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Poll: Israelis would prioritize eliminating Hamas over returning hostages if forced to choose

Israelis protest calling for the government to find a solution to have the hostages released, outside Defense Ministry Headquarters in Tel Aviv, Feb. 15, 2024. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to a poll conducted by the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), some 40% of Israelis surveyed prioritize the destruction of Hamas, compared with 32% who would choose to save the hostages first.

Most Israelis support the war goals of both dismantling the terror organization and securing the release of the hostages held in Gaza. The remaining 28% of those surveyed said they were not able to prioritize one goal over the other.

A hypothetical scenario was presented specifically to the statistics, JPPI's President Prof. Yedidia Stern revealed. He explained how the poll sums up the terrible moral dilemma faced by Israel’s leaders.

“If it is not possible to achieve the two goals of the war – returning the hostages and ousting Hamas from power – and Israel is forced to choose between them, what is the proper choice?  It turns out that the majority of the public prioritizes overall national security considerations above everything else.”

While the Israeli public in general is conflicted, the Jerusalem think tank was careful to include answers according to population sectors. Close to half (47%) of Israeli Jews said they would prioritize destroying Hamas as the primary goal of the war. One quarter (25%) of Israeli Jews said securing the release of the hostages is the main goal. By contrast, 61% of Arab-Israelis prioritized saving the hostages, compared to merely 11% believing that destroying Hamas is the main goal.

Stern stressed that the Israeli public is very much in favor of realizing both goals. However, he also explained the poll results revealed that if Israelis are forced to choose, a majority will prioritize national security over saving individuals held as hostages by terror groups.

“Mutual guarantee is a central Israeli ethos, and we are proud of that. The daring military operation in Rafah to free hostages, at a huge risk to the soldiers involved, proved this again, and powerfully. However, this does not mean that the public believes that ‘everything’ should be done to return the captives," Stern said.

The Israeli government insists that the goals of destroying Hamas and rescuing the hostages are not mutually exclusive. In early February, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi claimed that military pressure on Hamas is essential for saving the hostages:

“More terrorists killed, more commanders killed, more infrastructure destroyed, and I hope this pressure also brings us to achieving another important goal of bringing back the hostages, I hope all of them, we are making a big effort on this.

“It won’t happen without military pressure, so we are fighting all across the Strip, in an organized operation, with surprise raids, and we will continue to do it in a very, very high-quality way,” Halevi stated.

The southern Gazan town of Rafah will likely play a central role in Israel’s efforts to dismantle Hamas and save the hostages. Located strategically close to the Egyptian border, Rafah is reportedly the last remaining Hamas stronghold, where most of the terror group’s leaders and operatives are concentrated.

It is also believed that most of the remaining Israeli hostages are being held in Rafah as human shields, ahead of the anticipated major Israeli ground operation in the area.

Last Sunday, Israeli special forces launched Operation Golden Hand, a daring and successful rescue of two Israeli hostages held by armed Hamas terrorists in Rafah.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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