One of the most interesting phenomena regarding Israel’s security situation is how differently Israelis perceive it than many who live abroad.
A year ago, this writer was sent by a British newspaper to cover the Paul McCartney concert in Tel Aviv. The commissioning editor was not interested in the music or the performance. He just wanted a running update of how many people had pulled a gun at various points throughout the performance.
The contrast between this image of ultra-dangerous Israel and the country as its citizens perceive it is underscored by a new piece of research. Tel Aviv University’s monthly public opinion research project, the War and Peace Index, asked Israelis to describe the level of national security. Some 38% described it as high, 37% as medium, and just 22% as low.
The figures indicate that Israelis believe their country has become safer in the last two-and-a-half years. In April 2007 24.5% described national security as high, 36% as medium, and just 39% as low.
People also feel greater personal security than in April 2007. Back then, 42.5% rated their personal security as high, 42.5% as medium and 24% as low. In the new poll, the figures are 49%, 29% and 19% respectively.
Despite all the talk of a possible attack on Iran, some 48% of respondents to the poll see a low or very low chance in the next five years of an all-out attack on Israel by one or more Arab states. A large minority of 44% sees a high or very high chance of such an attack while 10% do not know.
If war does come, most Israelis believe they are in good hands. Asked about the Israeli army’s ability to cope with the military threats 85% rely or very much rely on it to defend the state of Israel and its citizens successfully in the event of an attack by Arab states.
Nevertheless, a large majority of Israelis, 72%, say that the need to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very urgent or moderately urgent, compared to only 24% who do not see it that way. People across the political spectrum take this view, with a surprisingly narrow discrepancy between different shades — 82% on the left, 79% in the center and 66% on the right.