The political transformation of the Israeli ‘Russian’ street in the 2013 elections

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The Great Aliya from the USSR and the post-Soviet states began a quarter of a century ago, bringing to Israel about 1.1 million Russian-speaking Jews and their family members. This population corresponds to approximately 19 Knesset seats, and is thus a crucial factor in Israeli electoral politics. From the late 1990s this community was almost equally divided in its sympathy between nationwide mainstream parties and Russian sectarian immigrant parties. However, if previously there were either purely sectarian or nationwide parties, in the past decade the majority of Russian Israelis prefer new types of political representation: either a ‘Russian party with an Israeli accent’ (mainly Israel Beiteinu) or an all-Israeli party with some Russian accent (i.e. Likud). Nevertheless, despite the similarities in the ideological orientations and socioeconomic views, the Russian-speaking supporters of both political parties represent two distinct political cultures among the Israeli community of former Soviet Union olim and their children. This may explain why the joint list of Likud–Israel Beiteinu during the 2013 Knesset elections experienced substantial losses of each party’s traditional ‘Russian’ (as well as general) voters, many of whom opted this time for parties of the ‘contentious middle class’ – the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi and ‘centrist’ Yesh Atid. This article argues that in the coming years, the Russian community’s politics in Israel will continue to search for an optimal model of combination of a party’s ethnic base with a mainstream platform, and which constitute an exemplary model and inspiration of political participation for other ethnic or cultural identity oriented groups, such as English-, Frenchand Amharic-speaking immigrants, and for the ‘new haredim’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • Community politics
  • Immigrant parties
  • Immigrants’ political participation
  • Mainstream and sectarian identity
  • Russian aliya


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