Poll: Most Israelis think social tensions worse since Bennett came to power

Less than a third of respondents say they would vote for the same party they supported in the March 2021 elections, survey finds

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Opposition Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (left) walks next to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during the vote on the state budget, in the Knesset on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (left) walks next to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during the vote on the state budget, in the Knesset on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The majority of Israelis believe that tensions within Israeli society have worsened over the past year. This relates both to Israelis who voted for coalition parties and to those who voted for parties in the opposition, according to a new survey.

The monthly Israeli Voice Index, released by the Israel Democracy Institute, asked respondents how they felt the country, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, was doing in various respects.

As expected, Israelis’ assessment of the current government’s performance mostly depended on whether they voted for parties in the coalition or the opposition. Respondents who voted for parties in the country’s parliamentary opposition thought that Israel’s situation had worsened in all the areas surveyed since the government was sworn in a year ago.

Asked about the country’s economic situation, 75% of respondents who voted for opposition parties said it was worse than it was a year ago. By contrast, 30% of those who voted for parties in the coalition said it was worse, while 41.5% said they thought it was better and 17% said it was the same.

Regarding tensions within Israeli society, more respondents, from both sides, agreed that the situation was dire. Some 72% of those who voted for the opposition and nearly half (48%) of those who voted for the coalition said tensions were worse than they were a year ago.

Some 70% of voters for the opposition also thought that Israel’s standing in the world had taken a hit since Bennett, of the right-wing Yamina party, came to power. Among voters for the coalition, 46% believed it had improved, while 26.5% said it was worse and 23% said it hadn’t changed.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett makes a call before voting on a law on the legal status of Israelis in the West Bank, during a session of the Knesset, Monday, June 6, 2022. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo)

If elections were held today, less than a third of all respondents said they would definitely vote for the same party they supported in the March 2021 elections, and 57.5% said they might. Only 20% said they would definitely not vote for the same party, while 12% said they weren’t sure.

The survey also noted that over the past year, support for amending the controversial Nation-State Law to include equality in its definition has declined among Jewish Israelis – down from 46.5% to 36% – and increased among Arab Israelis from 85% to 90%.

The survey comes as Israel’s coalition is struggling to gain the majority it needs to advance its policies, most recently failing to pass a critical piece of legislation to renew the application of Israeli criminal and some civil law to Israelis living in the West Bank.

The Likud-led opposition, helmed by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pounced on the result, declaring that the government’s time was “over.”

The coalition, however, has vowed to carry on.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at his Likud party’s weekly Knesset faction meeting, May 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Despite the political chaos that has characterized much of Bennett’s year-long ruling government, it has chalked up small victories in other areas.

Economically, Israel has fared better than most countries following the COVID-19 pandemic. Data shows that Israel’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 8.1% in 2021, surpassing previous forecasts and marking the highest financial growth rate recorded in Israel in 21 years.

Bennett also managed to pass a national budget, the first one passed since 2018.

Still, it seems like most Israelis are not sold on Bennett’s narrow, diverse coalition nor believe in its ability to survive much longer.

A recent Channel 12 survey found that Netanyahu’s bloc would win 59 seats if elections were held today, putting it near a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, but suggesting further political deadlock if the current government collapses. Israel has been through four grueling elections since 2019 as the opposing blocs struggle to form a sturdy majority in the Knesset.

The survey also found that most Israelis think the current government will collapse within six months, and that more Israelis support Netanyahu for prime minister than any other candidate.

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