A new survey conducted by the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies Mitvim has revealed that the Israeli public has a dissimilar perspective on foreign policy, normalization with the Arab world, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict compared to the approach of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
The survey showed significant gaps between public opinions and the Israeli government’s objectives, actions, and visions in the field of foreign relations. It suggests that the international community and the Israeli public perceive Netanyahu’s government as having reached “the lowest levels of Israel’s foreign policy in the last decade.”
The results of the survey come at a time when Netanyahu’s government is emphasizing the popular mandate it received in the recent Knesset Parliament elections as a justification for making long-term changes, not only in judicial reforms but also in the issue of strengthening the right-wing approach in diplomacy and foreign policies.
The survey was based on a representative sample of 800 adult Israeli residents, including Jews and Arabs, men and women.
Its questions covered the consequences of the extremist right-wing government’s policies on Israel’s foreign relations, especially regarding judicial reforms and its policy in the occupied West Bank. It also touched on the future of Israel’s normalization with the Arab world, particularly Saudi Arabia, and the potential for promoting ‘Israeli-Palestinian peace.’
The survey also addressed the Israeli public stance on Netanyahu’s government’s approach in dealing with Iran and its progress towards building military nuclear, dealing with climate change issues, promoting Israel’s policy in Lebanon, the Ukraine conflict, and the increasingly Chinese intervention in the Middle East.
The main results, in addition, showed that the Israeli public is dissatisfied with the Israeli government’s foreign policy, with a rate of 4.82 out of 10. Approximately, a quarter of the participants rated the government’s performance 1%, which is the lowest possible rating. This represents a significant decline compared to 2022 when the government’s performance was rated at 5.53, the lowest in the past seven years.
Regarding Israel’s standing in the world, the public rated it 5.03%, which shows a decrease from the previous year’s rating of 5.85. This is also the lowest rating in the past seven years.
In addition, 18% of respondents described the situation in ‘Israel’ as “good.”
In terms of Israel-American relations, the public rated it 5.3 out of 10, which shows a sharp decline from 2022 when it reached 6.85. This is also the lowest rating in the past eight years.
While the Israeli government is attempting to separate normalization from the Palestinian issue as much as possible, 61% of the Israeli public encouraged utilizing normalization with the Arab world to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, while 41% of them supported halting settlement construction and evacuating settlement outposts in favour of expediating normalization.
43% of the Israeli public believed that the Palestinian Authority serves Israeli interests, while only 13% believed that its presence contradicts Israeli benefits.
45% of the public is also influenced by international criticisms of judicial reforms in shaping their views on the matter, compared to 40% of others who indicated that international criticism is minimal or negligible.
Related to the most important state for ‘Israel’ besides the United States, Russia has lost its leading position that was crucial in previous years in favour of Germany. The countries are ranked in a similar order to previous years, in descending order of importance, which are Britain, China, Egypt, and France.
Regarding Israel’s dealing with the Iranian nuclear project, 49% of the Israeli public preferred the diplomatic path as the primary means to curb Iran’s nuclear efforts, while 25% of respondents supported military attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
According to Joel Morsiano, an expert in Israeli security and foreign policies and the CEO of the Metvim Institute, the survey results approved that “there are gaps in positions regarding various issues between the Israeli public and the Netanyahu government. This contradicts with Netanyahu’s justifications of being based on the public mandate it had received in the recent Knesset elections.”
He explained to Al-Jazeera that these gaps are not confined to internal affairs, the judicial reforms, and the promotion of the far-right within the government. They are also evident in Netanyahu’s regional policies, normalization efforts, dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue, and relations with the United States.
These gaps, as he argued, reflect the Israeli public’s dissatisfaction with Netanyahu’s policies in all matters related to ending the Israel-Palestine conflict, asserting Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, expanding the settlement project, implementing a two-state solution, dealing with right-wing elements opposing liberalism in the world, and questioning the effectiveness of normalization and promoting it as an achievement.
The Israeli political analyst, Akiva Eldar, supposed that the survey results underpin the fact that the Netanyahu far-right government is a “political minority government” whose foreign policy lines are in conflict with the majority of the Israeli public in terms of the domestic, and regional, and global issues. This reflects the internal crises that strike ‘Israel’ and the Netanyahu government’s attempt to export them and divert attention through promoting normalization.
Eldar told Al-Jazeera that Netanyahu has used his government’s foreign policies as achievements to overcome domestic crises and the opposition’s rising power. Nevertheless, with his ongoing trial on corruption and breach of trust charges, Netanyahu is betting on utilizing foreign relations as a keystone to grant his government international legitimacy.
Eldar underscored that Netanyahu has so far failed to obtain international legitimacy for his government, as several ministers are not welcomed and met with boycotts on the international stage. His government, furthermore, has committed significant diplomatic blunders, such as in the Libyan issue.
The international community’s “unusual” treatment of Netanyahu’s government implies that this government is not normal at all. Netanyahu, who sought international legitimacy to support his government’s domestic stability, has ended up backfiring. The Israeli public now fears that the government’s extremist thoughts may have a negative impact on Israel’s future and its existence as a Jewish state, Elder added.