Givatayim is a small city (pop. 46,000) situated between Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak. It is also traditionally considered a Labor Party stronghold, dating back to the days of Labor's predecessor, Mapai.
Currently, the media are reporting – based on random street interviews, rather than polls - that the Labor Party is headed for a rude awakening on March 28. They suggest Labor has lost many votes in Givatayim due to the party's Moroccan chairman and prime ministerial candidate, Amir Peretz.
In other words, Givatayim's traditional Mapai voters are racists, according to the media.
Random interviews are no substitute for statistics and analysis. In order to make predictions about how the city of Givatayim will vote next week, we must look at the city's voting patterns from past elections. And the picture is clear: Givatayim has turned sharply to the right.
For the election to the 15th Knesset in May, 1999, the Labor Party received 37 percent of the vote in Givatayim. Likud got 15 percent, and Shinui scored eight percent.
Three-and-a-half years later, in January, 2003, Labor slipped to 29 percent, while Likud doubled its support to 28 percent, and 20 percent voted for Shinui. Between 1999 and 2003 the Labor Party lost about one-third of its support in Givatayim. About half of those lost votes went to Likud, the other half to Shinui.
The Labor Party at that time was headed by a thoroughly Ashkenazi politician: Amram Mitzna. Even Shimon Peres was part of the show. But
the old Mapainiks of Givatayim betrayed the party. Four years ago, 50 percent of the voting public cast their votes for Likud or Shinui.
There is no mystery here. Givatayim is only one of the richest cities in Israel. Many, many older residents are in the top half of the top ten percent of wage earners in the country. Givatayim's retirees have children who have built careers, and wealth, in the business sector.
It is natural for them to vote for liberal parties with right-wing economic policies that represent their interests. Parties such as Yosef Lapid's Shinui or Ariel Sharon's Likud. Or Ehud Olmert's Kadima.
It’s not racism; it's the economy, stupid. Givatayim residents have moved the right as their assets and standard of living have grown. Their votes have given political expression to their interests: Low taxes, small government, a large degree of economic freedom, support for private initiative.
Only the last remnants of the city's socialist tradition (a tradition that has withered with time) remains committed to the Labor Party, but the party still managed to win 30 percent of the vote in Givatayim.
It will be very hard for Labor to repeat such impressive electoral results this time around. Not because of ethnicity, but because of demography. Labor has lost an entire generation of young voters between the ages of 18 and 32.
According to different polls, just seven percent of young voters say they will vote, or lean towards voting, for Labor. As the older generation dies, support for the Labor Party weakens in its traditional strongholds, including Givatayim.
The Labor Party must seek out a voting public, not in wealthy places like Givatayim, but in economically depressed places like Ramle, one of the poorest in the country.
In the 1999 elections Labor and Likud got equal numbers of votes in Ramle; in 2003, Likud won 33 percent of the city while Labor got just 11 percent. Ramle voters voted en masse for the Likud, even though the elections were conducted without moderation, with unemployment and poverty in and around the city at an all time high.
Security considerations made their decision. Labor simply looked unable to stand up to terror.
The Labor Party has no future in Givatayim, Herzliya Pituach, Ramat Aviv, or Mount Carmel. But if it manages to make a base for itself in Ramle, Be'er Sheva, Sderot and Kiryat Shmona, it can return to get at least to where it was in 1999: 26 Knesset seats.