Ahead of Israel’s 75th anniversary, majority pessimistic about nation’s future – poll

Survey shows 60% don’t feel represented by government; many believe ministers should stay away from Memorial Day ceremonies; 53% say judicial overhaul harming the country

People watch the airshow during Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations in Jerusalem, May 5, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People watch the airshow during Israel's 74th Independence Day celebrations in Jerusalem, May 5, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As Israel is set to mark its 75th anniversary this week, a majority of its citizens are pessimistic about the country’s future, according to the results of a poll published on Friday.

According to the Channel 12 news survey, 51 percent said they were pessimistic, while only 43% were optimistic and 6% said they did not know.

The Kan public broadcaster asked a similar question in its Friday poll, with 48% responding the situation in Israel will be worse in the coming years and just 20% believing that things will improve. In addition, 19% said there would be no change, and 13% said they did not know.

The Kan outlet said that when they asked the same question shortly after the last elections, 42% believed that the situation would worsen — meaning that in the five months since the election in which right-wing, far-right and Haredi parties won a majority of seats, 6% more people now feel the situation will deteriorate.

When asked whether they felt represented by the government, 60% said no and just 27% said yes, with 13% responding that they do not know.

Questioned about the participation of politicians in Memorial Day ceremonies, 47% of respondents said they were against it, 32% supported it and 21% said they do not know.

A woman sits next to a grave of a fallen soldier in the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, on April 19, 2023, ahead of Memorial Day next week. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A similar question was asked by Channel 12 news, which found 46% think politicians should attend, and 39% think they should not attend.

When the Kan survey asked only voters for opposition political parties, 61% said politicians should not attend Memorial Day ceremonies. When only coalition voters were asked, 29% said politicians should stay away from the commemoration events.

Speculation has grown in recent days that ministers from the hardline government will be heckled and protested during their participation in the ceremonies, leading some to cancel appearances.

Of particular concern is the ceremony at the military cemetery in Beersheba, which is set to be addressed by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who was exempted from IDF service due to his extremist views.

While small-scale protests are a common occurrence at events commemorating Israel’s war dead, often by bereaved families, the prospect of the political battle over proposed changes to the judiciary spilling into cemeteries and wreath-laying ceremonies on Monday night and Tuesday has sparked concerns that the moves could offend families and harm the sanctity of the day.

According to the Kan survey, a majority of Israelis believe the contentious judicial overhaul is harmful to the country — 53%. Some 32% believe it is beneficial and 15% said they did not know.

The Channel 12 survey also asked participants about plans discussed by the government earlier this week that would essentially give Haredim a blanket ban from army service, with those who do serve getting increased financial benefits; 54% answered that they were opposed to the plan, 28% said they support it, and 18% said that they do not know. The plan is also opposed by the Israel Defense Forces.

The outlet’s survey examined this year’s controversial Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony, set to take place Tuesday evening.

When asked what they think is the main reason that individuals were given the honor of lighting torches at this year’s central event, 40% said it was for political reasons, while 37% said it was for the individuals’ contributions to the state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (bottom center) and Transportation Minister Miri Regev (bottom, 2nd left) with the Independence Day ceremony torch lighters on April 19, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

When the Channel 12 survey asked whether respondents were happy with the way in which Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who is responsible for the ceremony, carried out her duties, just 28% said they were satisfied, 48% were not satisfied and 24% did not know.

Additionally, 51% said they have watched the ceremony in the past and will watch this year as well, 21% watched in the past and will not watch this year, and 17% have not watched in the past and will not watch this year.

A number of the torch-lighters picked by Regev are controversial, including Vered Ben Saadon, the founder of the Tura winery in the West Bank and a close associate of the minister.

In addition, a company of reservist paratroopers has urged Regev to reverse the choice of their former battalion commander, now the head of the Israel Defense Force’s elite Duvdevan unit, as a torch-lighter, accusing the officer of lying about an incident during fighting in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

The usually apolitical ceremony has taken on a different tone this year amid the government’s plans to shackle the judiciary. Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid has announced he will not attend due to societal divisions he said the government has created with its radical judicial overhaul program.

Protesters rally against the government’s judicial overhaul plans, at the Azrieli junction in Tel Aviv, on April 8, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Lapid’s decision followed reports that Regev plans to cut the live broadcast of the event and switch to a rehearsal recording should the actual torch-lighting ceremony be interrupted by anti-government protestors.

At the same time as the ceremony, a mass protest has been organized to take place at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street.

The Kan survey questioned 553 men and women aged 18 and over, with a sampling error of 4.2%. The Channel 12 poll surveyed 503 adults, with a margin of error of 4.4%.

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