Creating a False Choice between Israel’s Jewishness and Its Democracy

A recent survey by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) finds a precipitous drop in the proportion of Israeli Jews who assign equal value to the state’s Jewish character and its democratic character. But the survey is deeply flawed, writes Evelyn Gordon, and not merely by methodological sloppiness: it has skewed the results to reflect an assumption now current on the Israeli left. Gordon explains:

The question asked was, “Israel is defined as both a Jewish and a democratic state. Which part of this definition is more important to you personally?” Thus, respondents weren’t given the option of “both equally”; they were instructed to choose either Jewish or democratic, and were recorded as valuing both traits equally only if they volunteered that view despite its not being listed. Had “both equally” been offered as an option, more people would certainly have chosen it.

Yet the question’s phrasing reflects a far broader problem. Like the IDI researchers, a growing swath of Israel’s Left increasingly insists that Israel can’t be both Jewish and democratic; it has to prioritize one or the other. . . .

[B]y demanding that people choose, the Left has destroyed the old consensus that viewed Israel’s Jewish and democratic values as mutually compatible and equally vital. Now, many Israelis have been convinced these values conflict, requiring one to be elevated above the other. And that creates a growing risk of all-out Kulturkampf between those who favor Israel’s Jewishness and those who favor its democracy.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Israeli democracy, Israeli left, Israeli politics

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