Nearly half of Israeli Jews believe that Palestinians with Israeli citizenship should be "expelled or transferred" from Israel, according to an authoritative survey published Tuesday.
The Pew Research Center said its survey found evidence of "deep divisions -- not only between Israeli Jews and the country's Arab minority, but also among the religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry."
The US fact tank based its findings on 5,601 face-to-face interviews with Israelis conducted between October 2014 and May 2015 -- before the most recent surge in violence began late last year.
The survey found that 48 percent of Israeli Jews agree -- including 21 percent strongly -- that Palestinian citizens of Israel ought to be expelled or transferred from Israel.
Only 46 percent of Israeli Jews disagreed with the position, among them only 17 percent expressing strong opposition.
The research center found that religious Israeli Jews were more likely to favor the expulsion of Palestinians -- including 71 percent of modern Orthodox Jews -- whereas a majority of self-described secular Israeli Jews were opposed to the idea.
However, even among secular Jews, more than a third, or 36 percent, backed the position, which would be illegal under international law.
Among Israel's settler population -- those living in Jewish-only settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory -- 47 percent believe Palestinians ought to be expelled or transferred, with 27 percent strongly backing the position.
However, it was not clear from the survey whether the settlers understood Israel to include the occupied Palestinian territory, where they live in violation of international law. Separately, the survey found that 65 percent of settlers believe the settlements "help Israel’s security."
'Toxic' political discourse
"This reflects a trend we have seen in the last 10 to 15 years," said Thabet Abu Ras, co-director at the Abraham Fund, which works to promote coexistence among Israel's Jewish and Palestinian citizens. "The political discourse is becoming toxic."
He said the survey was a reflection of an Israeli government that, rather than taking action against racism, had actively encouraged it, "using incitement for political gain."
He said the "overwhelming majority" of Palestinian citizens of Israel wanted to be better integrated into the Israeli state, but in recent years, the situation had only gone from bad to worse. "We, the Arab citizens, are very worried," he said.
The Pew Research Center's findings revealed other markers of deep divisions across Israeli society, with an overwhelming 79 percent of Israeli Jews agreeing that "Jews deserve preferential treatment in Israel," and 85 percent of West Bank settlers taking that position.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a similar proportion of Palestinian citizens of Israel, 79 percent, believe "there is a lot of discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims," even when 74 percent of Israeli Jews said they did not see much discrimination.
The survey found that while a majority of Israel Jews, 76 percent, believe Israel can be both a democracy and a Jewish state, 64 percent of Palestinians, including Muslims, Christians and Druze, believe a Jewish state is "incompatible with the principles of democracy."
In yet another striking divergence of opinions, only 20 percent of Palestinians believe the Israeli government "is genuinely pursuing peace" in the occupied territory, while only 10 percent of Israeli Jews believe the "Palestinian leadership is sincerely seeking a peaceful settlement."
The survey also found significant divisions among Israeli Jews, with ultra-Orthodox Jews overwhelmingly believing that Jewish law ought to take precedence over democratic principles, while secular Jews believed democratic ideals should take priority.
The survey -- based on extensive interviews with 3,789 Jews, 871 Muslims, 468 Christians and 439 Druze -- was the latest evidence to emerge of a deeply fragmented nation, where positions have only hardened since a surge of violence in October last year.
"The solution is government action against racism," said Abu Ras, calling specifically for more inclusive messages and an emphasis on equality. "This is not what we are seeing."
By Killian Redden
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