Poll: Over half of Arab Israelis feel sense of ‘shared destiny’ with Jews

Survey of Arab citizens also finds that over two thirds are in favor of an Arab party joining a future government coalition, and 40% say it doesn’t have to be a center-left one

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

An Arab Israeli girl casts her mother's ballot at a polling station in the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm on March 17, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
An Arab Israeli girl casts her mother's ballot at a polling station in the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm on March 17, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Just over half of Arab Israelis (51.6%) feel that the prolonged war against Hamas in Gaza has given rise to a sense of “shared destiny” between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, according to a recent survey by the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.

The poll, which was presented at TAU’s conference “The Future of Israel” on Wednesday, found that a slight majority of Arabs across religious denominations (Druze, Christians and Muslims) identify with that statement.

The poll was based on a representative sample of 502 Arab citizens of Israel above the age of 18, and was initiated by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, supported by the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. The survey analyzed expectations for the future of the Gaza Strip and perceptions of the ongoing conflict’s impact on the Arab minority inside the Jewish state.

Asked about who should run Gaza the day after the war, most respondents (58.5%) said that the administration should be in the hands of Palestinians. Of those, 24.4% said they would prefer local bodies from Gaza to manage the Strip, followed by 19.4% who said it should be governed by the Palestinian Authority, and 14.7% said who by Hamas.

Conversely, 34.4% of respondents said that an external non-Palestinian body should govern the coastal enclave. Of those, 19.4% opted for an international force, 8.4% chose Israel and 6.5% favored a coalition of Arab states.

As for the conflict’ impact on the personal lives of Arab Israelis, 67.8% of respondents reported they now find themselves in a relatively good economic situation, in stark contrast to the early days of the war. In November, 64.9% said their finances had been negatively affected by the war.

Volunteers at the Rahat community center sorting goods and creating packages, October 2023. (courtesy)

However, amid a persistent deadly crime wave in the community, almost three quarters of those polled (74%) reported a low sense of safety, while 60.6% indicated that violence and crime were the most pressing issue affecting Arab Israeli communities.

The Abraham Initiatives, a coexistence watchdog that monitors violent crime in the Arab community, says 98 Arabs have been killed so far in 2024 in incidents of violent crime. More Arabs were murdered in 2023 (244) than in any previous year, according to a year-end report published by the Abraham Initiatives. The figure was over twice as many as in 2022, indicating a significant upward trend amid a proliferation of illegal weapons and organized crime.

Widespread support for a seat in government

Arab citizens appear to largely back increased participation in political life. A clear majority, or 68.6%, indicated that an Arab party should join a governing coalition in the next elections, including 40.2% who said that it did not necessarily have to be a center-left government.

Arab political parties have traditionally foregone participation in Israeli governments. Ra’am made history in the last, short-lived government by being the first Arab party in decades to join a coalition.

Only 14.2% indicated that they are firmly against any Arab party joining or supporting a ruling coalition.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (L), Yamina leader Naftali Bennett (C) and Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas sign a coalition agreement on June 2, 2021. (Courtesy of Ra’am)

Arik Rudnitzky, Director of the Konrad Adenauer Program, who led the survey, said in a press statement: “The study shows that the current war between Israel and Hamas, which is the longest and hardest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948, has not altered the political compass of Israel’s Arab citizens.”

“Israel’s Arab citizens worry about their brethren in Gaza, which is only natural and should be respected,” Rudnitzky continued. “However, it’s important to understand that sympathizing with Palestinians in Gaza is not the same as identifying with their political leadership. In fact, a significant part of the survey’s respondents believe that local elements in Gaza, and not Hamas, should govern life in the Gaza Strip after the war, and another third say that a non-Palestinian body should do this.

“In addition, readiness for political collaboration with the Israeli government… alongside an emphasis on Israeli identity combined with a deep Arab or religious identity – all these prove that Israel’s Arab citizens are an integral part of Israeli society, not only in theory, but in practice as well. The conclusions emerging from the current survey are important not only to decision makers in the country, but also to every citizen who believes in a true partnership between Jews and Arabs within Israel,” he said.

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