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The Peace Index:
Date Published: 07/02/2018
Survey dates: 30/01/2018 - 31/01/2018

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Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann

The Peace Index column for January focuses on two domestic matters that have been at the heart of the public discourse for weeks. One is the issue of the asylum seekers; the other is the question of opening businesses and services on Shabbat, which is part of the bedrock debate on the role of religion in the society and the state. This month’s index will also look at an issue that is not only domestic: U.S. president Donald Trump’s approach to Israel and the Palestinians and his declarations on the subject of Jerusalem.

The asylum seekers: Against the backdrop of the heated public debate and the competing pressures that certain sectors, professional groups, and others have been exerting for and against expelling the asylum seekers from the country, we asked the interviewees’ opinion on the claim that Israel - as the state of the Jewish people, which suffered from violence and persecution and sought refuge in various countries over the course of history - should show greater generosity than other peoples and allow the asylum seekers to remain in the country. The opinion that emerged in the Jewish interviewees’ responses was quite pronounced: a majority (60%) disagreed with that claim. A segmentation of the responses to this question by political camps revealed large gaps between the right, where only about one-fourth of the respondents agreed with the claim, the center, where 42% agreed with it, and the left, where a large majority (78%) agreed that Israel as the state of the Jewish people, which was historically persecuted, has a higher obligation toward asylum seekers. As the diagram below shows, on this question there is no systematic gradation between the different groups along the religiosity spectrum. Of all the groups, rejection of the claim is highest among the religious traditional. As for the Arabs, a majority (58%) agreed with the claim about Israel’s special responsibility, perhaps because at some level they make an association between Israel’s moral responsibility toward the asylum seekers and its responsibility, of course even greater, on the issue of the Palestinian refugees.
Similarly but even more emphatically, more than two-thirds (69%) of the Jewish public supports the government’s decision that the asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan will have to leave Israel within a short time, also approving of the government’s announcement that it has reached agreements with African countries that are prepared to absorb them. Most of the support for the government’s decision is concentrated among a large majority (78%) on the right. In the center and on the left, however, only a minority supports the decision (35% and 26% respectively). In other words, a majority of the Jewish public, and particularly the political right, does not concur with the voices of protest or draw the same lesson from Jewish history, instead taking a distant stance toward the asylum seekers. In the Arab public, about one-half support the government’s decision while 37% oppose it. That support can perhaps be understood in terms of the economic competition that the asylum seekers constitute for the Arab workers in certain professions.

Opening businesses on Shabbat: Against the backdrop of the ongoing struggles over the nature of Shabbat in Israel, and the move by Interior Minister Deri to tighten enforcement among the local authorities via the “convenience-stores law,” we gauged where the Jewish public stands on this question. We presented the interviewees with a list of seven kinds of businesses and requested that, for each one of them, they indicate the extent to which they support or oppose its being open on Shabbat. The responses we obtained show that, for six out of the seven types of businesses, a majority of the public prefers them to be open on Shabbat. At the top of the ladder of support for being open on Shabbat are cafes (68.5%) and cinemas (68%). Slightly behind them are public transportation (64%) and convenience stores and private health clinics (61%). A smaller majority also favors opening supermarkets on Shabbat (56.5%). The only category that a small minority (52%) opposes being open on Shabbat is that of garages. The table below presents a segmentation of the preferences on this issue by degree of religiosity. Clearly, the large disparity in preferences on this issue is between the secular and the nonreligious traditional on the one hand, and the religious traditional, religious, and haredim on the other.
The extent of support for opening businesses on Shabbat, divided by religiosity (%, Support, only Jews)

Secular % Non-religious traditional % Religious traditional % Religious % Haredim %
Cafes 97 82 30 18 5
Cinemas 94 78 47 29 5
Public transportation 91 76 25 23 2
Convenience stores 91 70 24.5 14.5 2
Private health clinics 67 61 52 29.5 14
Supermarkets 89 61 21 5 0
Garages 63 51 13 13 2

Devoting themselves to Torah study? We sought responses to the claim that the study of Torah by haredi young people protects Israel no less than the military service of non-haredi young people. A majority of the Jewish public (70%) disagrees with that claim. A segmentation by religiosity again reveals the divide: on one side, only a minority of the secular and the nonreligious traditional agree with it (4% and 8% respectively), whereas the rates of the religious traditional, religious, and haredim who agree with it are 45%, 54%, and 98% respectively.

Haredim in the government: Only a minority of the Jewish public (27%) prefers a government that includes the haredi parties, while the majority (53%) prefers a government without them. Again, and not surprisingly, we found a close correspondence to the ladder of religiosity. The rates of those wanting a government with the haredi parties were: 5% of the secular, 21% of the nonreligious traditional, 53% of the religious traditional, 60% of the religious, and 81% of the haredim.

Statements by rabbis against military service by women and against the chief of staff: A majority of the Jewish public (61%) supports Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s denunciation of the statements by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner opposing military service by women. As expected, the gaps according to religiosity are very large: 79% of the secular support Liberman’s denunciation, 71.5% of the traditional non-religious, and only 38% of the religious traditional, 30% of the religious, while among the haredim the rate was close to zero - 2%. A similar pattern of responses emerged regarding the defense minister’s harsh denunciation of the call by the rabbi of Safed for the resignation of Chief of Staff Eizenkot: a majority (57%) of the Jewish public as a whole approved of the denunciation. Segmentation by religiosity revealed a similar distribution to the one that emerged on the previous question.

The United States and Israel: A large majority of the Jewish public (70%) views the United States’ position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ways to resolve it as pro-Israeli. Sixteen percent see it as neutral and a negligible minority (4%) regards it as pro-Palestinian. This distribution of responses is completely different from what our measurements yielded during President Obama’s tenure. For example, when the same question was asked in May 2011, only 14% responded that the then-president’s policy was more pro-Israeli, 31% answered that it was more pro-Palestinian, and 46% replied that it was neutral. By the time Obama’s tenure drew to a close at the end of 2016, 57% of the Jewish public viewed his policy as more pro-Palestinian. As for the Arab public, there is almost unanimity (83%) that Trump’s policy is more pro-Israeli.

Transferring the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem: About two-thirds of the Jewish public (65%) considers that, from Israel’s standpoint, it is very or moderately important that the United States should transfer its embassy to Jerusalem within a short time, as President Trump has declared. Moreover, a majority, though smaller (55%), also believes that the avowal by U.S. vice-president Mike Pence, during his speech to the Knesset, on the embassy being moved to Jerusalem by the end of 2019 will be fulfilled.

Netanyahu’s contribution to improving Israel’s status in the international arena: Half of the Jewish public sees Netanyahu’s efforts as having contributed to the improvement of Israel’s status while 43% take the opposite view. The distribution of opinions differs, of course, across the three political camps: on the right a majority of 60% positively assesses Netanyahu’s efforts, in the center about a third, and on the left only 15%.

Negotiations Index: 42.0 (Jews 41.4)

Diagram of the month: “Israel as the state of the Jewish people, who suffered from violence and persecution throughout history and sought refuge in various countries, must show greater generosity than other peoples and allow the asylum seekers to remain in the country.” (% of those agreeing, Jews, by religiosity)
Diagram of the month: “Israel as the state of the Jewish people, who suffered from violence and persecution throughout history and sought refuge in various countries, must show greater generosity than other peoples and allow the asylum seekers to remain in the country.” (% of those agreeing, Jews, by religiosity)

The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. This month's survey was conducted by telephone and Internet on January 30-31, 2018, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 600 respondents- 500 Jews and 100 Arabs - who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population of Israel aged 18 and over. The maximum measurement error for the entire sample is ±4.1% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical analyses were done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.

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