Several polls show that a surprising coalition of Israelis oppose the Jewish Nation-State Law, or at least think it is unnecessary and harmful.
Those of us who are committed to equality of all citizens in Israel feel, once again, like specks drowning in a sea of chest-beating nationalists.
The passage of the Jewish Nation-State Law looks like another example of ethno-nationalist populism sweeping Israeli society. “Massive support from the right for Nation-State Law,” read a headline reporting on a survey from Walla! News this week; Haaretz commentator Yossi Verter declared:
“Public support for it extends beyond the borders of the right-wing camp… It sharpens the debate between right and left, and redraws the ‘us’ and the ‘them,’ the former being those who love the country and the latter, its denigrators.”
But a close reading of public opinion this week shows a more complex picture. From the government’s perspective, the best news is the Walla! News survey, conducted by Panels Politics, showing 58 percent support for the bill. That does look like a strong majority, and would justify Verter’s claim, since the self-identified right is only about 45 percent of Israeli society.
But the ideological breakdown also shows the opposite side of the coin: there is near-consensus on the right and the left in support or opposition, respectively, while center-identified respondents were split clear through – about half for (49 percent) and just under half against (45 percent). Of Joint List voters in the poll, 100 percent opposed the law.
With nearly half of the mainstream Israeli center camp against the bill, the opposition is not just a matter of isolated dissidents. The center is a key constituency and currently holds a combined total of 21 out of 120 seats in the Knesset – in other words, about 10 centrist seats oppose the law. Together with almost the whole left and Arab respondents, this is a substantial portion of society.
Does it re-define the left and right, as Verter claims? Yes, but not in the way he thinks. The ‘against’ camp can’t be smeared as a bunch of radical leftists as Netanyahu tried hard to do, rather, the center is legitimizing opposition to the bill.Read More