Israelis, unsurprisingly, are largely united on the need for their country to be a distinctly Jewish state, a report released this week by Pew Research Center found. They disagree strongly, however, as to how to preserve that Jewishness. Almost half of the survey’s Jewish respondents said that the state should rid itself of the Arab population by expelling or transferring them out of Israel.
Although it has long been recognized that tensions between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs are on the rise, the 48 percent figure is astonishingly high. In a season in which many Jews — both American and Israeli — are looking with dismay at the xenophobia in American politics, the Pew data suggested that the U.S. is not the only society wrestling with such challenges.
The challenges for Israel are both political and physical. On the same day the Pew report was released, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived for a two-day visit, and at least three cities were hit by a round ofterrorist attacks, part of a cycle of violence that began in October.
The majority of the violence has been carried out by Palestinians, but there have been a few instances of Israeli Arabs killing Jewish Israelis. Ayman Odeh, the head of the Israeli Arab List in the Knesset, has not helped to ease the tension; on more than one occasion, he has said that it was not his place to tell Palestinians how to resist Israel, thus essentially giving his imprimatur to the stabbings and shootings.
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