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6 months of war: Israelis say Netanyahu isn't doing enough to bring home the hostages


Six months into the war with Hamas, protesters across Israel are taking to the streets. Some are calling for new elections, but the universal cry is for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring home the hostages taken during the October 7 Hamas attacks. Just yesterday, the body of one hostage was recovered by Israel's military.

To understand how the last several months of war are shaping Israeli society, we've reached out to Tamar Hermann. She's a senior fellow researching public opinion with the Israel Democracy Institute and joins us from just outside of Tel Aviv. Welcome to the program.

TAMAR HERMANN: Good morning to you.

RASCOE: Give us a better sense of this protest movement. Like, what's driving it, and is it gaining momentum?

HERMANN: It is indeed gaining momentum starting about 10 days ago. But in a way, it is a continuation of the protest movement against Netanyahu's government plans to have a judicial reform, which started at January 23 and in fact was cut on October 7 because the idea was to continue this kind of protest composed of mainly people who define themselves as being on the left and in the center, politically speaking. We didn't see there people who are on the right, which is the largest political camp in Israel. About 60% define themselves as on the right, 25- to 27% in the center, and about 13, 1-3, on the left. In other words, the largest political camp is not represented in this renewal of the protest movement.

RASCOE: OK, so, I mean - so the protests - they do seem kind of unifying, meaning that those against Prime Minister Netanyahu's government and family members of hostages are coming together. Is that significant?

HERMANN: It is very significant because until very recently, most families of the hostages actually refused to join forces with this protest because they did not want to be politically tainted. And indeed, only several of the families now are working hand in hand with the protest movement. And indeed, it gave them the image of being part of the protest movement. So politically, they are now colored in a very specific color. However, they got so frustrated with the inability of the government, and some would say with the refusal of the government, to do all efforts in order to bring back home the hostages. So it is out of despair and not necessarily because of political affiliation with the other protesters there.

RASCOE: Well, how much dissatisfaction is there with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu across the right and the left?

HERMANN: On the right, the situation is more vague in a way. I'll start with the left and the center. They are totally dissatisfied with Netanyahu. They see him as corrupt, as incompetent, as the source of all Israeli troubles in the last decade and even more so. On the right, the situation is different because they see Netanyahu as - or many of them see Netanyahu as perhaps incompetent since October 7 but as a victim of a long campaign of the left and the center to delegitimize him. And they also see the Supreme Court and the judicial system as the long hand or as the branch that serves, in a way, the agenda of the center and the left. They see him as a victim. And this goes together with their sense, as most of them are nonsecular, religious or ultrareligious. They are more from the periphery. They are less than the evidence (ph) in education and in income.


HERMANN: And they see...

RASCOE: Can...

HERMANN: ...Him as a mirror image of them.

RASCOE: And there has been so much death and destruction in Gaza. How do Israelis view the way their government and military have conducted the war?

HERMANN: Until now, we got about 80% of the Israelis, the Jewish Israelis, who think that the suffering of the people in Gaza should not take - be taken into consideration when making the operational plans, and this is the sheer result, direct result, of the fact that the hostages are still there. Once the hostages are back home, I'm sure that we will see much more criticism over what happened in Gaza, the suffering of the Gazans and the continuation of the war.

RASCOE: That's Tamar Hermann with the Israel Democracy Institute. Thank you so much for joining us.

HERMANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.