Does Iran pose an existential threat? Israeli Voice Index November 2021
62% of Israeli Jews think that Iran poses an existential threat and 58% would support an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities also without American consent
* This month too, as in most of the months since June 2021 when the Bennett-Lapid government took office, saw a kind of steadying of the balance between optimism about the future of democratic governance and optimism about national security. About half of the interviewees are optimistic, but most of them are voters for the coalition parties; among voters for the opposition parties the optimism is lower.
* The level of the public’s fears about health with the emergence of the Omicron variant rose, and currently about half – the highest rate since the beginning of the vaccination campaigns about a year ago – fear for their own or their family members’ health. As in the past, the fear among the Arab citizens of Israel is higher than among the Jews.
* On the question of vaccinating children aged 5-11, we found a majority, not large, that supports this measure. At the same time, in the age cohort of most of the parents of children of those ages (25-44), the support for vaccinating these children is the lowest of all the age groups.
* A majority sees the restrictions the government has imposed to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant as appropriate in their level of strictness. Only a minority views them as too strict and an even smaller minority considers them too mild.
* The proposal, which has been withdrawn for now, to have the Shabak track people who have tested positive for the Omicron variant was supported, at the time of the survey, by a majority of the interviewees.
* As for the proposed law to bar someone under indictment from serving as prime minister along with the proposal to restrict the prime minister’s term to eight years, we found in the entire sample, and also in a division into the three political camps, a higher rate (though of different sizes) supporting the proposals than opposing them.
* We also found that the rates of support or opposition to the first and the second proposal are quite similar, that is, the interviewees saw them as one entity (with the exception of Religious Zionism voters where the gap is large). The greatest opposition to the two proposals was found among voters for the Haredi parties. In Likud the opinions on them are divided.
* A certain majority of the public as a whole sees Iran as constituting a great existential danger to Israel. This majority is similar to the rate of those who thought so when we asked a similar question about half a year ago. The rate of Jews who see Iran as an existential danger is significantly higher than the rate among Arab citizens of Israel.
* Among the Jews a majority agrees that Israel should militarily attack Iran’s nuclear facilities even without American consent, compared to a majority among the Arabs who say the opposite. The disparity between the political camps (Jews) is very large: on the right a majority agrees that Israel should attack Iran even without US consent, in the center about half think so, and on the left only a minority takes that view.
The National Mood
This month we saw a certain rise in the rate of optimists about the future of Israeli democracy (from 35% in October to 45% in November), a similar finding to the preceding months since the formation of the new government. On the question of optimism about national security, we see a stabilization in recent months at about half the interviewees, a similar level to the one we measured in 2019 but clearly lower than what we measured from April 2020 to March 2021, perhaps because of the intensification of the international and local discourse about the talks with Iran.
Also evident since June 2021 – when the Bennett-Lapid government was instated – is a kind of steadying of the balance between optimism about the future of democratic governance and optimism about national security. A segmentation of the responses to these two questions by political camps (Jewish sample) gives the answer to a great extent: the levels of optimism or, alternatively, pessimism in the two spheres are closely, though not totally, related to voting for the coalition parties or to the opposition parties: the former are notably more optimistic than the latter.
Optimistic about the future of Israeli democracy and about the future of national security, April 2019─November 2021 (%, entire sample)
Fear of infection – Amid the outbreak of the Omicron variant and the fear of a fifth wave of infections, we repeated the question we asked in previous COVID-19 outbreaks about the interviewees’ fear that they themselves or members of their family would be infected with the virus. Despite the fact that the majority of the Israeli public has been vaccinated, half of the Israelis still fear infection. This is the highest level of fear we have measured since the vaccinations began almost a year ago.
Afraid that they or family members will be infected by COVID-19 (%, Jewish sample, Arab sample)
Among the Arabs the fear of infection is higher than among the Jews (61% vs. 48%). A segmentation by self-placement on the Haredi-secular spectrum shows that among the Haredim the fear of COVID-19 is the lowest (18%, compared to about half in the other groups on the Haredi-secular spectrum). As in past surveys, this time too we found in the entire sample that the young people (18-24) fear infection less than the older (65+) people (43% vs. 61%, respectively).
Vaccinating children – In November COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5-11 began in Israel, and the issue is fraught with controversy for the public even though most of the medical establishment asserts that vaccination is safe and desirable. We asked the interviewees whether, in their opinion, one should or should not vaccinate the children at these ages. We found that there is a majority of supporters of vaccinating children, without a significant difference between Jews and Arabs.
In your opinion, should or should not children aged 5-11 be vaccinated against COVID-19 as well? (%, entire sample)
We further found that men’s support for vaccinating children is higher than women’s support (61% vs. 51%). A segmentation of the groups on the Haredi-secular spectrum (Jews) shows that among all the groups, at least about half are in favor of vaccinating children, with the support being highest among the secular (65%). A segmentation of the sample by political camps reveals that the left’s support for vaccinating children is the highest (67%), after it the center (62%), while the right’s support is lower, though likewise among those who identified themselves with this camp a majority favors vaccination (52%).
An especially interesting finding, which reflects the public controversy, emerged from a segmentation of the interviewees of the entire sample by age: among the interviewees aged 25-44—an age group with, of course, a large number of parents of children at the relevant ages—fewer supported vaccinating children against COVID-19 than in the other groups.
Support vaccinating children against COVID-19 (%, entire sample, by age)
Imposing restrictions for the fight against Omicron? About two weeks before the Omicron virus came to Israel, the government drilled a scenario of a further outbreak of COVID-19. With the discovery of the new COVID-19 variant in Israel, it was decided to put this scenario in practice (at least three days’ quarantine and PCR tests for everyone returning from abroad, closing Ben-Gurion Airport to foreigners for two weeks, tightening the Green Pass rules, etc.). We found that at the time of the survey, a majority of the interviewees saw the restrictions imposed as appropriate (61%), with minorities saying they were too strict (17%) or too mild (13%).
A segmentation of the support for the restrictions revealed that it is related to voting in the most recent Knesset elections: among the voters for all the parties a majority regards the restrictions as appropriate, except for voters for the Haredi parties (Shas and Torah Judaism) and for Religious Zionism, of whom only about half see them that way.
The positions on the government’s measures to prevent the spread of Omicron (%, entire sample, by voting in the most recent elections)
Support for Shabak tracking – The government, led by the Health Ministry, made a proposal – which has already been withdrawn from the agenda – to restore Shabak tracking for people who have tested positive for the Omicron variant. At the time of the survey, discussions were still being held on the issue and most of the interviewees were in favor of resuming the tracking, with no disparity between Jews (62.5% support) and Arabs (63% support). Indeed, support for the Shabak surveillance in the Jewish sample was almost identical in the three political camps (61%-65%).
This week there was once again a proposal to use the Shabak’s phone surveillance for people who have tested positive for the new Omicron variant so as to prevent its spread. Do you support or oppose that measure? (%, entire sample)
A segmentation of the questions on fighting COVID-19 by the question of whether the interviewees are optimistic or pessimistic about the future of democratic governance in Israel—a kind of question about trust in the government that we repeat each month—turned up a strong relationship between these two sets of positions. In general, the optimists about the future of democracy express greater support for vaccinating children, for restrictions, and for tracking than do the pessimists.
Vaccinating children – Among the optimists about the future of Israeli democracy, a large majority supports vaccinating children (71%) compared to a minority of supporters among the pessimists (45%).
Restrictions – 72% of the optimists about the future of democratic governance think the restrictions the government decided on are appropriate, and only 14% that they are too strict. Among the pessimists, however, only half (52%) view the restrictions as appropriate and 21% see them as too strict.
Shabak tracking of carriers – Among the optimists about the future of Israeli democracy, 72% support the Shabak tracking of Omicron carriers. Among the pessimists, however, only 56% are in favor of it.
The Laws for Restricting the Prime Minister’s Tenure
The coalition, led by Justice Minister Gideon Saar, is currently pushing proposals for laws not infrequently referred to as “the Bibi laws” because many perceive them as pointed directly at former prime minister Netanyahu. The first proposal would bar anyone who is under indictment from serving as prime minister; the second would limit the prime minister’s term to eight years.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of the interviewees support the proposal that anyone under indictment for an offense punishable by at least three years in prison will not be able to serve as prime minister. In all three political camps (Jews) the rate of supporters of such legislation exceeds the rate of opponents, but the disparities between the camps on this issue are large: half of the right-wing camp supports the law (50%), compared to a large majority of the center (78%) and an overwhelming majority of the left (90%).
A similar rate (61.5%) supports a law for limiting the prime minister’s term to eight years; according to the proposal, the law will apply only to those who begin their tenure after it is passed and it will not apply retroactively (i.e., to former prime ministers). In this case, too, a majority favors the law in all three political camps (Jews), while again the gaps between the political camps are large: left—83%; center—76%; right—53%.
A segmentation of the answers to these two questions reveals that among voters for each of the parties in the most recent elections, the rate of support for the two proposals is quite similar—with the exception of Religious Zionism, where only a minority favors prohibiting someone under indictment from serving while a majority supports limiting the prime minister’s term to eight years.
Among those who voted for coalition parties, a large majority supports the law barring a person under a severe indictment from serving as prime minister as well as the law limiting the prime minister’s term to eight years. Among voters for the opposition parties (except voters for the Joint List, who also are supporters), however, only a minority is in favor of these two legislative proposals. Especially strong in their opposition are voters for the Haredi parties, Shas and Torah Judaism. Among Likud voters positions on the two proposed laws are divided: the rate of supporters for the law barring someone under indictment from running for prime minister (42%) is almost identical to the rate of opponents (44%), while 40% favor limiting the prime minister’s term and 49% oppose it.
Support the law barring someone under indictment for an offense punishable by three or more years in prison from serving as prime minister and support limiting the prime minister’s term to eight years (%, entire sample, by voting in the latest elections)
The Netanyahu Trial: Using a Legal Procedure for Political Purposes?
We asked whether at present, after hearing some of the witnesses, the interviewees think or do not think that the Netanyahu trial is an attempt to use a legal procedure for political purposes. The responses indicate different views on the issue: 42% agreed with this claim and 39% did not. An interesting finding is that a high rate (19%) had no clear opinion on the matter. No disparities were found between Jews and Arabs on this issue. Not surprisingly, though, large gaps were found between voters for the different parties: a large majority of voters for the opposition parties agree that the Netanyahu trial is an attempt to use a legal procedure for political purposes, while among voters for the coalition parties a large majority disagrees with that claim. Among the voters for the opposition, voters for Yisrael Beiteinu and Yamina stand out because half of them do agree with the claim. Also worth noting is the large disparity between the two representatives of the Arab public: whereas a large majority of Ra’am voters (73%) did not agree that the Netanyahu trial is a use of a legal procedure for political purposes, among Joint List voters the opinions are divided, with a slight tilt toward agreeing with that claim.
Is the Netanyahu trial an attempt to use a legal procedure for political purposes? (%, entire sample, by voting in the most recent elections)
The Iranian Question
Is Iran an existential danger? Amid the events in the international arena and the talks in Vienna, as well as the disagreements between the US administration and the Israeli government on what should be done to prevent Iran from reaching a full nuclear capability, this month we repeated the question we asked at the beginning of the year: “To what extent, in your opinion, does Iran now constitute an existential danger to Israel?” A certain majority (54%) of the entire sample considers that Iran is an existential danger to Israel, about a quarter view it is a medium danger, and only a minority (13%) see it as posing only a small danger. A comparison of the responses this time to those we obtained to a similar question that was asked, as mentioned, at the beginning of 2021 reveals that the heated debate being waged at present has not substantially changed the Israeli public’s mind: there is only a negligible increase in the rate of those assessing the danger from Iran as high and a negligible decrease in the rate of those regarding it as low.
To what extent, in your opinion, does Iran now constitute an existential danger to Israel? (%, entire sample)
On this issue we found a large gap in assessment of the danger posed by Iran between the Jewish and the Arab interviewees: whereas a large majority (61%) of the Jews think Iran constitutes an existential danger to Israel to a large or very large extent, only a minority (19%) of the Arabs think so. A segmentation of the Jewish sample by political camp shows that on the left, the highest rate (40%) regards the existential danger to Israel from Iran as medium; in the center and on the right, a majority views the existential danger as large (57% and 69%, respectively).
An attack on Iran without US support – We went on to ask: “Do you agree or disagree with the view that Israel should militarily attack Iran’s nuclear facilities even without American consent?” Although a high rate did not know how to answer the question (18% of the entire sample), a small majority (51%), again exactly as in February 2021, agreed that Israel could attack Iran even without a “green light” from Washington and only less than a third (31%) thought the opposite. Note that, again, we found a large gap between Jews and Arabs: a clear majority of the former (58%) agreed that Israel should attack without American consent compared to only 18% of the latter.
On this question, too, the gaps between the political camps (Jews) are very large: on the right the majority agreed that Israel should attack Iran even without US agreement, in the center about half thought so, while on the left only a little more than a third took that position.
Agree with the view that Israel should militarily attack Iran’s nuclear facilities even without American consent (%, Jews, by political camp)
The Israeli Voice Index for November 2021 was prepared by the Viterbi Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute. In the survey, which was conducted on the internet and by telephone (supplements of groups that are not sufficiently represented on the network) from November 29 to December 1, 2021, 614 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 150 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population of Israel aged 18 and older. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample was 3.59%± at a confidence level of 95%. The fieldwork was done by the Midgam Institute. For the full data file see: Data Israel.