New polls show most Israelis supported last summer’s Gaza war, are not interested in taking in Syrian refugees, and agree with Netanyahu on the Iran deal.
At the start of a Jewish New Year, Israelis took stock of their lives in a series of polls. The highest circulating newspaper, the free right-wing daily Israel Hayom, wrote flashy headlines on the cover of its holiday supplement about what “Israelis” think, but conducted its survey only among Jews. Haaretz’ survey included Arabs but not politics, instead posing fun questions about life habits and some public issues, while ignoring the conflict. The Peace Index, a monthly poll by the Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, asked about the conflict and other foreign policy issues, which is its raison d’etre. But the results confirm longtime patterns: the majority of Israelis fear existential threats, and despair of peace.
The media-commissioned polls reflect what Israelis prefer to think about: the optimistic personal and public mood, pastimes and choices such as vegetarianism, reading, pot-smoking, vacation activity and sex, social values, cost of living, a smattering of politics. Here are some highlights about how the country thinks.
Closed military zones
– Consistent with all historical findings, the IDF is the most trusted institution tested, with 8.1 average on a scale of 0-10 (10 indicates the highest trust); but Arabs were not asked. (Israel Hayom)
– Seventy percent say it was the right decision to go to war in Gaza last summer – among Jews, 80 percent. Nearly 70 percent percent of Arabs said it was not the right decision. (Peace Index)
– Less than half of the Israeli public (43 percent) think the results of the war were “good” or “very good.” (Peace Index)
– A majority (53 percent) of Jews believe Israel is a “villa in the jungle.” (Israel Hayom)
– Over three-quarters (78 percent) of Israeli Jews say Israel should not open its doors to refugees from Syria, Iraq, or other countries. (Israel Hayom)
– When told that Europe is absorbing hundreds of thousands of refugees, half of Jews (51 percent) are unmoved. Nearly half (46 percent) say this made them less interested in taking refugees. (Israel Hayom).
– A minority of Jews say Israel should take in a few thousand refugees (16 percent) or an unlimited number (2 percent — Israel Hayom)
Existential threats, no peace
– Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) agree with Netanyahu that the Iran deal is an existential threat to Israel (Peace Index)
-Seventy percent say Iran is not upholding its end of the deal. (Peace Index)
– Two-thirds do not believe negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will yield an agreement any time soon. (Peace Index)
– Nearly half (43 percent) percent think Netanyahu’s behavior is harming Israel-US relations, and 60 percent thought his protests against the Iran deal would not stop the agreement. (Peace Index)
Domestic: Not so liberal, feminist, equal, or intellectual
– Fewer than half, 42 percent, support same-sex marriage (Haaretz). For comparison, as of May 2015, 60 percent of Americans support it.
– Just over half (55 percent) support civil marriage, which cannot currently be performed in Israel.
– One-third of women, and 41 percent of men think mothers should work full time. The plurality of women thought mothers should work part-time. The question did not appear to offer an answer “whatever the woman chooses.” (Haaretz)
– Nearly 40 percent of Jewish Israelis alone believe ethnic origin (which includes Ashkenazi-Mizrahi) is important for success in Israel. A high portion of Arabs would probably also agree.
– Only one-third (34 percent) are currently reading a book. One-quarter don’t normally read (24 percent), similar to the percentage of Americans who haven’t read a book in the last year. Nearly 60 percent watched the country’s top-ranking reality show this year, Master Chef (Israel Hayom).
Domestic: But we like it like that
– Over 60 percent of Israelis are personally happy – the more religious, the happier. (Haaretz)
– Among Jews, nearly 70 percent are very proud to be Israeli (95 percent in total “very” and “pretty” proud); 73 percent say Israel is a good place to live. (Israel Hayom)
– Benjamin Netanyahu is considered by Jews the most suitable to be Prime Minister of six options by a plurality of 33 percent, more than double the second-ranked politician – Yair Lapid (14 percent). (Israel Hayom)
– Two-thirds believe the US is still committed to Israel’s security. (Peace Index)
– Minority disgruntled: between 14 percent and over one-quarter (28 percent) are considering leaving the country or would prefer to live abroad (Haaretz, Israel Today, respectively)
Palestinians have a vastly different set of concerns on their minds. The latest poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research headed by Khalil Shikaki shows deep concern over Palestinian politics, fear of settler violence, falling support for a two-state solution and rising support for violent opposition to Israel.
What Palestinian state?
– Under half (48 percent) of Palestinians support the two-state solution, a slight dip from 51 percent three months earlier.
– Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) think this solution is no longer practical because settlements have expanded so far into West Bank territory. This is a 10-point rise from three months earlier.
– Over three-quarters (78 percent) say the chances of a Palestinian state being established in the next five years are slim to nil.
– When asked about Palestinian priorities, the top-ranked goal is to end occupation and build a state within the 1967 territories (48 percent) – but apparently the type of state is not a high priority: the lowest ranked goal (among four listed) is ”to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians” (9 percent).
Fear, abandonment, corruption, repression
– Eighty-one percent of Palestinians interviewed worry that they or their families will be harmed by Israel, have their land confiscated, or homes demolished.
– Eighty-five percent believe that Israel’s long-term goal is to annex all the land conquered in 1967 and either expel Palestinians or deny them their rights.
– Eighty percent say the Arab world is too preoccupied with other problems to make the Palestinian issue a priority and two-thirds say the PA security forces are not doing enough to protect them.
– Nearly 80 percent believe there is corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions.
– Less than one-quarter say there is press freedom in the West Bank, and just one-fifth (19 percent) say the press is free in Gaza. Fewer than one-third believe the Palestinian authorities can be criticized freely.
Anger at Palestinian leadership
– Nearly two-thirds want Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to resign, but two-thirds think his resignation from the PLO Executive Committee is not real.
– Job approval for Abbas stands at 38 percent, down six points from the poll three months earlier.
– In most combinations of realistic candidates, the front-runner is Marwan Barghouti, who is seen as outside the political system at present as he is serving life-sentences in an Israeli prison.
Violence or nonviolence?
– Two-thirds supports launching rockets from Gaza if Israel does not end the blockade.
– Forty-two percent think force is the best way to achieve a Palestinian state, up six points from three months ago.
– But a slight majority – 53 percent – believe non-violent means are the more effective to reach statehood: diplomatic negotiations (29 percent) or non-violent resistance (24 percent).
– Nearly two-thirds support a long-term truce (hudna) between Israel and Hamas.
Interestingly, the strongest consensus is found regarding ISIS: 91 percent believe it is a radical group that does not represent true Islam, and 83 percent support the actions of Arab countries and the West against it.
Information on surveys cited:
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; 17-19 September, 2015. N=1270, face to face interviews, 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error: +/-3%
Haaretz: Poll conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs. N=1,028 (825 Jews and 203 Arabs. The Jewish respondents were surveyed by an Internet panel conducted by Dr. Ariel Ayalon. The Arab respondents were surveyed by telephone, but Stat-net, under the supervision of Yosef Maklada. (MoE not cited)
Israel Hayom: Poll conducted by New Wave research, 8 Sept. 2015; n=500 Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews, . Margin of error: +/-4.4%
Peace Index (Israel Democracy Institute/Tel Aviv University): Poll conducted by Midgam Research Institute, N=600 (Jews and Arabs), August 30-31, 2015. Margin of error: ±4.1%