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Study: Young Israelis Leaning More Conservative

Mar 31, 2011 – 2:23 PM
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Linda Gradstein

Linda Gradstein Contributor

JERUSALEM -- A survey released today finds young Israelis are moving to the right politically, as peace talks with the Palestinians remain stalled and the Middle East erupts around them.

The study finds that 60 percent of Jewish teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 prefer "strong" leaders to the rule of law. It also finds that in cases where state security and democratic values conflict, 70 percent of teenagers believe security should come first.

Israeli settlers and their supporters wave Israeli flags as they protest against the killing of  five members of the Fogel family, including three children, in a knifed attack as they were a sleep in a West Bank settlement over the weekend by Palestinians,  in Tel Aviv, Israel  Sunday, March 13, 2011.  Israel said Sunday it has approved building hundreds of settler homes after five members of the Fogel family, including three children, were knifed to death as they slept in a West Bank settlement over the weekend. The sign reads 'Don't sign peace with blood'. (Ariel Schalit, AP)
Ariel Schalit, AP
Israeli settlers and their supporters wave Israeli flags March 13 in Tel Aviv as they protest the killing of five members of an Israeli family, including three children, in a knife attack by Palestinians in a West Bank settlement. The sign reads, "Don't sign peace with blood."
The study, on behalf of Germany's Friedrich Ebert Foundation in cooperation with the Macro Center for Political Economics, interviewed 1,600 Jewish and Arab youth, half between the ages of 15 and 18 and half 21 to 24, after their compulsory army service.

The report's authors said the study shows that nationalist beliefs among Jewish youths are strengthening, and liberal democratic values are weakening.

But some in Israel cautioned that youth all over the world tend to have more extreme attitudes that moderate over time.

"Younger people tend to have extremist attitudes whether it is to the right or the left," Yehuda Ben Meir of the INSS, a Tel Aviv think tank, told AOL News. "Look at the demonstrations and even the violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians. Most of them are kids, under 18. Then you grow up, get married and have kids and your attitude changes."

At the same time, the results of Israel's most recent elections show that the entire country seems to be moving to the right. In Israel's last elections, in 2009, the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu Party received 15 seats to become the third largest party. Party head Avigdor Lieberman this week tried to pass a "loyalty oath" that said that any person seeking citizenship must pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and a democratic state." That bill has stalled but Lieberman
says he will introduce it in the next session.

Ben Meir acknowledges that the Israeli public has shifted to the right.

"What's happened here is that the left has become the center and the center has become the right," he said. "We believe that it's because of the disappointment after the withdrawal from Gaza."

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In 2005, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dismantled all of the settlements in Gaza, forcibly removing some 9,000 Israelis. Soon Hamas took over Gaza and began firing thousands of rockets and mortars at southern Israel, prompting a large Israeli incursion into Gaza two years ago. Recently the rocket fire started again, although in the last few days it has again subsided.

Today's study found that just 18 percent of young Israelis believe there is a real chance for Israel to live in peace with its Arab neighbors. Twelve years ago, some 28 percent believed there was a real chance for peace.
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