Survey Shows 'Complete Collapse' of Israeli Left Since Oct. 7

Tel Aviv rally for Hamas to release hostages (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
July 3, 2024

JERUSALEM—Nearly nine months after Hamas's Oct. 7 terror attack, the Jewish state's political divisions have reemerged, with protests criticizing the government for various and often opposing reasons breaking out across the country.

But a sweeping new public opinion survey by pollsters affiliated with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has revealed how the Oct. 7 attack on Israel solidified a national consensus on what used to be the country's main political disagreement. When it comes to the Palestinians, the survey found, almost everyone is a right-winger now.

"Oct. 7 caused a complete collapse of the old Israeli left," Hebrew University political psychologist Nimrod Nir, who led the survey, told the Washington Free Beacon. "Until a few years ago, I could find out which political camp you were in by asking you one question: Palestinian state, yes or no? Today, that question doesn't really differentiate the two camps because no one supports the old idea of a Palestinian state."

The findings help explain why the Biden administration has so far failed to persuade Israel to end its war to destroy the Palestinian terror group Hamas in Gaza and recommit to a two-state solution.

"There isn't even a majority for a Palestinian state among liberal voters anymore," Nir said. "It's just not on the table."

Nir and his team, known as Agam Labs, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 4,000 Jewish Israeli adults in August and then, from Oct. 9 through last month, checked back in with most of them every 10 days or so. By tracking so many of the same individuals over time, the pollsters were able to minimize noise and uncertainty—yielding the most comprehensive picture to date of how Israeli politics have shifted since Oct. 7.

Each round of polling had a margin of error of about 4 percentage points. But changes as small as 2 percentage points are significant if consistent over time, according to the pollsters.

The survey found that the rightward ratchet of Israeli politics across decades of Palestinian terrorism and rejectionism has lurched ahead since Oct. 7. Based on political self-identification, the right has grown by 5 percentage points to include 36 percent of Jewish Israelis, or 60 percent when the poll factors in the moderate and hard right. The left has shrunk by 3 percentage points to just 8 percent of the public, or 13 percent factoring in the moderate and hard left. And the center has held steady at about a quarter of the political spectrum.

(Agam Labs)

The results correspond to more than 160,000 of Israel's some 7 million Jews abandoning the left and more than 110,000 joining the right, according to the pollsters.

Debbie Sharon, 60, a criminal defense attorney from Yated, a town in southern Israel, counts herself among the newly minted right-wingers. She recalled that prior to Oct. 7, she subscribed to the then-prevailing conception that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and subsequent economic support for the strip encouraged quiet and might one day lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"People on the right warned us that the Palestinians don't think the way we think: They don't care about peace for their children. They only care about eliminating us," Sharon told the Free Beacon. "But we didn't believe them. We said, 'They're all mad. They're all right-wing extremists.'"

Then, several thousand Hamas terrorists and ordinary Palestinians burst through the Gaza border, a few miles from Sharon's house. As she hid in her safe room for more than 30 hours, the terrorists slaughtered dozens of her friends, neighbors, and clients. Altogether, about 1,200 people were killed, most of them civilians, and 250 were taken hostage.

"I've always been a centrist, so it's very hard for me to straight-out say that I'm a right-wing person now," she said. "But I probably am, and I am probably going to vote way more right-wing in the next elections than I ever did before."

Earlier this year, Sharon volunteered for Tzav 9, a grassroots movement that sprang up to protest Israel's provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza during the war. She eventually left the group—which has recently been linked to violence and sanctioned by the Biden administration—saying it had become too divisive. But she stood by her opposition to the aid.

"They can have aid in Gaza when they give us back our hostages. That's how I feel," she said. "I guess that makes me a right-wing extremist."

According to the Agam Labs survey, 52 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose the government's wartime facilitation of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and just 30 percent support the policy—roughly the reverse of the numbers prior to Oct. 7.

Support for direct Israeli aid to and cooperation with the Palestinians has fallen even faster and farther, down to roughly one-fifth of the public in both cases.

(Agam Labs)

When it comes to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just 30 percent of Jewish Israelis are still believers, per the survey, an 8-point decline since Oct. 7.

At the same time, support for potential Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory is also low and effectively unchanged from before Hamas's massacre, and initial fervor to resettle Gaza has quickly cooled and is now supported by just over a third of Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out the idea of settlements.

(Agam Labs)

The Jewish public's turn against the Palestinians since Oct. 7—which has reversed slightly over the course of the Gaza war—is less about right-wing ideology than about hard-headed security considerations, according to the survey.

"This shift offers a rare opportunity for changing public positions on the conflict," the pollsters wrote. "Israelis who previously opposed a Palestinian state on ideological grounds may support it if convinced it benefits Israel's security and prevents future attacks like Hamas's, or if the costs of refusing a political move are too high. However, a plan presenting a viable vision for independent Palestinian rule while maintaining Israel's security interests is a categorical step."

Israelis have yet to hear an explanation of how the Biden administration's Middle East peace plan would protect their national security interests.

According to Nir, even among Jews who plan to vote for Israel's liberal opposition parties, support for a two-state solution has fallen to about 40 percent. No major Jewish politician has come out in support of U.S. demands that Israel give the Palestinian Authority, Hamas's terrorism-supporting rival faction, civil control of Gaza and commit to a "credible pathway" to Palestinian statehood.

Yoram Yitzhaki, 58, a businessman from Israel's Lebanon border region, said that as a son of Israel's kibbutz movement, he sees the left as his political tribe. He plans to vote for the Democrats, a new merger of the venerable left-wing parties Labor and Meretz, and he believes Israel should seek alliances in the Muslim world wherever possible.

But since Oct. 7, Yitzhaki said, he has given up on peace, concluding "we will never be able to trust the Palestinians, and we need to be much much stronger."

From the start of the war, Yitzhaki has refused government orders to evacuate Hanita, his kibbutz overlooking Israel's border with Lebanon, amid daily bombardment by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Hamas ally and fellow Iran-backed terror group. He likened the multi-front Gaza war to Israel's 1948 War of Independence, during which an Arab siege cut off Hanita from the rest of Israel.

"The kibbutzniks were the original settlers," he said. "We were the original patriots."