Since March 30th, tens of thousands of Gaza rioters have gathered along the Israel-Gaza frontier, clashing with Israeli security forces guarding the border and attempting to breach the security fence and infiltrate into Israel en masse.
During the roughly two months of rioting and terror attacks along the border - dubbed the “March of Return” by organizers in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip – more than 120 rioters and terrorists have been killed by Israeli security forces, prompting criticism from the United Nations and calls for an international investigation by some world leaders.
Israeli officials have defended the use of force, noting the violent nature of the riots on the border, and the numerous attempts by terrorists to use the riots as cover for attacks on Israeli targets.
More than half of the roughly 120 Gazans killed have been identified as terrorists from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, including 50 of the 61 killed on May 14th, the most intense day of rioting, coinciding with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
According to a new poll released Tuesday by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute, Israelis are divided along ethnic lines regarding Israel’s use of force to defend the border, with Israeli Jews overwhelmingly backing the IDF’s actions, while Israeli Arab citizens mostly believing the IDF used excessive force.
Nine out of ten (89.8%) Israeli Jews say the IDF did not use excessive force on the Gaza border given the situation. Just 4.5% of Jews say the IDF used more force than was necessary.
Among Israeli Arabs, however, just 1.8% say the IDF’s use of force was justified, compared to 91.9% who say it was excessive.
In addition, 28.2% of Israeli Jews say the IDF used too little force to defend the border from rioters and terrorists in Gaza. None of the Arab respondents shared this sentiment.
Israeli Jews and Arabs are also sharply divided on the primary cause of the attacks by Gazans on the Israeli border.
Just 2.2% of Israeli Arabs say the attacks and attempted infiltrations were primarily the result of efforts by organizers, including the Hamas terror organization, to incite violence. A majority (61.9%) of Arabs say the primary cause of the rioting was the “despair” of Gazans “over living conditions” in the Hamas-ruled Strip.
Only 8.2% of Jews agreed with that sentiment, with 68.1% of Israeli Jews saying Hamas incitement was the primary cause of the violence. Nineteen percent of Jews and 28.9% of Arabs say both Hamas incitement and despair over living conditions were equally relevant in sparking the violence.
Amid the rising tensions in the region, Israelis are evenly divided on whether Israel will go to war with Iran or another military power in the next 12 months, with 43.1% of Jews saying a new conflict was likely, compared to 45.7% who said the chances were low.