A large majority of Jewish Israelis backs Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze negotiations with the Palestinians, and a considerable majority views the reconciliation pact signed between Fatah and Hamas as dangerous for Israel, a Peace Index Project survey conducted in April found.
The data, released ahead of Israel’s 66th Independence Day, showed that nearly 70 percent of Israelis supported the decision to halt peace negotiations in light of the reconciliation agreement that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed with his counterparts in Gaza.
The agreement was seen as dangerous or moderately dangerous for Israel by 57.7 percent of Jewish Israelis, who rejected the claim that the unity pact will help peace talks along by making more Palestinian factions signatories to any future agreement with Israel.
On the issue of the frozen peace process, large disparities were found to exist between the views of those on the right, center and left of the Israeli political spectrum, with 82 percent of right-wing and 59 percent of centrist Jewish Israelis supporting the decision to stop the talks, but only 26 percent of left-wingers holding the same view.
Just above 40 percent of Jewish Israelis said they thought the freeze was beneficial to Israel in the short term, with 36 percent saying it was harmful. A similar percentage of Israelis thought the freeze was beneficial (40%) and harmful (34%) to Israel in the long term.
As for the blame for the impasse in talks, 56 percent said Israel and the Palestinians did not bear equal responsibility for the crisis. Nearly three-fourths of right-wing Jewish Israelis (72.5%) disagreed with US President Barack Obama’s assertion that both sides were equally to blame, while a majority of centrist and left-wing Israelis (54% and 70.5%, respectively) agreed with it.
The Peace Index survey also touched on domestic policy issues, revealing that most Jewish Israelis – 76 percent – are “very satisfied” or “moderately satisfied” with Israel’s achievements to date. Younger Israelis were found to be less satisfied that older Israelis, and right-wingers (49%) were found to be more satisfied than centrists (39.5%) and left-wingers (19%).
Particularly low levels of satisfaction were measured on the socioeconomic front, with only 31 percent of Jewish Israelis saying they were satisfied with life in Israel in that area.
On the military-security situation, though, high levels of satisfaction were measured in all three political camps – 87 percent on the right, 83 percent in the center and 76 percent on the left.
On the political-diplomatic front, Jewish Israelis were found to be more unsatisfied than satisfied, with 54 percent saying they weren’t content with Israel’s politics and 41 percent indicating that they were. Less than a fifth (19%) of Jewish Israeli left-wingers said they were satisfied on the political front, while nearly half (49%) of right-wingers said the same. Nearly 40% of centrists said they were satisfied.
The dissatisfaction with Israel’s political and socioeconomic situation was reflected in the participants’ views on the government’s priorities. Nearly half of the respondents (47%) said the government’s top priorities should be reducing socioeconomic disparities, and just over a fifth (21%) said creating affording housing solutions was the most pressing issue.
In other words, 69% of Jewish Israelis said they would prefer that the government focus on domestic socioeconomic issues rather than military or diplomatic ones – a 12% rise from 2012, when an identical question was posed in the survey. In contrast, a mere tenth of Jewish Israelis said the government’s top priority should be to increase Israel’s military might, and only 9 percent said it should focus on reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians first and foremost.
The data also revealed that two-thirds (66%) of the Jewish public believe Israelis used to care more about the country, compared to 71% five years ago. However, the participants’ personal responses refuted this somewhat, with 38% saying they care more about the country now than they did in the past and just over a quarter (27%) saying they now care less than they used to.
Peace Index attributed the disparity, which it described as an “idealization of the past,” to a recognized phenomenon in which “an assessment about the collective is more negative because, for example, of an impression received from the media about ‘public opinion’” – which they said was especially noticeable among younger participants.
Regarding the future of the state, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Jewish Israelis said they were “very optimistic” or “moderately optimistic” about the country’s future, and even more optimistic about their own future, with 85 percent answering they were optimistic.
While still optimistic, younger Israelis were found to be somewhat less optimistic (58%) about the future of the country than older Israelis (71%-80%). Similarly, left-wingers were found to be less optimistic (58%) than Israelis who associate themselves with the political center or right (77%).
With regard to the participants’ personal future, rather than that of the country, the data showed that religious Jewish Israelis were slightly more optimistic about their personal future than their secular counterparts, while right-wingers were found to be slightly more optimistic about their personal future than centrists and left-wingers.
With optimism running high in all segments of Israeli society, despite slight disparities, it is no surprise that a large majority of Jewish Israelis – 80 percent – say they are here to stay, even if they get an opportunity to leave the country.
However, here too the data revealed gaps between younger and older respondents, as well as between participants with different political affiliations: around 70 percent of younger Jewish Israelis said they planned to stay in Israel, while between 89 and 95% of older Israelis said the same.
An overwhelming majority of national-religious Israelis – 92.5% – said they aimed to remain in the country, compared to 73% of secular Israelis. The gap between the political camps was found to be smaller, with 83% of right-wingers and 79% of centrists and left-wingers said they intended to stay.
The Peace Index Project, which has published annual reports since 1994, is headed by Tel Aviv University’s Ephraim Ya’ar and the Israel Democracy Institute’s Tamar Hermann.