Post Horserace Politics

Who Lost the Israeli Elections?

01.23.13 12:31 PM ET

Ben Birnbaum at The New Republic identifies Israel's ultra-Orthodox as a chief loser of yesterday's election

For decades, Israel’s religious parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, had won a variety of goodies (including exemption from military service, cheap housing, and generous child allowances and yeshiva stipends) by joining governments of both the left and right. These privileges have caused extreme resentment among the Israeli majority that is required to work, pay taxes, and serve in the army, but the power of Shas and United Torah Judaism have prevented any meaningful change (including over the summer, during Israel’s shortlived unity government). All that is about to change. If the next government leaves one mark on Israeli society, it is likely to be a new social contract with this rapidly growing sector of Israel’s population.