Iran's Nuclear Programme and Peace With The Palestinians Don't Bother Israelis; What Does?
05:59 GMT 21.10.2021 (Updated: 10:26 GMT 30.01.2024)
The Israeli Voice Index, released earlier this month, reveals what the Israeli public cares about; surprisingly, neither the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor a potential Iranian threat, is on their radar.
In mid-June, when Naftali Bennett took over as Prime Minister, very few in Israel believed the coalition he had forged would actually hold.
That coalition is comprised of eight parties with conflicting ideologies and the priority was to stabilise Israel's political system, especially given the fact that the country has been stuck in a loop of elections for the past three years.
Now, as Bennett's coalition shows it has every chance to last, his priorities will be shifting.
COVID-19 as a Major Concern
The Israeli PM might be wise to hear out what the public cares about. According to the Israeli Voice Index for October, published by the Israel Democracy Institute, one third of Israelis (33 percent) asserts that the stabilisation of the economy is their primary concern.
Among Israeli Jews, this number is slightly higher, standing at 35 percent. The country's Arabs tend to be less preoccupied with the economy, with slightly more than 22 percent saying they care about the situation.
The economy has been a major headache in Israel since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020. Three lockdowns and various restrictions have affected local businesses, pushing hundreds of thousands into the ranks of the unemployed.
At the peak of the pandemic, Israel's unemployment rate stood at more than 25 percent. Although the situation is significantly better now, with only 8 percent of the population being unemployed, experts are worried that the government still lacks the tools to handle the situation.
Second in line after the economy in the Israeli Voice Index is the fighting of the pandemic itself. 24 percent of Israelis said the government should be focusing on the issue. Here too, a gap between Jews and Arabs was evident: 26 percent of Jews say it’s a top priority, versus only 14 percent of Arabs.
The way it stands now, Israel has nothing to worry about. Nearly 6 out of 9 million citizens have been vaccinated with two shots of the Pfizer vaccine. More than 3.8 million have received a booster shot.
The number of daily infections is gradually going down. Tuesday registered less than 1,500 new cases, compared to 10,000 daily infections that have been the reality of Israel in September.
Yet, Israeli experts have already warned that the crisis is far from over. On Tuesday, the first case of a sub-variant of the Delta strain was spotted in Israel, and it is not really clear whether it is more contagious or whether it is resilient to the vaccine.
In comparison to the coronavirus, other issues seem to be less burning. Despite the fact that crime is still raging in the Arab community, where 40 people have been murdered since the beginning of the year, only 20 percent of Israelis (13 percent of Jews and 53 percent of Arabs) thought the problem of criminal violence was the worst.
Containing Iran's nuclear programme, which has been presented as a threat to the Jewish state, was hailed as an issue only by 15 percent of Israelis (18 percent of Jews and 3.5 percent of Arabs).
Another issue that is not on the radar of the Israelis is the conflict with the Palestinians. This is true for both Jews and Arabs, with only 4 and 7 percent respectively saying that was a problem that should be addressed.
The last round of direct talks between Israelis and the Palestinians were held in 2014 but after their failure, the peace process was stalled.
Recently, there have been attempts to revive that process. Although Bennett would not meet the leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, he has already discussed the issue with a number of other important players. In July, he spoke to King Abdallah of Jordan and in September he met with President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
But the Israeli Voice Index shows that these efforts don’t bother the public that much.