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Israelis are frustrated and pessimistic about the future of their state

May 17, 2024 at 8:55 am

Hundreds of Israelis demonstrated Saturday in Rehovot near Tel Aviv to demand the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip on May 4, 2024 [İbrahim Hamad/Anadolu Agency]

Israelis are getting more pessimistic about the future of their state, mainly due to the deteriorating security situation, as well as the large gap between secularists and religious groups. According to polls and surveys, Israelis have become more pessimistic than they used to be. The question is why? Why do Israelis feel pessimistic, albeit to varying degrees, about the future of their state, and why do they worry about future expectations?

The ongoing aggression against Gaza, along with other factors, affects the general level of optimism and pessimism about the future for Israelis. Compared to data collected less than six months ago, there is a noticeable decline in the level of optimism – from 48 per cent to 37 per cent of the Israeli public – regarding the future of the state while the percentage of those who are pessimistic about its future increased from 21 per cent to 30 per cent.

At the same time, the Israeli public has begun to lose confidence in the state’s ability to win the ongoing war on Gaza, even though they believe that it is an important, and perhaps even existential, war. However, the loss of confidence in the ability to win is necessarily reflected in the pessimistic outlook for the future.

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Though last January 74 per cent of Israelis expressed an optimistic outlook for the future, that level dropped this month to 62 per cent. The general trend is going toward a decline, meaning more Israelis have become pessimistic. There are large gaps between the different population groups. There are variations according to national affiliation of whether they are Jews or Arabs; whether they belong to the right, centre or left; and if they are religious, secular or traditional. These gaps are of concern to the state itself because they may be an expression of a different reading of reality, which will also lead to different political prescriptions.

In general, the natural results of these polls mean that the Israeli pessimists may want to change the shape of the state, otherwise the future will be bad and bitter. As for the position of the optimists, it is more complex, because they want to continue with the current policy, assuming that it does not lead to an abyss.

Gaps appear to be wider between secular and religious Israelis, because these groups have the most obvious differences based on how religious they are. The traditionalists are less optimistic than the religious, but more optimistic than the secularists, and the ultra-religious are less optimistic than the religious, but more optimistic than the secularists. We can see a remarkable conclusion here, which is that religious people are more optimistic about the future of the state, at 44 per cent, while secularists’ optimism is about 14 per cent, which means that there’s a large gap of nearly 30 per cent.

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If the soldiers who are fighting the battle in Gaza and the north to “ensure the security” of the state do not believe that their state has a good future, they may question why they are going into battle in the first place. Also, if entrepreneurs looking for investments in the state believe that its future will not bring them profits, because it is going through confusion and decline, they will invest elsewhere.

Politically based conclusions can be drawn from these polls about Israelis’ views of the present and the future. At the present time, their mood seems somewhat low, because their prevailing conviction is that the state is experiencing continuous crises that result in a negative reality. But what is most troubling to the Israelis is the apparent downward trend, indicating that the country does not have a good future, and will find it difficult to mobilise its citizens, attract investment and growth and maintain its elites.

At the same time, what confirms this pessimistic review of the occupation’s situation is that its right-wing government does not present any vision for the future and has no real plan for the next day in Gaza. Meanwhile many government ministers are guided by messianic visions, which puts the entire country in a state of existential danger, under the ruling chorus of the current leadership led by Benjamin Netanyahu, which is taking the country towards a more dangerous situation.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.