Israelis Grapple with Pew Finding of Support for Arab Expulsion

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In a survey that spanned politics, religion and interfaith relations, one statistic stood out: nearly half of Israel’s Jews support expelling the country’s Arabs.

The Pew Research Center’s study of Israelis’ attitudes, which had its findings released Tuesday, had asked respondents whether they agreed that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Forty-eight percent of Israeli Jews agreed, while 46 percent did not. Among self-described right-wing Jews, 72 percent agreed, along with 71 percent of religious Zionists.

The figure was inconsistent with the findings of previous studies and provoked strong reactions in a country that sees its Arab minority as proof of its commitment to democratic values and respect for diversity. It has also shined a spotlight on what has been seen previously as a fringe proposal. No party in the Israeli Knesset advocates mass population transfer, and it has never been seriously discussed as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The idea that the State of Israel could be a democracy only for its Jewish citizens is unconscionable and we must find a way to address this,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said at a meeting with officials of the Washington-based Pew center. “I believe that also our democratic values are born out of our Jewish faith, a love for the stranger and equality before the law.”

Rivlin called on the public to engage in “soul-searching and moral reflection.”

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