Israel Isn’t as Polarized as You Might Think

Despite the Jewish state’s relatively good security, its favorable diplomatic condition, and its thriving economy, a recent study reports that two-thirds of Israelis rate their country’s situation as “so-so” or “bad.” Yedidia Stern connects some of this pessimism to the idea that extremism is growing on all sides: that ultra-Orthodox Jews are ferociously opposed to the army and to Israeli society in general, that religious Zionists are in the grip of uncompromising messianic fervor, that elected Arab politicians give cell phones to jailed terrorists, and that the post-Zionist left is poisoned by self-loathing. Although one can find evidence for each of these perceptions, Stern argues, they paint a wholly unrealistic picture. (Free registration may be required.)

[In fact, it] appears that the internal conversation in each sector is shifting toward the center and that the swirling centrifuges that push us apart are slowing down.

Ḥaredim are increasingly integrating into Israeli society. Nearly 50 percent of ḥaredi men and more than 75 percent of ḥaredi women have joined the workforce. Ḥaredim in their thousands are flocking to colleges and universities. While Ḥaredim still prefer social seclusion, do not serve in the military, and are far from internalizing liberal values, they are now involved in the making of national decisions, participate in the Zionist project, and are feeling the touch of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” which within a generation will raise this impoverished group to a middle-class income level. . . .

The typical positions of Israel’s Arab citizens regarding the state are different from the confrontational stance of their political leadership. According to [one survey], 55 percent of Israeli Arabs are proud to be Israeli. When asked which identity is most important to them, they mainly choose their religious (29 percent), Israeli (25 percent!), or Arab (24 percent) identity. Only one-eighth see “Palestinian” as most important. . . .

[Another] study found substantial overlap between the religious Zionist camp’s attitude toward democracy and that of the Israeli public as a whole. While religious Zionists are almost monolithically on the right, they display a plurality of views on questions of religion and state. Finally, the majority of the left is far from the unpatriotic stereotype attached to it. . . . [A]bout two-thirds report they are proud to be Israeli and four out of five feel part of the country and its problems. . . . [In short,] Israel is not what you think.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Haredim, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Israeli society


The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas