About half of Israeli Jews want to expel Arabs - survey

 Israeli Border Policewomen stop a teenage Arab girl and carry out an identity check in Jerusalem on Feb 24, 2016.
Israeli Border Policewomen stop a teenage Arab girl and carry out an identity check in Jerusalem on Feb 24, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Nearly half of Israeli Jews want Arabs expelled or transferred out of Israel, according to a survey on religious divisions in the country.

The poll, conducted from October 2014 to May 2015 and released on Tuesday (March 8) by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank, also found that many Israelis - Jews and Arabs - appeared to have lost hope for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Roughly half, or 48 per cent, of Israeli Jews said they agree or strongly agree with the statement that Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, where they make up 19 per cent of the population of 8.4 million.

About 8 in 10 Arabs complained of heavy discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims, the largest religious minority.

Israeli leaders have long decried any anti-Arab prejudice, noting that Arabs serve in the country's parliament and judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

But the issue came to a head during Israel's election a year ago, when right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a bid to spur his supporters to vote, said Arabs were heading to the polls "in droves".

According to the survey findings, about 40 per cent of Israeli Jews say a way can be found for Israel to co-exist with a future Palestinian state, while a similar percentage believe this is not possible - figures that have been relatively unchanged in recent years.

But the percentage of Israeli Arabs who say such co-existence is possible fell from 74 percent in 2013 to 50 per cent in 2015. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014, ahead of a seven-week Israel-Gaza war that ended in late August that year.

For the survey, researchers conducted 5,601 face-to-face interviews with 3,789 Jews, 871 Muslims, 468 Christians and 439 Druze in Israel from October 2014 to May 2015.

The poll also examined subgroups among Israeli Jews, who identified themselves as either ultra-Orthodox (9 per cent of the Jewish population), religious (13 per cent), traditional (29 per cent) or secular (49 per cent).

It noted divisions between religious and secular Jews over an uneasy relationship between Orthodox customs and modern-day life in Israel, and over the question of whether democratic values should take precedence over Jewish ritual teachings.

According to the survey, only 6 per cent of secular Jews support a decades-old shutdown of most public transportation in Israel for the Jewish Sabbath, a ban backed by 96 percent of the ultra-Orthodox and 85 per cent of Jews in the "religious"category.