People in Israel vote based on security issues and ideology. If they are more right wing they focus more on terrorism and if they are left wing it’s more focused on peace.”
“They are looking for a leader,” he added.
For him, leadership will be key to break the political paralysis that the country has been experiencing for the past four years: “That is why Netanyahu does so well, they are looking for someone who can make decisions and someone who is a leader.” EFE