Israeli Jews are overwhelmingly rightwing and do not want Palestinians in their government as ministers or part of the governing coalition because they question Palestinian loyalty to the state, one of the country’s leading political scientists says. Benjamin Netanyahu has the inside track to remain prime minister because he supports the “Jewish identity” of the state, she says. And anyone who expects a liberal Zionist to gain power is deluded. The left is a “marginal” factor in the Israeli election in September.
The only thing Palestinians and Jews in Israel agree about is: The Trump peace plan is going nowhere.
Tamar Hermann of the Israel Democracy Institute spoke to the liberal Zionist group Israel Policy Forum last week, and reported on the latest surveys of Israeli public opinion.
By a whopping 39 to 24 percent, Prime Minister Netanyahu outpolls his nearest rival , Benny Gantz of Blue and White, as the best choice to be PM. The fact that their parties, Likud and Blue and White, are likely to get similar numbers of parliamentary seats doesn’t mean that the two leaders are standing “on equal footing,” Hermann says.
“Right now it seems that Likud will be more capable of being the so-called party of the next coalition” than Blue and White, Hermann says, because there are far more political resources on the right than center. Though Avigdor Lieberman/Yisrael Beteinu remain the x factor, having gained strength since Lieberman ended Netanyahu’s hopes of making a coalition after the April election.
Israeli Jews are overwhelmingly rightwing. In the 1990s, there were two electoral camps: left and right. Today the left is a “very small political bloc,” 12 percent of Israeli Jews, that cannot achieve anything politically. Hermann cautioned liberal outsiders to give up their “expectations” of the Israeli left to have real influence on policymaking or construction of next government. It won’t happen.
The people vote for the right “because it emphasizes the Jewish identity of the state,” Hermann says. They might support the economic policies of the left but don’t vote left because they don’t think the left respects the “Jewishness” of the state, because the left sides with Arabs.
Of course Palestinians are on the left, but the Jewish left and the Palestinian left are largely separate. They are divided by “the issue of Zionism,” Hermann says. “[The Palestinians] see themselves as on the left but they do not share the Zionist commitment of the Israeli Jewish left.” Zionism makes it “very, very difficult to create a Jewish Arab coalition” or even just a political alliance in which the Palestinians would serve as a “safety net” for a leftleaning coalition governing majority.
Palestinians need not apply to be part of any Israeli government. When it comes to the “desire of the Arabs to take part in strategic policy making discussions, the majority of the Jewish public says No,” Hermann says flatly. Liberals Americans should read this closely:
“We get over 60 percent time and again of Jews refusing to have the Arab parties be part of the [governing] coalition, and of having Arab ministers… The only resource that Jews are unwilling to share is actually political power over the decision-making processes in Israel… One fifth of the population is thought by the majority group as unqualified or as having no rights of taking part in the most critical political processes.”
(No wonder many American leftists see Zionism as racist.)
Palestinians think they can be part of the Palestinian nation and still be loyal citizens. But Jews question their loyalty. Hermann said that the 68 percent of the Jews in the poll below don’t think Palestinians can be part of the Palestinian nation and be loyal citizens. Palestinians overwhelmingly believe they can be both.
The Palestinians don’t like the 2018 nation state law, and increasingly do not think Israel has the right to define itself as the nation state of the Jewish people. And Hermann says that negativity feeds the desire of the Jewish majority to insist on making clear to Palestinians, it’s a Jewish state.
Israeli Jews and Palestinians live in utterly separate mental spheres. Most Israelis feel very good indeed about the country; it has more successes than failures. But of the 9 percent who believe it has more failures than successes are mainly Arabs, Hermann says. “To a significant extent some parts of the Israeli Arabs are actually detached from the mainstream Israeli discourse.”
Resolving the Palestinian conflict is seen as an important issue by only 7 percent of Israeli Jews. Security comes second to economic issues, Hermann says, because Jews regard the current security arrangements as “good” and approve the Israel Defense Forces’ handling of security matters. The Iran issue is not considered an immediate threat, and Palestinians are not thought of as “a real danger.”
A third intifada is not thought of as a realistic likelihood in the near future. Peace with Palestinians was “totally absent” in the last elections and lacking very dramatic events, it won’t lose its “very marginal place” in the Israeli elections. As for promoting equality in Israeli society– that means promoting equality within Israeli Jewish society, Hermann explained.
More on the segregation. Asked, Is Israel democratic for Arabs? a very strong majority of Jews say, yes, while Palestinian majority says No. Which only shows you that these two groups don’t see things from a similar perspective, Hermann says, and of course this is a reason that many Arabs don’t want to take any part in political life of Israel.
Here’s one thing they agree on. The Trump peace plan. “Almost everyone, Jews and Arabs, in Israel do not have almost any expectation that this would lead to peace.” The differences among political groups are minor.
Only 25 percent of religious Israeli Jews support a two-state solution, 11 percent of ultra-orthodox, 36 percent of traditional Israelis. A large majority– 68 percent– of Israeli seculars support a two-state solution, but only about a third of them think it is realistic. So even among that portion of Israel that supports two states, they don’t believe it’s going to happen. By age, the numbers are even crueler. Nearly 2/3 of Jews over 55 favor a two-state solution. But among 18-34 year olds the number is 32 percent.
Jews are increasingly identifying themselves as Jews rather than Israelis. Hermann says it’s especially true of religious young Jews participating in politics. Palestinian identity is chiefly as Arabs and Muslim/Christians, the polling shows. Only 9.5 percent see themselves as “Israelis.” Of course the nation state law “also had a negative effect on the willingness of the Israeli Arabs to participate in the elections.”