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Few Israelis support religion-and-state blitz mulled by incoming coalition – poll

Less than a third of Israelis support the main religion-and-state legislation demands issued by the parties expected to serve in the next government coalition, according to a survey released Friday.

The poll, which was conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, asked some 750 Israeli men and women if they supported seven specific legislative proposals that have been raised by members of the presumed next coalition, five of them dealing with religious issues, one with the roles of government legal advisers and one with settlements. None of the seven received more than 40 percent support overall, and only two got majority support from Israelis who categorize themselves as right-wing.

The five religion-related proposals were: canceling recognition of non-Orthodox conversions for the purposes of citizenship; permitting gender-segregation at publicly sponsored events; canceling the Law of Return’s so-called “grandchild clause,” which allows anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent to receive Israeli citizenship, provided they don’t practice another religion; increasing government benefits to men studying in religious institutions; and canceling a reform passed in the previous Knesset to privatize kashrut certification.

Each of these were raised by at least one of the four religious parties — United Torah Judaism, Shas, Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit — that are expected to join Likud in the next government.

Only one of the proposals — permitting gender segregation in publicly funded spaces — garnered majority support from right-wing Jewish Israelis, with 52.7% saying they approved of it. Just 15% of Jewish centrists and 7% of left-wing Jewish Israelis said they supported it. Overall, 28% of Israelis — Arabs and Jews — supported the idea.

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Revoking recognition for non-Orthodox conversions was supported by 30.5% of Israelis, removing the “grandchild clause” had 29% support, increasing benefits to seminary students had 25%, and canceling the kashrut reform had 28% support.

The other two legislative proposals that the pollsters asked about that did not deal with religious issues garnered greater support, but still well shy of a majority.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they supported allowing ministers to appoint their own legal advisers, which would end their current independent status. And 36% said they supported retroactively authorizing illegally constructed outposts, a figure that grew to nearly 60% among right-wing respondents.

Though the paltry support, even among right-wing Israelis, for many of the proposals does not affect the government’s ability to pass legislation, it does potentially give Likud MKs and other members of the coalition a basis for voicing their opposition for such moves.