PM has publicly opposed far-right push to govern Strip

Poll: Half of Jewish Israelis say Israel should run Gaza after the war; 0% say Hamas

Survey conducted in March finds only 19% of Israeli Jews believe peaceful coexistence possible with Palestinian state — lowest since Pew Institute began polling Israelis in 2013

Illustrative: IDF tanks are positioned in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on May 9, 2024. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Illustrative: IDF tanks are positioned in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on May 9, 2024. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Fifty percent of Israeli Jews support Israel maintaining control of the Gaza Strip after the war against the Hamas terror group ends, according to a Pew Research Center survey published Thursday.

Asked who should govern the Palestinian enclave after the war, half of Jewish respondents said Israel; 15% said they didn’t know; 10% said the Palestinian Authority, but without its president, Mahmoud Abbas; 8% said people who live in Gaza should decide; 7% answered “other”; 5% said the PA with Abbas; 4% said the United Nations; and zero percent said Hamas.

Among Arab Israeli respondents, 37% said people who live there should decide; 18% said the PA without Abbas should rule; 16% said they didn’t know; 11% said the PA with Abbas; 9% said Hamas; 5% said the United Nations; 3% said Israel; and 2% said “other.”

Among all Israeli respondents, 40% said Israel; 16% said they didn’t know; 14% said Gazans should decide; 12% said the PA without Abbas; 6% said the PA with Abbas; 6% said “other”; 4% said the UN; and 2% said Hamas.

The major caveat of the survey was that it was conducted between March 3 and April 4, finishing nearly two months ago, likely making many of the results outdated.

But even if the results are several months old, they are notable given that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out against the idea of Israel governing Palestinians in Gaza after the war — a prospect vehemently rejected by the international community.

Only far-right ministers like Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir have come out in support of Israel permanently controlling the Gaza Strip and reestablishing settlements there, but the Pew survey indicates support for their stance may be more widespread among Israeli Jews than originally thought.

The survey also finds that the share of Israeli Jews who believe an Israeli and a Palestinian state can peacefully coexist has plummeted since October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israeli communities and army positions, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 252 hostages.

A rally calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ending Israel’s control of the West Bank, held in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The figure of 19% was the lowest since Pew started surveying Israelis in 2013. It is down from 32% in a survey released just weeks before the war broke out.

In 2013, according to Pew, nearly half of Israeli Jews — and a majority of Israelis overall — supported a two-state solution. In 2005, another polling firm found that most Israeli Jews supported the establishment of a Palestinian state.

This year, just a quarter of Israeli adults overall — including nearly half of Israeli Arabs  — believe a Palestinian state and Israel can peacefully exist side-by-side.

Among Arab Israelis, 74% say “Israel’s military response against Hamas in Gaza has gone too far.” Only 4% of Jewish Israelis agree.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 36,200 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle.

Two hundred and ninety-two soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

And while 76% of Jewish Israelis believe Israel will achieve its goals in the war — namely, toppling Hamas’s rule in Gaza and returning the remaining hostages — only half as many Arab Israelis, 38%, say the same.

But Israeli Arabs and Jews share some of the same concerns about the war: 61% of both groups are worried about the war spreading to other fronts — a concern that has been top-of-mind for many in the region and beyond after constant exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the first direct attacks between Iran and Israel, and violence on other fronts.

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike that targeted the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on May 29, 2024. (Rabih Daher/AFP)

And at a time when National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi has said he anticipates the war will last until at least the end of this year, the poll found that significant majorities of both groups (77% of Arabs, 66% of Jews) are worried about the war “lasting a long time.”

One thousand and one Israeli adults participated in the in-person survey, which included a representative population of Jews and Arabs.

It had a margin of error of four percentage points.

In addition to being taken before the launch of the Rafah operation, the poll was conducted before other landmark developments of recent weeks — including a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court announcing he was seeking Netanyahu’s arrest and US President Joe Biden saying that he would suspend delivery of some large bombs to Israel in a bid to influence the scope of Israel’s Rafah invasion.

But even before those events, the poll showed disapproval of Biden’s handling of the war rising in Israel. Biden was broadly popular among Israelis for his embrace of the country following October 7, but by the time the poll was taken, 60% of Israeli Jews — and 86% of Israeli Arabs — said they did not approve of how he was handling the war.

Also unpopular was Netanyahu who, the poll found, had a lower favorability rating than at any point in the 11 years Pew has asked the question, at 41%. The two other leaders in his war cabinet, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, fared better, with Gantz at 51% and Gallant at 61%.

A more recent poll shows that Netanyahu’s popularity, which nosedived after October 7, is somewhat recovering among the Israeli public.

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