In my last blogpost I introduced the Pew Research Center’s report: “Israel’s Religiously Divided Society”. In that post I noted some of the key religious findings of report. Today I will pull out the more political results for you – mainly to do with settlements, the two-state solution and Arabs living in Israel. Again I encourage you to read the report yourselves if you are further interested in the findings.
One of the largest political problems facing Israel is internal peace. When it comes to the feelings of Jews and Arabs towards their respective leaderships there is plenty of scepticism to go around. When asked whether the Israeli government is making “a sincere effort towards peace” 72% of Arabs said no, while only 20% said yes. However, 40% of Jews also answered no to this question while 56% said yes. The numbers were even worse when it came to the Palestinian leadership. 88% of Jews thought that the Palestinian leadership was not making a sincere effort towards peace and only 10% thought that it was. But 40% of Arabs also thought that the Palestinian leadership was not sincere in its peace efforts and a bare half thought that it was.
When it comes to the view of Israel as the Jewish homeland, Jews are nearly unanimous (98%) in agreeing that all Jews living anywhere in the world have the right to move to Israel and receive immediate citizenship. This number is practically unchanged throughout all four of the Jewish sub-groupings. Perhaps linked to this view of Jewish immigration, 76% of Jews think that anti-Semitism is common and increasing in the world and 91% say that a Jewish state is necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people.
The view of Israel as a Jewish homeland also perhaps colours the finding that more Jews agree or strongly agree that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel” than disagree/strongly disagree (48% vs 46%). The sub-group most in favour of this is not the ultra-orthodox Haredi but the “religious” Dati. Even 36% of the secular Hiloni agree with this statement.
Linked to this response, perhaps, is the fact that 60% of Israeli Jews said that God gave Israel to the Jewish people. This number jumps to 85% of West Bank settlers who say the same thing.
When it comes to views about the possibility of a peaceful coexistence between Israel and an Independent Palestinian state, more Arab Israelis than Jewish Israelis are confident that “a way can be found”. 50% of Arab Israelis are hopeful that a two-state solution can be found, while only 43% of Jewish Israelis share this confidence. However, this gap has significantly shrunk in the last two years as both Jewish and Arabs have become less confident in the prospects of a two-state solution. While Jewish Israelis are only slightly less confident than they were in 2013 (when 46% said they were confident of a two-state solution), Arab Israelis’ confidence has plummeted from 80% to 50% in 2015.
One of the roadblocks to a peaceful two-state solution is the continued construction of Israeli settlements, particularly in the West Bank. Currently 4% of Israeli Jews live in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem). More Israeli Jews think that such settlements help Israel’s security (42%) than those who say they harm Israel’s security (30%). (25% think that they do not make a difference). A majority of Arab Israelis think that the settlements hurt (63%) rather than help (26%) Israel’s security.
The fragile nature of peace in the Middle East dominates our views on Israel, but it is not as large a concern for those actually living in Israel. When the respondents of the survey were asked to say, in their own words, what the single biggest longterm problem facing Israel was today, about 40% of Israel Jews cited some form of economic issue (inequality, housing costs etc). The largest response from Arabs was also some type of economic issue. Although roughly similar numbers of Jews named a security threat (Iran, terrorism) as those who cited economic issues, this contrasted with the views of Jews living outside of Israel. In 2013, two-thirds of US Jews named various security issues as the biggest long-term challenge to Israel and only 1% mentioned an economic problem.