The Findings in Detail
ne of the fascinating phenomena concerning the way the Israeli Jewish public views world criticism of Israel and Israel’s low status in the international community is the perception of a weak connection between Israel’s actions and attitudes toward Israel. In other words, it is assumed that no matter what Israel does, it will always incur foreign criticism. The guiding assumption of the majority is that “the whole world is against us” (56%). Yet an even larger majority (77%!) asserts unequivocally that it makes no difference what Israel does in the Palestinian context and what policy it adopts; the world will continue to be very critical of Israel in any event. In other words, these numbers show that while a significant number of respondents (42.5%) disagree with the maxim that the whole word is against us, many of those same individuals believe that Israel’s actions and policies are not the main source of the criticism directed at the Jewish state.
Not surprisingly, a segmentation of the Jewish public’s answers to the question of whether “the whole world is against us” by the respondents’ definition of themselves as secular, traditional, religious, or ultra-Orthodox revealed large differences between these groups. Among the secular, only 46% think the world is against us, compared to 62% of the traditional, 70% of the religious, and 80% of the ultra-Orthodox respondents. Regarding this question, a difference was also found between women and men, with more women than men viewing the world as hostile towards Israel (59% vs. 53%). Interestingly, age does not systematically influence this basic position.
As for the connection between Israel’s actions and criticism of Israel, the whole scale indeed rises, but the differences remain: 73% of secular respondents see no connection between Israel’s actions and world criticism, along with 75% of traditional, 92% of religious, and 95% of ultra-Orthodox respondents. Regarding this question as well, a difference emerged between women and men, and in the same direction as before (82% of women compared to only 73% of men see no connection). Here too age did not have an effect.
On the question of how much Israel should take world opinion into account when making foreign policy decisions, a thought-provoking similarity emerged between the positions of the ultra-Orthodox and of the secular: in both groups a similar majority (54.5% and 52%, respectively) favored taking world opinion into account. Among those defining themselves as religious or traditional, a clear majority (68% and 55%, respectively) thought Israel can and should ignore world opinion. The ultra-Orthodox position can apparently be explained by the traditional Jewish attitude of “Don’t scale the wall, don’t climb the mountain” that is espoused by that community – in other words, do not provoke the nations of the world. A segmentation of the answers to this question by voting patterns in the latest Knesset elections revealed a majority for the position that Israel need not consider world opinion among voters for Shas (78%), Likud (72%), Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) and the National Union (HaIchud Haleumi) (67% in the latter two cases). Among voters for the rest of the parties, a majority favors taking world opinion into consideration.
As for paying heed to U.S. positions when formulating Israeli foreign policy, a large majority of the Jewish public, as we saw, favors consideration of the American stance, including a majority of all four groups – secular, traditional, religious, and ultra-Orthodox. However, a clear-cut majority of secular, traditional, and ultra-Orthodox respondents would take U.S. opinion into account, among the religious the finding is borderline (exactly 50% vs. 48%, with 2% responding “don’t know”).
Despite media reports regarding the rise in negative attitudes toward Israel in many places in the world, a slim majority (53%) of the Jewish public feels that Israel is very or somewhat isolated (vs. 46% who feel it is fairly unisolated or not isolated at all). This could explain why there is currently no sense of great urgency about reaching some sort of solution with the Palestinians or with other adversaries in the region, such as Syria. Apparently, thanks to their conviction that the whole world is against us, the sense that Israel is isolated is especially strong among ultra-Orthodox respondents (71%) and somewhat less so among secular and traditional respondents (53% in both cases). Among those defining themselves as religious, however, (most of whom, as we saw, also thought that Israel need not particularly take world opinion into account when determining its steps, which is similar to the ethos of “It doesn’t matter what the non-Jews say but what the Jews do” that was prevalent in Israel’s early years), only a minority, though a significant one (44%), feels that Israel is internationally isolated.
In this context of isolation, amid the recent “hot” debate on whether the connection of Diaspora Jewry to Israel, especially among its young generation, is weakening, we asked: “Studies have shown that many Jews in the Diaspora, particularly young people, are becoming distanced from Israel for a variety of reasons. Following are four possible reasons. Please indicate the extent to which you think each contributes to the distancing of young Jews in the Diaspora from Israel, if at all.” It turns out that a majority of the Israeli Jewish public again ascribe the responsibility for the distancing to the other side, this time to the young people of the Diaspora. Respondents attribute a strong influence on the state of Diaspora-Israel relations to the fact that young Diaspora Jews are losing the connection with their Jewish identity. In comparison, Israel’s problematic policy regarding the issue of non-Orthodox denominations, which is cited repeatedly in studies and reports, as well as Israel’s policy on the Palestinian issue, are seen by the Israeli Jewish public as factors with minor influence on the relationship between the young people of the Diaspora and Israel.
Because of space limitations we will not present here the full range of (significant) differences between secular, traditional, religious, and ultra-Orthodox respondents regarding the influence of the four factors included in the question. The following graphs summarize only the differences found regarding Israel’s attitude toward non-Orthodox denominations and regarding Jewish identity of young people in the Diaspora, regarding which the religiosity variable is particularly relevant. As can be seen, religious respondents ascribe much less influence to the issue of Israel’s policy toward non-Orthodox denominations than the other groups (even less than the ultra-Orthodox – 4% vs. 22%!). Regarding the Palestinian issue, ultra-Orthodox and religious respondents both assess the issue’s influence as negligible, as compared to secular and traditional respondents.
Impact of Israeli Policy toward Conservative and Reform Judaism on the Attachment of Young Diaspora Jews to Israel (% of Jewish Israelis)
Impact of Israeli Policy on the Palestinian Issue on the Attachment of Young Diaspora Jews to Israel (% of Jewish Israelis)
Notwithstanding the tendency to assign responsibility to the world, a majority of the Israeli Jewish public (62%) is not satisfied with the government’s functioning in the realm of foreign relations and defines it as bad or very bad. (Since, in the not too distant past, we found that a majority were satisfied regarding the issue of the army and security, this should not be seen as an indication of an overwhelmingly critical position regarding the government’s functioning.) Only among voters for Shas and the National Union (61% and 83%, respectively) is there a majority that is satisfied. Even among Likud voters a higher rate are dissatisfied with the government’s functioning in foreign affairs (49%) than are satisfied (47%). However, regarding Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, there is almost a “negative consensus,” with only one-third of the entire Jewish public satisfied with his functioning. Nevertheless, the data show that among voters for his party his leadership is particularly stable, with 80% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters saying that he brings more benefit than harm to Israel.
Finally, regarding the government’s decision to allow 800 children of foreign workers to remain in Israel and to deport 400 children: As we mentioned, the prevailing opinion in the Jewish public as a whole is against the deportation altogether (46%). Beyond this, 30% are in favor of deporting all 1,200 children, and 16.5% support the government’s decision completely. In the Arab public, half (50%) oppose allowing 800 children to stay here – in other words, they would prefer that all 1,200 of the foreigners’ children be deported – while only 26% would want to see all 1,200 children remain in Israel. As the graph of the month shows, a segmentation of the Jewish public by degree of religiosity reveals sharp differences: among secular respondents, 58% want all the children to remain; among traditional respondents, 45% want all the children to remain; among the religious, 22% want all the children to remain; and among ultra-Orthodox respondents, only 7% want all the children to remain. A segmentation by voting in the latest Knesset elections shows especially strong support for keeping all the children in Israel among Meretz voters (75%), Kadima voters (71%), and Labor voters (69.5%), , while the greatest opposition is concentrated among Torah Judaism voters (70%) and Shas voters (65.5%).
The Negotiation Index for August 2010 is: 54.2; Jewish sample: 50.6.
The Peace Index project is conducted under the auspices of the Evens Program for Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. The survey was carried out by telephone on August 8-9 by the Dahaf Institute. The survey included 601 respondents, who constitute a representative sample of the adult population of Israel. The measurement error for a sample of this size is 4.5%. Statistical processing: Ms. Yasmin Alkalay. An overview of the Index was published in Yediot Aharonot on August 19, 2010.