In a turbulent Israel heading for another election — the fifth in less than four years and the third since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic — comes a major public surprise. A new poll indicates that a majority of citizens think the country has handled the coronavirus outbreak effectively, in a way that shows the strengths of its political system.
The Pew Research Center polled 19 countries on various attitudes toward the pandemic.
When asked if the country had effectively dealt with COVID, showing the strength of the political system, or hadn’t, showing its weakness, 58% of Israelis answered the first, with only 33% for the second.
These figures are startling, given the governmental and parliamentary unrest and chaos that surrounded coronavirus rules and regulations over a two-year period.
Israel was unusual in this attitude. In the United States, only 32% have a positive opinion, in France 43% and in the United Kingdom 46%.
Only two countries beat Israel: Singapore with 74% off the charts and Hungary with 59%. Sweden was also tied at 58%.
Meanwhile, in a second question that disregarded politics, an even stronger majority of 71% of Israelis said the country had generally handled the pandemic well, compared to 26% who thought it got away with it. was so bad — again one of the highest. scores among the countries surveyed (6th out of 19).
Dr Yonatan Freeman, a political scientist at Hebrew University, said that despite all the political backbiting, Israeli politicians have mostly rallied on key issues of the pandemic, such as social distancing and vaccines – a stark contrast to countries like the United States where these have become ideologically divisive issues. The Israeli political system simply did not have very powerful anti-vaxxer, anti-masking or anti-lockdown lobbies.
“At times when a possible threat to the well-being of the country is perceived, most political parties join forces, and that is what we have seen,” he told The Times of Israel.
“The same goes for various actions that have warned much of the world about this virus – whether it is limiting flights from certain countries very early in the pandemic or bringing in vaccines as soon as possible and to vaccinate a majority of citizens and soldiers. ”
He noted that it was in the midst of the pandemic that an unusually broad right-to-left government was formed, based on an alliance between rightist Naftali Bennett and centrist Yair Lapid, and including the Arab Islamist Ra’am party. .
As well as revealing how Israelis feel about their leaders’ handling of the pandemic, the Pew survey also probed the impact of the crisis on societal divisions.
Asked about this, 56% of Israelis said they believe the country is now more divided than before the pandemic. Although this may seem high, it was lower than most other countries. In the United States, this figure was 81%, in the Netherlands 80%, in France 72% and in Hungary 66%.
The only countries out of the 19 surveyed to obtain better scores are Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Italy, Sweden and Belgium.
Just over a third of Israelis – 36% – said the country was actually more united now than before the pandemic.
During the pandemic, Israel has focused heavily on the disproportionately high infection rates among ultra-Orthodox communities and Arab communities. This was partly attributed to high-density living and other living conditions factors, but there was also strong criticism of conduct in these communities and a lack of adherence to health guidelines.
Many Haredi schools flouted lockdown regulations to operate at times, and there was widespread disregard for COVID restrictions in parts of the Haredi community. In the Arab community, many weddings, considered superspreader events, took place at times when they were prohibited.
In this context, the results of the survey are again somewhat surprising.
Freeman believes years of war and terror have taught Israelis to unite in a crisis and quickly put aside their grievances, explaining the poll numbers.
“Israel in particular has continued to face threats and events – for example terrorism, military operations – which have reminded everyone that all Israelis are in the same boat and must seek to be united, or to divide. “, did he declare.
“I think this has been a trend throughout Israel’s history. In the end, Israelis are good at pointing fingers and making themselves feel guilty, but above all [they] recognize first that they are all neighbors to each other.