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How Israeli Society Has Unified, and Divided, in Wartime

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How Israeli Society Has Unified, and Divided, in Wartime

Israelis are more pessimistic than optimistic about the future of their political system

Edited by: TJVNews.com

A new Pew Research Center survey released today looks at the current and future state of Israeli society, attitudes toward the country’s leaders and influence of various national institutions and groups, all in the context of the Israel-Hamas war as it rages on.

Based on a survey fielded March 3-April 4, 2024, prior to Benny Gantz resigning from the emergency government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanding the war cabinet, the shares of Israelis who see deep conflicts within their society have shrunk since 2023.

28% of Israeli adults say there are very strong conflicts between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews, down from 46% last year.

18% say there are very strong conflicts between people who are religious and people who are not, down from 29%.

24% see very strong conflicts between those on the political left and right, down from 32%.

At the same time, Israeli public opinion has become more polarized in other ways. For example, Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis have increasingly diverging views on key institutions – such as the military – and on policy issues.

Jewish Israelis trust the national government to do what is right for Israel more than they did in 2017 (61%, up from 53%). Arab Israelis trust it less (23%, down from 44%).

93% of Jewish Israelis think the military has a positive influence on the way things are going in Israel, while just 34% of Arab Israelis agree. This gap has grown significantly since we last asked the question in 2007, when 77% of Israeli Jews and 57% of Israeli Arabs said the influence of the Israeli Defense Forces was positive.

Israelis as a whole are still divided over whether the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank helps (40%) or hurts (35%) Israel’s security. Jewish Israelis have grown more likely to see the settlements as helping security, widening the ethnic gap on this question.

Views among those on the ideological left and right have also diverged on some of these issues since we last asked about them. Against this backdrop, Israelis are more pessimistic (50%) than optimistic (35%) about the way their political system works.

Israeli Jews are almost evenly split on whether they are optimistic (40%) or pessimistic (44%) about the future of their political system. By comparison, 69% of Israeli Arabs say they are pessimistic about its future.

Other key findings from today’s report:

Views of Israeli political leadership

At the time of the survey, which was fielded before Netanyahu’s dissolution of the war cabinet, Israelis had generally dim views of seven political leaders we asked about. Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant was the most popular: 61% had a very or somewhat favorable view of him. About half felt similarly about former war cabinet member Benny Gantz (51%).

Netanyahu and other members of his right-wing governing coalition are much less popular. A third of the Israeli public had a favorable view of Itamar Ben-Gvir, and a similar share (36%) favored Bezalel Smotrich. Larger shares saw them negatively – 45% and 41% had very unfavorable views of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, respectively.

Other leaders we asked about include opposition leader Yair Lapid (38% favorable, 57% unfavorable) and Mansour Abbas, leader of United Arab List/Ra’am (20% favorable, 76% unfavorable).

(Read more about views of Palestinian leaders in our May report from the same survey.)

Influence of various groups and organizations in Israeli society

Of the eight groups and organizations we asked about, the military receives the highest rating – 81% of Israelis say the military has a very or somewhat good influence on the way things are going in Israel. Religious leaders receive the lowest rating (51% say they have a good influence).

By roughly two-to-one, more Israelis say the Supreme Court has a good influence (61%) than a bad influence (34%) on the way things are going in Israel. This follows major protests in 2023 in response to Netanyahu’s plan to reform the judiciary.

Other actors in Israeli life we asked about – large foreign companies (72%), the police (68%), the media (65%), banks and other major financial institutions (57%), and social media (53%) – are also viewed positively.

Optimism about future relations


Israelis are divided on the prospect of Arab and Jewish Israelis living together peacefully. Equal shares say they are optimistic (37%) and pessimistic (37%) about this, while about a quarter (23%) volunteer another response such as “Both,” “Neither” or “It depends.

This is an area where Jewish and Arab Israelis agree: They are similarly likely to be optimistic – and to be pessimistic – about peaceful future relations between their two groups.

By more than two-to-one, Israelis are more optimistic (56%) than pessimistic (20%) about the ability of religious and secular Jews to live together peacefully. Around one-in-five volunteer another response such as “Both,” “Neither” or “It depends.”

(Read more about Israeli views of a two-state solution in our May report from the same survey.)

Views of violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and views of settlements

Israelis are concerned about rising violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem: 65% are extremely or very concerned about violence against Jews, while 31% feel the same about violence against Arabs.

Among the Israeli public overall, the view that settlements in the West Bank enhance security has increased 13 percentage points since we first asked this question in 2013. Over that same period, the share of Israeli Jews who think building settlements helps Israel’s security has steadily grown, while the share of Israeli Arabs saying this has consistently stayed under 10%.

(Read more about Israeli concerns about the duration and scope of the war in our May report from the same survey.)

These are among the key findings of a new Pew Research Center survey of 1,001 Israelis, conducted via face-to-face interviews between March 3 and April 4, 2024.

Read the full report: www.pewresearch.org/global/2024/06/20/how-israeli-society-has-unified-and-divided-in-wartime/


Israeli Views of the Israel-Hamas War

Amid war in Gaza, 58% of Israelis say their country is not respected internationally

How Americans and Israelis view one another and the U.S. role in the Israel-Hamas war

Methodology: www.pewresearch.org/global/2024/06/20/methodology-israel-june-24/

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