Contrary to much of what was written about Israel during Operation Protective Edge, it seems that within the Jewish communities there is a widespread understanding of Israel’s effort to avoid harming innocent civilians during wartime. It is important to understand that the Dialogue participants do not necessarily fully represent the entire spectrum of views within the Jewish community. Participants generally share an avid interest in Israel and feel committed to their connection with Israel. Still, the discussion seminars had a significant representation of those expressing criticism, often-harsh criticism, of Israeli policy across many fields.
This criticism, usually, did not cast doubt on Israel’s attempt to avoid civilian casualties, nor on its attempt to uphold moral values during battle. Most participants agreed that Israel follows ethical combat policies.9 Many asserted that the IDF is “more moral than other armies in the world,”10 and agreed with the statement, “Israel made every effort to avoid civilian casualties in the last summer’s armed conflict in Gaza.”11
Nonetheless, there was an apparent gap between seminar participants over age 30, and younger participants on this issue. When survey results were sorted by age cohort, it turned out that younger Jewish respondents tended to think the IDF “made every effort to avoid civilian casualties in last summer’s war in Gaza,” to a much lesser extent than their older counterparts. Almost one-fifth of younger survey respondents did not agree with the statement, while only a tiny percentage of older respondents felt similarly.
Even among those who agreed that Israel upholds a high moral standard during war, significant gaps were apparent in the discussion groups about whether Israel’s policy leading to the war was worthy of similar support.
The survey found that many Jews do not accept the assertion that “The current Israeli government is making a sincere effort to bring about a peace settlement with the Palestinians.” Similarly, many participants believed that “the question of whether Israel is moral is dependent on the process with the Palestinians,” and this holds a sign of warning that some of them will not accept Israel’s actions during war as legitimate if they continue to suspect that Israel is not making a sincere effort to bring about a peace settlement.12 For this question there was, once again, a significant division between younger and older participants. An example of this was apparent in the difficulty younger participants had in firmly disagreeing with the statement, “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank makes all of its armed conflicts against Palestinian groups immoral.”