Comparing Israel's 2009 and 2013 Elections: Impacts of the "Spiral of Silence"

By T M
2014, Vol. 6 No. 06 | pg. 3/3 |

Conclusions and Outlook

The analysis of Israel’s political parties and the analysis of the context of the 2009 and 2013 elections suggest that public discourse was influenced by major events, which in turn changed the acceptability of speaking publicly about certain issues, as stated in Noelle-Neumann’s ‘Spiral of Silence’ theory. This was one of the factors leading to largely different dynamics in both elections. However, further research is required to draw definite conclusions about the impact of mainstream public opinion on individuals’ public statements during Israeli elections.

As not even one year has passed since the 2013 elections, we lack sufficient academic sources. More importantly, many polls are only available in Hebrew. Their inclusion might have the potential of providing a more complete picture of the development of public opinion before and during the campaigns and during major events, such as the 2011 socioeconomic protests. Furthermore, it would be interesting to gain a more detailed view of newly founded Ha’Tnuah’s campaign. Even though Livni’s main topic, the Israel-Palestine conflict, barely surfaced in public opinion, her party was able to accumulate six Knesset seats.93

In order to reach conclusions on whether individuals with opposing views are silenced during election campaigns in Israel, it is vital for future researchers to design polling questions based on Noelle-Neumann’s framework, and to conduct these polls with the Israeli electorate. Using existing polls bears the risk of inheriting the initial poll’s shortcomings, and of generating the chicken-and-egg problem: Did public opinion change the campaign dynamics or did the campaigns change public opinion? In order to identify what is influencing public opinion, we must examine internal actors, most importantly the mass media, but also individual politicians, the government, political parties, the secret service and the military. Additionally, external actors play a significant role; especially the current U.S. government, which is putting the peace process at the center of its Middle East strategy, and is taking up a strong position against its disruption. This, in course, empowers domestic actors like Ha’Tnuah’s Livni, who oppose on-going settlements in the West Bank, and exerts pressure on the right-wing to release Palestinian prisoners – influencing public opinion as a whole.


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1.) Cf. (Yesh Atid n.d.): Yair Lapid had only founded the “There is a future” party in January 2012.

2.) Cf. (Glynn and McLeod 1984) and(Noelle-Neumann 1977)

3.) Cf. (Noelle-Neumann 1977)

4.) Cf. (Glynn and McLeod 1984)

5.) Cf. (Entman 2004, 4) as quoted in (Golan 2013, 361): Framing is “selecting and highlighting some facets of events or issues, and making connections among them so as to promote a particular interpretation, evaluation, and/or solution.”

6.) Cf. (Krosnick and Kinder 1990, 509-510): Priming is the process of influencing individuals to make them associate certain images or words with given categories “alter[ing] the political importance that the public attaches to the flow of events.”

7.) Cf. (Kosicki 2006, 124-125): Agenda-setting is the process of shaping the list of topics which are considered most important by a public. This can be done by politicians, the media, social movement actors or credible actors such as academics.

8.) Cf. (University of Twente 2013): Noelle-Neumann was herself working for Nazi Germany’s newspaper „Das Reich“ in the late 1930s leading to claims by analysts that she was developing the theory to justify her own actions.

9.) (Glynn and McLeod 1984, 731)

10.) Cf. (Taylor 1982)

11.) (Glynn and McLeod 1984, 732)

12.) (Noelle-Neumann 1974, 43)

13.) Cf. (Katz and Allport 1931): Daniel Katz and Floyd H. Allport in 1931 called this phenomenon ‘pluralistic ignorance’, where a majority rejects a norm without expressing its views, because of the assumption that most accept it.

14.) Cf. (Mutz 1989, 20)

15.) (Glynn and McLeod 1984, 732)

16.) Cf. (Noelle-Neumann 1977, 157)

17.) Cf. (Noelle-Neumann 1974)

18.) Cf. (Noelle-Neumann 1977, 144)

19.) (McLean and McMillan 2013)

20.) (Noelle-Neumann 1977, 143-144)

21.) (Noelle-Neumann 1977, 143)

22.) Cf. (Jewish Virtual Library 2013)

23.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 59)

24.) Cf. (Sheizaf 2012): E.g. Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are granted ‘residency’, but not ‘citizen’ status, and are therefore only allowed to vote in municipal elections.

25.) Cf. (Jewish Virtual Library 2013): The remaining seven seats went to the Gil party which is not further discussed because non-present in 2009 and 2013.

26.) (Yiftachel 2009, 76)

27.) Cf. (AlJazeera 2013): Lieberman is a Russian immigrant and West Bank settler living eighteen km within occupied territory.

28.) (Yiftachel 2009, 75)

29.) Cf. (Yiftachel 2009, 77): Ariel Sharon established Kadima in November 2005 after disputes over his support for the American ‘road map’ towards a Palestinian state.

30.) (Yiftachel 2009, 81)

31.) Own figure based on (Jewish Virtual Library 2013) and (Yiftachel 2009)

32.) The so called ‘hawks’, favour ‘predatory solutions’, and ‘doves’, favour disengagement and peaceful means.

33.) Cf. (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 2012)

34.) Cf. (Yiftachel 2009, 78-79): Yiftachel places Likud and Yisrael Beitenu in the colonialist category; Labour and Kadima in the ethnocratic category; and Meretz and the Arab (Balad and Ra’am Ta’al) and Arab-Jewish (Hadash) parties in the democratic block.

35.) Cf. (Jewish Virtual Library, Biography of Ehud Olmert 2013): Both Sharon and Olmert had previously been leading politicians in Likud.

36.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 57): Likud represented her as too weak to face the security challenges, and Shas demanded large financial support for families, and entirely rejected a potential division of Jerusalem.

37.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 56-57)

38.) Cf. (Yiftachel 2009, 81)

39.) (Marcus 2009, 61)

40.) Cf. (Goldstone 2011)

41.) Cf. (Alimi 2012, 402)

42.) Cf. (Gordon 2012, 352): Palestinian communities in Umm el Fahem, Jaffa and Tira among others joined the protests

43.) Cf. (Gordon 2012, 349)

44.) (Alimi 2012, 404)

45.) Cf. (Alimi 2012, 402)

46.) Cf. (Alimi 2012, 403,405)

47.) Cf. (Gordon 2012, 353)

48.) Cf. (Alimi 2012, 404)

49.) Cf. (BBC News 2012)

50.) (The Jerusalem Post 2012)

51.) Cf. (The Guardian 2013)

52.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 57)

53.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 57)

54.) Cf. (McGovern 2013): The 2007 U.S. NIE concluded with “high confidence” that Iran had stopped working on nuclear weapon development in the fall of 2003 and not restarted it. Cf. (Secretary of Defense Gates 2009) and (CBS News 2009): Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defence Gates both warned in July 2009, that a preventive strike on Iran would be "ill advised", "very destabilizing" and "likely very bad".

55.) Quote from Kadima strategist in (Marcus 2009, 63)

56.) Cf. (Jutcovich 2013); Netanyahu as quoted in (International Crisis Group 2013, 15):”I won’t wait until it’s too late to decide on Israeli attack on Iran” and “… there is no sense of urgency. All the problems that we have [in the region], however important, will be dwarfed by this messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime that would have atomic bombs.”

57.) Cf. (Hersh 2011, 33): Statement upon retirement of 2002-2010 Mossad chief Meir Dagan

58.) Interview with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak by Haaretz daily newspaper as quoted in (Hersh 2011, 33): “I don’t think in terms of panic. I don’t think [the Iranian leadership] will do anything so long as they are in complete control of their senses, but to say that somebody really knows and understands what will happen with such a leadership sitting in a bunker in Tehran ... I don’t know what it would do.”

59.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 62)

60.) Cf. (Yiftachel 2013, 59)

61.) Own figure based on section 3.3 analysis and sources

62.) Cf. (Noelle-Neumann 1977, 148): “In election campaigns, this spiraling process of opinion expression … can lead … to an increase in the number of supporters of a political party and ‘thus the decisive margin for the election victory’.”

63.) Cf. (Glynn and McLeod 1984, 738): The theory states, that individuals seeing their position gain support are more likely to discuss, and individuals seeing their position loose support less likely to discuss.

64.) Cf. (Rahat and Hazan 2013, 375)

65.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 61)

66.) (Yiftachel 2009, 75)

67.) Cf. (Marcus 2009, 62)

68.) (Marcus 2009, 55,56)

69.) (Alpher 2009)

70.) (Yiftachel 2009, 75)

71.) Cf. (Yiftachel 2009, 78-79). See section ‎0 for definitions of the blocks.

72.) Cf. (Jewish Virtual Library, Israeli Opinion Regarding Peace with the Palestinians 2013): “Israeli has no partner for peace.”

73.) Cf. (Perez 2013, 5)

74.) Cf. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2012): "No government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire, and Israel will not tolerate this situation."

75.) Cf. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2012): FM Lieberman at meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (20 Nov 2012): "We appreciate the international community’s position, which unequivocally supports Israel’s right to protect itself and its citizens. Talk and public calls on Israel to abstain from a ground operation strengthen the Hamas and extend the current confrontation. If Israel will be forced to initiate a ground operation, it will not be a limited operation, nor will it be 'Operation Pillar of Defense 2', but rather 'Defensive Shield 2.'"

76.) Cf. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2012): “President Shimon Peres spoke to US President Barack Obama (14 Nov 2012) about the situation in southern Israel and Gaza and said, ‘The head of the military force of Hamas was killed half an hour ago. He was a most extreme man and was in charge of all the attacks and assassinations from Gaza against Israel. We shall handle it with great care. Our intention is not to raise the flames, but already for days, day and night, they are shooting rockets at Israel. Women cannot fall asleep. I was today there with the children.’”

77.) Cf. (Louw 2010, 222-223)

78.) (The Times of Israel 2013) as quoted in (Griffith 2013)

79.) Cf. (The Washington Post 2013): “In one clip, he stands before a map of the Middle East, surveying an array of threats and promising that if reelected he would shield Israel with rocket defense systems, surround it with a border fence and prevent a nuclear Iran."

80.) Cf. (Netanyahu 2009) or cf. (Netanyahu 2013): Portraying himself e.g. in 2009 as bearing the burden of preventing another disaster like the holocaust. Cf.(Allin and Simon 2010, 52). Cf. also Ariel Levite, former Israeli national security adviser as quoted in (Allin and Simon 2010, 52): "For Begin [referring to 1981 attack at Osirak, Iraq] it was between him and God. There is strong evidence that that's how Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] defines his historical mission.”

81.) Cf. (Haaretz Newspaper, Republicans blast Kerry’s 'anti-Israeli' Senate briefing against new Iran sanctions 2013); U.S. State Department described Israeli evaluations of nuclear programme of Iran as “inaccurate, exaggerated and not based in reality”; Cf. (Haaretz Newspaper, Netanyahu: A bad deal with Iran could lead to war 2013): “Yukiya Amano, Director General of the IAEA, saw ‘no radical change” in Iran’s nuclear programme over past three months.’”

82.) Cf. (Louw 2010, 223) and cf. (Tagesschau 2013) reporting on “Netanyahu’s media campaign”

83.) Cf. (The Guardian 2013)

84.) (Gordon 2012, 349)

85.) Cf. (Haaretz Newspaper 2012)

86.) Cf. (The Washington Post 2013): 47% saw socioeconomic issues as chief concern, with only 10% viewing Iran, and only 18% negotiations with the Palestinians as the most important issue in their voting. The conscription of ultraorthodox Jews gained in public debate with 12% of interviewees citing this as the most important issue.

87.) Cf. (Gordon 2012, 350)

88.) Cf. (Gordon 2012, 352)

89.) Cf. (Gordon 2012, 353): Public statement during tent protests one day after the 18 August 2011 killings of 8 by Palestinian militants, and the reprisal killings of 15 Palestinians in Gaza: “Quietly, but resolutely. Because the nation demonstrating is the same nation absorbing the blows of fire from our enemies, and its staunch demand for a deep change in economic priorities and for overall social justice does not come at the expense of the struggle against terror—on the contrary. A nation whose sons are bound by mutual guarantee, and fight together for the future and the fortitude of the State of Israel, is a strong nation who can face all its enemies.”

90.) Cf. (Eiran and Malin 2013, 78), which documents different fears in Israel, including the “fear of annihilation, fear of a more difficult security environment, socioeconomic fears [, and the] fear of a challenge to Israel’s founding ideological principles.” These fears are perceived as cumulative fears.

91.) Cf. (Shallah 2009, 7): 85% of interviewees replied they feared Iran; 41% therefore supported attacking Iran, and 23% said they intended to leave Israel entirely out fear of Iran.

92.) Cf. (Jutcovich 2013): Other factors may have been the surprisingly high turnout of over 70%, and the high number (25-27%) of undecided voters pre-election.

93.) Cf. (The Washington Post 2013)

94.) (UN Cartographic 2004)

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