Amid the recent heated debates over the defense-budget issue in the Knesset and the media, as the first topic for this month’s survey we explored some aspects of how the public views the question of security and the IDF.
There is a military-security risk, but the majority sees it as not very high: Only about one-fifth (19.5%) of the Jewish public think the level of military-security risk to Israel at present is very high. Another 47% regard this risk level as moderately high, while 31% assess it as moderately or very low. Overall, then, despite top military leaders’ grave warnings in recent days about the dangers facing the country, only about two-thirds (66.5%) of the Jewish public currently perceive the level of military-security risk to Israel as considerable. An opposite picture emerges for the Arab public, though there too some estimate the risk level as high: 53% see it as moderately or very low while 38% see it as moderately or very high.
The socioeconomic challenges more than the military-security ones: Over the past three years we have pointed more than once to a change in how the public views the national order of priorities, particularly evident in an enhanced socioeconomic emphasis. The data for this month bear out this diagnosis. We found that the rate of Jews who perceive the socioeconomic challenges as more important for Israel’s future (58%) is now twice as high as the rate that regards the military-security challenges as more important (28%). Twelve percent think the two kinds of challenges are important for Israel’s future to the same extent. A segmentation of the responses to this question by interviewees’ self-placement on a left-right political-security spectrum reveals that, not surprisingly, among those placing themselves on the left the rate ascribing greater importance to the socioeconomic challenges is considerably higher than among those locating themselves on the right—62% vs. 49%. Still, note that even on the right the rate ascribing greater importance to the socioeconomic challenges is higher than the proportion ascribing greater importance to the military-security ones—49% vs. 36%. In the Arab public, 52% view the socioeconomic challenges as more important for Israel’s future than the security-political challenges while 23% ascribe greater importance to the latter type. Nineteen percent ascribe the same importance to the two types of challenges.
There is trust in the IDF: Possibly the relatively low assessment of the military-security risk can be ascribed to the Jewish public’s almost total unanimity regarding the IDF’s ability to cope with the dangers in this domain. Some 90% (!) are sure or moderately sure that the IDF, in its current condition, is capable of meeting the security threats confronting Israel. We also found a clear link between assessment of the military-security risk and the importance ascribed to the security challenges compared to the socioeconomic challenges: the higher the assessment of the risk, not surprisingly, the higher as well the importance ascribed to the military-security challenges compared to the socioeconomic ones. Still, even among those more worried about the military-security dimension, many also ascribe importance to the socioeconomic area. For example, among those estimating the military-security risk as “very high,” an identical rate (42%) views the military-security challenges and the socioeconomic challenges as having the same level of future importance. However, among those who think the security risk is very low, about three-fourths (74%) view the socioeconomic challenges as more important for Israel’s future than the military-security ones. In any case, it appears that the government’s decision to substantially increase the defense budget does not accord with the general public’s current order of priorities and risk assessments. Interestingly, in the Arab public as well a clear majority (74%) believes the IDF is capable of coping with the military challenges now facing it.
The IDF is still “the army of the people”: A large majority of the Jewish public (70%) regards the description “army of the people” as accurate today as well. An even larger majority (76%) supports continued compulsory service in the IDF, compared to a minority (21%) that prefers to have compulsory service canceled with the IDF becoming an army of professionals pursuing military service as a career.
The IDF’s system for assigning recruits is (moderately) equitable and fair: Among the (Jewish) respondents to the question “To what extent is the IDF’s system for assigning recruits to different roles equitable and fair?” there was indeed a not-too-large majority (52%) that responded positively. A considerable minority (34%), however, does not see the system as meriting that description. A segmentation of the answers shows that the rate who think the system is equitable and fair is higher among those who have served in the IDF (55%) than among those who have not served (47%), who perhaps are not knowledgeable on the subject (indeed, a high rate among those who have not served, 22%, did not respond to this question). However, the fact that only a little over half of those who have served regard the system as fair and equitable should be food for thought. No less significant is the finding that the rate viewing the system as equitable and fair is considerably lower among the lowest age group (18-34) compared to the two older age groups—respectively: 45% vs. 56% and 56.5%.
In favor of civilian service: Despite the support for compulsory service, a majority of the Jewish public (57%) favors offering the possibility to eighteen-year-old Israeli citizens of substituting full-term civilian service for military service. Civilian service could involve community service, work in hospitals, or helping disadvantaged populations. Thirty-nine percent oppose this idea. An even larger majority (66.5%) also supports granting full rights to those who have done full-term civilian service, just as they are granted to those who have served in the IDF. In the Arab public, 69% support offering the option of civilian service according to this format (though it should be noted that the question did not refer to applying compulsory civilian service to the entire population). Seventy-three percent support in principle (again, without reference to imposition of such service) the full provision of rights to those who have performed full-term civilian service, just as they are provided to those who have served in the IDF.
From issues of security and the IDF we moved to the issue that has been agitating the international community—eavesdropping by American intelligence on leaders and citizens of friendly countries.
What is more important: obtaining intelligence or damaging the trust of friendly countries? We asked: “What is more important—obtaining intelligence data from friendly countries or damaging their trust toward the United States?” The responses show a Jewish public divided between those who see intelligence gathering as more important (46%) and those who regard maintaining confidence as more important (44%). The Jewish public, however, believes with almost complete unanimity (90%) that the U.S. intelligence services presumably also listen in on conversations of Israeli leaders and citizens. The relatively large support for the importance of intelligence gathering, even when it comes to friendly countries, can perhaps be understood in light of the fact that 73% of the Jewish public also believe that Israel’s intelligence services listen in on the leaders and citizens of friendly countries, and in light of the finding that 65% acknowledge they would favor such listening if Israel does indeed practice it. In the Arab public, a large majority (72%) ascribes more importance to maintaining the trust of friendly countries than to intelligence gathering. Here too a majority (though smaller than in the Jewish public—62%) believes that the Americans presumably also listen in on Israeli leaders and citizens.
Negotiation index: 46.5 (Jewish sample—42.5).
Graph of the month: When you think about all the security-military challenges facing Israel at present compared to the socioeconomic challenges confronting it, which of the two types of challenges appears to you more threatening to Israel’s future?
The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute
. This month's survey was conducted on October 28-29, 2013, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 600 respondents, who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population aged 18 and over. The survey was conducted in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. The maximum measurement error for the whole sample is ±4.5% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.