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2017 Annual Assessment

A complementary perspective on Israelis abroad can be gained by examining the attitudes of the Israeli public toward them. To this end, we present findings from a survey on Israelis attitudes on pluralism conducted in the winter of 2017 by JPPI in the framework of its broader pluralism project. We focus on three major aspects: attachment to Israelis who live abroad, assessment of the contribution(s) of Israelis abroad to the State of Israel, and granting Israelis abroad the right to vote in the Israeli elections.

One of every ten Israelis feels attached to Israelis abroad, another 25 percent feel somewhat attached, and the remaining 65 percent feel no attachment at all (Table 5.1). Attachment to Israelis abroad varies by religious identity. Ultra-Orthodox are the most strongly attached while Modern religious Jews express the weakest attachment to Israelis abroad. This can be interpreted vis-à-vis the Zionist orientations of these two groups in Israel: weak among the Ultra-Orthodox and very strong among the religious. Accordingly, sympathy toward those who choose to leave the country and settle elsewhere is inversely proportional to Zionist orientation. Likewise, it is possible that the Ultra-Orthodox take an inclusive and embracing approach to any Jew regardless of his or her specific characteristics, such as place of residence. We may further speculate that the Ultra-Orthodox denominations, especially Chabad, have emissaries abroad, hence they may be thinking of them when asked about their attachment to Israelis abroad.

Attachment to Israelis abroad also depends on political orientation: those who define themselves on the right side of the political spectrum exhibit stronger attachment to Israelis abroad as compared to those on the left of the Israeli political continuum (12.4 and 5.5 percent respectively).24

Table 5.1: Attachment of Israelis to Their Israeli Peers Abroad (Percentages)
Attached Somewhat Attached Not at All
9.8 25.4 64.7
Religious Identity Secular 7.5 22.0 70.5
Traditional 12.3 27.3 60.4
Religious 8.8 12.8 78.4
Haredi 20.6 59.8 19.6
Political Orientation Left 5.5 20.6 73.9
Center 8.3 29.9 61.9
Right 12.4 25.0 62.6

The majority of Israelis (58.2 percent) hold the view that Israelis abroad make a positive or somewhat positive contribution to the State of Israel (Table 5.2). Among all sectors of the Israeli Jewish population i.e., secular, traditional, religious, and the Ultra-Orthodox – more than half perceive the contribution of Israelis abroad to the state as positive or somewhat positive. However, somewhat surprisingly, religious Jews have the strongest appreciation while the Ultra-Orthodox have the lowest appreciation, perhaps reflecting their general anti-Zionist stand. In any event, there is a wide consensus among Israelis of different political camps regarding the extent of the contribution of Israelis abroad to the State of Israel, with very small variations between left and right.

Table 5.2: Attitudes Regarding the Contribution of Israelis Abroad to the State of Israel Percentages)
Negative Somewhat Negative Somewhat Positive Positive
14.6 27.1 39.8 18.4
Religious Identity Secular 14.8 25.9 41.5 17.7
Traditional 9.3 33.1 39.0 18.6
Religious 13.0 23.5 40.9 22.6
Haredi 25.0 25.0 31.8 18.2
Political Orientation Left 14.8 22.7 44.5 18.0
Center 12.7 26.3 42.4 18.6
Right 14.7 27.8 39.2 18.3

Despite the positive appreciation of the contribution of Israelis abroad to the country, less than one-third of the Jewish population in Israel favors granting them voting rights in Knesset elections; a clear majority of 61.4 percent oppose this, and 10 percent have no opinion on the matter (Table 5.3). The distribution of attitudes among the secular sector pretty much resembles that of the general national profile. Among traditional Jews, the proportion in support of granting voting rights to Israelis abroad is slightly higher than the national average, but the proportion is slightly lower among the religious and the Ultra-Orthodox. It is possible that the differences between secular and traditional on one hand, and religious on the other reflect a (correct) perception that most Israelis abroad are secular and traditional, and hence could increase the electorate of the non-religious and non-Ultra-Orthodox parties. Yet, when taken as a practical “political” consideration, i.e. the possibility of strengthening the weight of the Jewish electorate (vs. the non-Jewish electorate), and given the assumption that Israelis abroad lean toward the political center or even right, a higher proportion of Israelis on the right, compared to those on the left, support allowing Israelis abroad to participate in elections (30.6 and 26.7 percent respectively).

Table 5.1: Attachment of Israelis to Their Israeli Peers Abroad (Percentages)
Favor Oppose Don’t Know
29.0 61.4 9.7
Religious Identity Secular 28.9 60.7 10.3
Traditional 33.7 56.7 9.6
Religious 25.6 67.2 7.2
Haredi 27.4 62.7 9.8
Political Orientation Left 26.7 65.5 7.9
Center 27.3 63.7 9.0
Right 30.6 58.8 10.6

Finally, it should be noted that data not presented here attest to a strong and consistent relationships between the three attitudes toward attachment, contribution, and voting rights. The stronger the attachment to Israelis abroad, the greater the appreciation for their contribution(s) to the State of Israel and the stronger the support of granting Israelis abroad voting rights in Knesset elections.