Israelis pessimistic ahead of new year, but see hope in UAE peace deal — study

As Rosh Hashana approaches amid a pandemic and political deadlock, two-thirds say country’s mood is glum, and 40% think next year will be worse

Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv, September 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis wear protective face masks in Tel Aviv, September 3, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Ten days before the start of the Jewish new year, Israelis see a pessimistic nation and expect the current political impasse to force a fourth election within months.

Two-thirds of Israelis, or 66.5 percent, say the country is either “moderately” or “very” pessimistic going into the new year, the Israel Democracy Institute’s August Israeli Voice Index poll, whose results were released Tuesday, found. Just 24.5% describe the national mood as optimistic.

Asked if the country will fare better or worse next year, 40% said worse and 27% said better. (Another 22% said nothing would change, though it’s not clear if that’s an indication of optimism or pessimism.)

The public doesn’t believe the current unity government will survive for long, with 68% saying there is a “high” probability it will fall when the December 23 deadline for passing a state budget rolls around. Just 18% said the chances of new elections are low.

Curiously, Israelis tended to view themselves as more optimistic than the country at large. Asked about their “personal mood,” about half, 52%, said they were optimistic about the coming year, while 44% said they were personally pessimistic.

Israelis clash with police during a protest march against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem on September 5, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While Jews and Arabs answered similarly when assessing the mood of the country as a whole, when it came to their own moods they differed. Among Arabs, there were more pessimists (49%) than optimists (38%).

One point of relative agreement: The peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates is a good thing.

Large majorities of Israelis think the agreement will benefit Israel across a variety of fields, including economic (79%), “political-diplomatic” (76%) and in terms of tourism (76%).

A smaller majority of 53% think the deal will contribute to Israel’s national security as well.

Asked if they believed the deal would help promote peace talks with the Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, who mostly answered similarly on the other questions, again diverged.

National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat elbow bumps with an Emirati official ahead of boarding the plane before leaving Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 1, 2020. (Nir Elias/Pool/AFP)

A majority, 55%, of Israeli Jews said the UAE deal would contribute to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace, and just 22% said it would hurt. Among Arab Israelis, just 33% thought it would contribute, while 37% said it would detract.

The survey offered a snapshot of the demographic taking part in the protests against the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent months.

About one in ten Jewish respondents said they had participated in protests against the government in recent months, with a plurality, 46.5%, identifying themselves as left-wing, 27.5% as centrist and 26% as right-wing.

The protesters were more likely to be under 34 (35% of protesters) or over 55 (44%).

The survey was conducted by the Midgam Institute between August 31 and September 2, and included 605 Hebrew speakers and 145 Arabic speakers, with an overall sampling error of 3.7%.

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