Poll: Israelis Want IDF to Take Over Coronavirus Response
Israel Democracy Institute survey finds support along political spectrum and age groups, highest backing among older people with left-wing views
The coronavirus pandemic is often spoken of in militaristic terms, and a new survey shows that Israelis want their armed forces to take the lead in fighting the crisis.
According to the results of a poll conducted by the highly respected, Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute in September – before the country entered its second lockdown – 65% of the respondents wanted the Israel Defense Forces to be given responsibility for managing the pandemic, and 58% said it should be put in charge of general lockdowns.
“We continuously see a drop in the public’s trust of various government institutions in Israel. We have generally not seen such a drop regarding trust in the IDF. The IDF remains the most trusted institution in Israel,” Prof. Amichai Cohen, a senior fellow at the IDI, told The Media Line.
The IDF remains the most trusted institution in Israel
Cohen said the survey results can be explained by the fact that Israelis see the coronavirus as a national threat until a vaccine becomes available, cautioning that interpreting the responses should be weighted against a general mistrust of Israelis toward other institutions.
The survey of 1,012 Jewish Israelis aged 18 or older, conducted by phone and over the internet, shows majority support for the IDF across the political spectrum and among all age demographics from 18 and up. The strongest support for IDF involvement is on the Left, at 78%, and among individuals aged 65 and older, at 88%.
“The variance that we see in trust in institutions in Israel is that the older you are and the more center-left-leaning you are, the more trust there is of institutions in Israel, and the IDF is one of these institutions,” Cohen explained.
Gershon Hacohen, a retired general and today a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, was highly critical of the survey’s results, dismissing the idea of the IDF managing the pandemic and stating that the expectations for the military were unrealistic.
“It is the wrong expectation to think that the civilian will be saved always by the almighty strong IDF, which can solve every problem,” Hacohen emphasized during an interview with The Media Line. “Military organizations are not prepared for problems like this; they cannot solve every problem.”
It is the wrong expectation to think that the civilian will be saved always by the almighty strong IDF, which can solve every problem
The Media Line took to the streets of Jerusalem to ask Israelis if they thought that the IDF should manage the country’s coronavirus response.
Hana, 25, said the response should not be led by the IDF, but should be determined at the ballot box.
“It should be by democracy. It should be a decision of who we vote for,” Hana told The Media Line.
Gal Primak, 29, believes the IDF is held up as a model for society by many Israelis, but this type of thinking is problematic when it comes to addressing the pandemic.
“There isn’t a militaristic, correct approach [to the coronavirus] because it’s an invisible foe, and the decisions should not be made by a general but rather by epidemiologists and public health experts,” Primak told The Media Line.
The survey was prepared by the IDI’s Center for Security and Democracy, of which Cohen is the director, ahead of its annual conference, to be held virtually on November 24 and 25. It was conducted by the IDI’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research.