During the legislative elections of 1992, for the last time in their history, the Avoda (Labour) the Meretz (Zionist and liberal left) succeeded in crushing the parties of the nationalist right and of the extreme right. They formed a government that would, among other things, launch a peace process with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), led by Yasser Arafat.
Besides support from the Tel Aviv and Haifa areas, the victory of the Israeli Jewish left and center left largely depended on the vote of 230 kibbutzim. These semi-collectivist villages, founded under the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate over Palestine, are the epitome of Ashkenazi, pioneer and agricultural Israel. “By 1992, the kibbutzim had brought over 100,000 votes to Avodah and Meretz,” remember Ha’Aretz.
Thirty years later, the picture is much darker. “On the shores of Lake Tiberias, in Degania, the first Jewish collectivist village founded in Palestine in 1909 on the lands of the Arab village of Oumm Jounieh, Avodah and Meretz won only 39% of the votes”, explains the Tel-Aviv daily.
A phenomenon also observed in other kibbutzim, from the Haifa region to West Jerusalem via the border of the Syrian Golan. “In total, the inhabitants of the kibbutz are only 32% left to give their vote to their founding parties and now vote for the centrist parties [du Premier ministre sortant, Yaïr Lapid, et du ministre de la Défense sortant, Benny Gantz]even the Likud [droite nationaliste de Benyamin Nétanyahou]”.
Gentrification and depoliticization
How can this shift be explained? “The second Palestinian intifada and its procession of suicide attacks obviously weighed in the balance”, Explain Ha’Aretz. But a reform adopted twenty-two years ago also played a role. “In 2000, the Knesset [Parlement israélien] passed a law prohibiting kibbutzim from screening candidates for renting or buying land on a political basis.” Until then, kibbutzim were exempt from private property laws, and the only way to find accommodation there was to join the dominant party in the collectivist village.
“Today, out of 140,000 registered voters in collectivist villages, only 55,000 are registered.” Kibbutz residents make up just over 1% of the country’s population.
For the title, we are witnessing “a gentrification of the kibbutzim, the latter breaking with the Zionist agrarian ideal and becoming ‘green’ extensions of Tel-Aviv”. “The image of Épinal of the kibbutz has definitely lived”, he concludes.