Lapid's Wealthy 'Middle Class' by the Numbers

The supposedly middle-class 'Riki Cohen from Hadera' is actually a member of Israel's upper class, a group that overwhelmingly supported Yesh Atid in the recent election.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid caught a lot of flack this week over his "Riki Cohen from Hadera" Facebook post. Here's why: He wrote that Cohen is middle class, owns a home, earns together with her high-tech hubby just over NIS 20,000 per month (It isn't clear whether this is gross or take-home pay) and travels abroad every two years. According to Lapid, Cohen's problem is that she can't buy homes for her children, and this is where he steps in and asks the treasury to finds ways to assist her and her peers.

But Lapid is mistaken. It's true that Cohen and her friends don't have it all that easy: She's not a millionaire and monthly expenses take a toll on her: kids' afterschool activities, gasoline, food, phone, cable, Internet and all that. But the imaginary person conjured up by Lapid isn't at all middle class. She ranks much higher economically – probably in the top 80 to 90 percent of the population.

That's not all: According to a new socioeconomic ranking of the populations of Israeli municipalities released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, Cohen doesn't live in Hadera at all. Dividing Israel into ten ranked groups, or deciles, based on standard of living, Hadera is in the fifth decile – or smack dab in the middle. It’s not that Hadera doesn't have anyone in Cohen's income bracket; it's just that the Cohen family is more representative of the average family in Kochav Ya'ir, a ninth-decile city where the average individual earns NIS 10,000 per month. Lapid clearly plunked Cohen down in Hadera solely for public-relations purposes.

The election results show Lapid lost big-time in Hadera. His Yesh Atid party won just 16 percent of the vote there, while Likud Yisrael Beiteinu got 34 percent. But Lapid's star shone in the town that bears his name, Kochav Ya'ir, where Yesh Atid beat out the Labor Party by a margin of 24 percent to 21 percent. In fact, the election tallies and the socioeconomic ranking of municipalities reveal the sorry state of Israeli society and politics. Your financial status and who you voted for can actually be deduced from where you live.

The king of kings

Lapid won in nearly every municipality that ranked in the top three deciles, including the three towns comprising the top – or tenth – decile. Yesh Atid took 32 percent of the vote in Kfar Shmaryahu, followed by the left-leaning Hatnuah and Meretz slates – which got 16 percent and 15 percent respectively – and secured pluralities of 35 and 23 percent in Savyon and Omer respectively.

Yesh Atid also came first in six of the seven localities in the ninth decile, including Kochav Ya'ir, where it got 26 percent of the vote to Labor's 20 percent; Ramat Hasharon, where it got 29 percent to Labor's 17 percent; Tel Mond, where it got 30 percent to Likud Beiteinu's 20 percent; Har Adar, where it got 27 percent to Labor's 20 percent, and Meitar, where it edged out Likud Beiteinu 22 percent to 21 percent. The party only fell to second place in Kfar Vradim, winning 24 percent compared to Likud Beiteinu's 27 percent.

Lapid won a plurality in most places in the eighth decile too, including Hod Hasharon, where it got 29 percent of the vote; Givatayim, where it got 25 percent; Ra'anana, where it got 24 percent; Oranit, where it got 30 percent; Herzliya, where it got 26 percent; Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut, where it got 27 percent; Yesud Hama'ala, where it got 26 percent; Ramat Yishai, where it got 24 percent; Shoham, where it got 30 percent; Ganei Tikva, where it got 25 percent; Kiryat Ono, where it got 27 percent; Zichron Yaakov, where it got 23 percent; Kfar Sava, where it got 23 percent, and Tel Aviv, where it got 21 percent to Likud-Beiteinu's 18 percent.

The two places in the eighth decile where Lapid's party failed to win the most votes were Elkana and Alfei Menashe, both located east of the Green Line. Lapid's good friend Naftali Bennett and his Habayit Hayehudi slate scored an overwhelming 72-percent victory in Elkana, while Likud-Beiteinu topped Yesh Atid by a margin of 32 percent to 26 percent in Alfei Menashe, the wealthiest community that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party won. The next wealthiest city Likud Beiteinu won, near the very bottom of the eighth decile, was Mevasseret Zion, where it outpolled Yesh Atid 26 percent to 18 percent.

Princes of the paupers

The trend starts to change in the seventh decile of municipalities, with Likud Beiteinu's hegemony strengthening on the way down. Lapid still led in Nes Tziona with 27 percent of the vote, tied with Likud-Beiteinu in Ramat Gan and came a close second in Yehud. In Haifa and Nesher, both ranked near the bottom of the group, Likud Beiteinu scored large victories. Habayit Hayehudi took 59 percent of the vote in Efrat, located in the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements.

Likud Beiteinu won big victories in cities representing Israel's middle class, including Rishon Letzion, Rehovot and Pardes Hannah in the sixth decile; Hadera, Netanya, Eilat, Afula, Or Yehuda, Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi and Yavneh in the fifth decile, and Ramle, Kiryat Malakhi, Kiryat Gat, Yeruham, Hatzor Haglilit, Tiberias and Sderot in the fourth decile.

The three poorest groups of municipalities voted for the Arab and Haredi parties in the opposition. Lakiya, the poorest of the poor, gave all its votes to the Arab parties and Tel Sheva gave them 95 percent, granting the other 5 percent to Shas. Modi'in Ilit voted 77 percent for United Torah Judaism and 18 percent for Shas, and Betar Ilit voted 60 percent for United Torah Judaism and 30 percent for Shas.

In Beit Shemesh, belonging to the third decile, United Torah Judaism garnered 28 percent of the vote, Likud Beiteinu got 23 percent and Shas got 18 percent. Shas took Netivot with 44 percent, and Ofakim was split between Likud Beiteinu and Shas, which each got 27 percent.  

Nir Kafri