Israeli Military Survey About Trust in Pandemic Policy Angers Health Ministry

Results show only 24% trust authorities to handle coronavirus crisis, down from 60% in previous lockdown ■ Ministry calls survey ‘subversive’ and military says question will be edited

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Pedestrians walk in Jerusalem, October 2020.
Pedestrians walk in Jerusalem, October 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

A recent survey by the Home Front Command included an unusual question about the extent of the public’s confidence in how the government has functioned during the coronavirus crisis. In response to criticism by the Health Ministry, the army conceded that the way the question was worded wasn’t as good as it could have been and that it would be edited in future surveys.

The command conducts periodic surveys about threat perception and the preparations being made to confront the issue and also query the public on what it thinks of the level of communication with the army and the Home Front Command. In a survey last month, the questions focused on responses to the pandemic.

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The survey, published last week by Kan Broadcasting amid the second lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, found that only 24 percent trusted the government’s handling of the crisis, as opposed to 60 percent during the first lockdown of March and April. The survey also showed that only 21 percent said they understood the government’s guidelines, as opposed to 70 percent during the first lockdown.

A senior ministry official called the question “subversive” and said “it’s impossible to imagine an opposite situation, where a ministry would conduct and publish such a survey on the conduct of the IDF at the same time as a war was being fought.”

Military officials told Haaretz that the question that was asked was about the extent to which respondents trusted the authorities and their ability to deal with the virus. But ministry officias felt that the way the questions were worded was not sensitive or precise enough. The next time a survey is conducted, the questions will refer to the Home Front Command, local authorities and other authorities, the officials said, adding that the survey would be formulated in coordination with the Health Ministry.

The IDF spokesperson’s office said in response that it conducted surveys to better focus the efforts of the Home Front Command to assist civilians in the management of the coronavirus crisis. Because the question about the functioning of the authorities “might sound ambiguous, and as part of lessons learned on the issue, more care will be taken in wording in the future. It will be stressed that the findings of the surveys are intended to serve internal IDF needs only.” The spokesperson said the question was not intended to gauge people’s impressions of the government’s functioning during the crisis.

This is not the first time during the pandemic that a survey by the Home Front Command has angered the Health Ministry. The last time was during the first wave of the virus, during a tense period in Defense and Health Ministry relations over their division of powers in managing the crisis. At that time, the command’s research department surveyed 655 people on a variety of questions. One question, for example asked: “On Tuesday the Health Ministry and the local authorities recommended (did not require) all citizens to leave home only if necessary. In your opinion, is this recommendation too lenient, or too strict, or does it conform to the situation.” Another question was: “Do you think this recommendation should be made obligatory for all citizens and enforced?” A third question asked: “Are the Health Ministry directives clear and comprehensible?”

This survey did not mention the Health Ministry.

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