JPPI Israeli Society Index

Israeli Society Index – February 2024: Defeating Hamas More Important than Returning the Hostages

The Jewish People Policy Institute’s (JPPI) monthly Israeli Society Index for February shows that the Israeli public would clearly prioritize toppling Hamas over returning the hostages, should Israel’s leaders be faced with such a stark choice.

The question posed was hypothetical and not indicative of a preference regarding the current state of affairs, or the Israeli public’s view of any specific deal. Nevertheless, in a situation where the two goals conflict, there is a meaningful disparity between them. Out of the whole population, 40% chose overthrowing Hamas, compared with 32% who chose returning the hostages; among Israeli Jews the gap was nearly double between those who prioritize defeating Hamas (47%) and those who prioritize returning the hostages (25%). Among Israeli Arabs, a majority (61%) prefer the option of returning the hostages.

The question posed in the survey was: “Let’s assume Israel’s leaders reach the conclusion that they only have the two following options, which do you think should be chosen?” The two options were: “The hostages are returned, and Hamas remains in control of Gaza,” and “The hostages are not returned, and Hamas loses control of Gaza.” (There was also a third option, “Can’t answer,” which a sizable share of respondents, 28%, selected).

Prof. Yedidia Stern, JPPI’s President, said of the findings: “Mutual guarantee is a central Israeli ethos, and we are proud of that. The daring military operation in Rafah to free hostages, at a huge risk to the soldiers involved, proved this again, and powerfully. However, this does not mean that the public believes that “everything” should be done to return the captives. The JPPI Index examined public attitudes regarding a hypothetical situation we hope will never materialize: If it is not possible to achieve the two goals of the war – returning the hostages and ousting Hamas from power – and Israel is forced to choose between them, what is the proper choice?  It turns out that the majority of the public prioritizes overall national security considerations above everything else.”

JPPI’s Israeli Society Index also found an additional decline in public confidence that Israel will win the war. Essentially, the share of Jews in February who expressed high levels of confidence in victory (rated at 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5) was only slightly more than half, a drop of twenty percentage points compared to October 2023. Among Israeli Arabs, the share that believes  Israel will achieve victory is substantially lower. About a quarter (28%) rated their confidence of Israeli victory as high; 44% rated it as low (1 or 2 out of five).

Further Key Findings:

A large majority of the Israeli public supports going to early elections. Only 30% support holding elections in 2026, as scheduled. 36% support elections within the next three months.

Declining trust in the IDF command echelon. January data indicated a slight drop, while February data show a further decline. Trust in IDF commanders is higher among opposition supporters (83%) than among coalition supporters (57%).

Highly significant rise over previous years in the share of Israeli Arabs who feel that many or most Israeli Jews are “politically extremist” (62%)

A third of Israelis are “very worried” about the social situation (36%), while nearly half (45%) are “somewhat worried” by the social situation.

Jews expressed highly positive feelings toward IDF soldiers, the Druze sector, and Diaspora Jews, but have  highly negative feelings about Muslim Arabs in Israel.

Among Jews, 44% expressed negative feelings toward the ultra-Orthodox (Haredim). Among the secular, the predominant sentiment with regard to Haredim, settlers, and the National Religious is “anger.”

A sizable share (nearly a quarter) of Masorti (traditionalist), Datiim (religious) and ultra-Orthodox Jews expressed feelings of “anger” and “hatred” toward “Tel Avivim” (secular, liberal residents of Tel Aviv).

For the entire report click here.

Data collection for the JPPI survey was conducted by the TheMadad.com (about 700 Jewish respondents in an online survey), and the Afkar research company (about 200 Israeli-Arab respondents, half surveyed online and half by telephone).  The margin of error is ±4.3%.  The data was analyzed and weighted by Prof. Camil Fuchs to achieve a representative sample of Israel’s adult population, with further analysis by JPPI’s Shmuel Rosner and Noah Slepkov.

For further information and interviews contact Laura Kam, laura@kamgs.com, +972-54-806-8613.