On Internet and the Israeli Elections

"The disparity between the polls and the blogosphere is quite remarkable – especially in Tel Aviv, Israel's liberal heartland, where the two parties vying for the votes of hipsters and leftist intellectuals are the Green Movement-Meimad, an environmentalist–religious partnership headed by a liberal rabbi; and Hadash, a Jewish-Arab socialist party.

"The Hebrew-language blogger Ori Katzir made a survey of 92 prominent political bloggers. According to the final breakdown, the Green Movement-Meimad leads with 30 supporters, while Hadash comes in second with 27. It is the polar opposite of the opinion polls, which show Likud leading and Avigdor Lieberman's hardline Yisrael Beiteinu poised to tie with Labour.

"Hadash's rise among liberal-left, urban Jewish voters is particularly interesting. By definition a non-Zionist party that attracted most of its support from Arabs, Hadash traditionally won three or four seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Even in ultra-liberal Tel Aviv, a vote for Hadash was, until these elections, considered a radical vote.

"Now this has changed, partly because of the recently ended Gaza military offensive, and partly because Dov Khenin, number three on the Hadash list, recently ran a failed but vigorous campaign for mayor of Tel Aviv.

"Khenin's campaign brought together a diverse list of candidates that ran the gamut from Mizrachi Likud supporters to Arab feminists; the unifying factors were affordable housing, clean air and green public spaces. With that campaign, they succeeded in gathering enough support to threaten the three-term incumbent. Khenin garnered most of his support from local bloggers, who campaigned on his behalf via social media such as YouTube and Facebook. Many of them spent a lot of time with Khenin, and were impressed by the soft-spoken, modest politician and his social-democratic, inclusive agenda.

"But it was the Gaza war that seems to have been a deciding factor for many of its new supporters – Hadash was the only party that led opposition to the war from the very first day of the offensive. English-language Israeli bloggers tend to be heavily weighted with new immigrants whose political opinions are to the right of the mainstream, so I have taken the following sampling from the Hebrew blogosphere, which is larger and more active. Gil Rimon, a screenwriter and journalist, writes: 'When all the parties vote for war, it's good to know that there is one political home that makes my voice heard.'

"Journalist Dror Feuer bases his position on Hadash's Jewish-Arab partnership – arguing that it is particularly important to raise the flag of equality now "when the artillery cannons have barely gone quiet and the atmosphere is as anti-cooperation as it has ever been." Itamar Shaaltiel says there are many things that bother him about Hadash – including its communist roots and its habit of sending Jewish candidates to speak to Jewish voters, and Arab candidates to Arab voters – but he is voting for them because Hadash is the only party that opposed the war.

"For Uri Sabach the issue is the same: 'The reason is very simple: I do not want my representatives in the Knesset voting automatically for the next war (and believe me, there will be another war). I want them to vote automatically against. To my sorrow, I can no longer trust Meretz [the leftwing party formerly led by Yossi Beilin]. Meretz is very good at being quiet when we are going to war, hugging our brave soldiers during the war, and crying over the results after it's all over'."