Clear Majority of Israelis Oppose Accepting Refugees, Poll Says

57 percent of Israeli respondents saying they are against taking in refugees from war-torn countries – the highest rate among 18 countries surveyed

Migrants wash their clothes and fill bottles with water at a makeshift camp next to the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 18, 2018.
GIORGOS MOUTAFIS/REUTERS

WASHINGTON – A clear majority of Israelis oppose accepting refugees from war-torn countries into Israel, according to a new poll released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Institute. The poll included respondents from 18 different countries, and among the Israelis surveyed by it, 57 percent were against accepting refugees – more than in any other country included in the survey.

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The Israeli sample of the international poll involved interviews with 1,000 people conducted during the spring of 2018. Like those surveyed in other countries, the Israeli participants were asked one question: “Thinking about immigration, would you support or oppose (survey country) taking in refugees from countries where people are fleeing violence and war?”

Among Israelis, 37 percent of the respondents said they support the idea. Only one other country included in the survey, Hungary, had a lower level of support for accepting refugees. The only other country in which more than 50 percent of respondents opposed accepting refugees was, again, Hungary, with 54 percent choosing that option.  

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In the United States, 66 percent of those surveyed by Pew said they support taking refugees into the country, while 29 percent said they oppose. The Trump administration accounted this week that it would place a relatively low cap of 30,000 on the number of refugees who will be accepted into the country.

The highest levels of support for accepting refugees were measured in Spain (86 percent), Germany (82 percent) and Sweden (81 percent).

Syria and Iraq, two of the Mideast countries that have been the sources of large numbers of refugee in recent years, have a long history of conflict with Israel. Millions of Syrian refugees have fled to Israel’s neighbors Jordan and Lebanon since the start of that country's civil war in 2011.

The Israeli government has struggled for years to deal with tens of thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers who live in the southern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Earlier this year, the government reached an agreement with the UN to resettle these individuals, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew from that agreement within a day following pressure from the right-wing parties in his coalition.