March 18, 2024 — A new study conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sheds light on the intricate dynamics between foreign policy and the sense of security among individual citizens, with a specific focus on Jewish-Israeli citizens.

Dr. Ofek Riemer, from the Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University, spearheaded the research, examining the impact of deviations from established foreign policy practices on citizens’ feelings of national identity and security. The investigation focused on the potential ramifications of Israel’s recent shift towards a more defensive approach, departing from its traditional strategy of preemptive strikes and preventive wars.

This study is particularly timely, given the unexpected attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7, 2023, with ongoing hostilities in the Gaza Strip. The attack revealed a strategic failure and instilled a sense of humiliation and insecurity among the Israeli population. Widespread feelings of uncertainty, frustration, anger, and fear have been documented, indicating the potential solidification of traditional beliefs among Jewish Israelis regarding their country’s strategic environment.

The survey—conducted online in Hebrew by iPanel—ran between February 28 and March 2, 2021, and took responses from 600 Jewish Israeli men and women. The pool of participants consisted of a nationally representative sample of the adult Jewish population in Israel aged 18 and over. Jewish Israelis were chosen as the primary focus for the study due to the deep connection between Jewish history, Israel’s security ethos, and concerns about Jewish safety, rooted in the experiences of the Holocaust and encapsulated in the “Ben-Gurion” security values and beliefs since Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Dr. Riemer’s experimental approach involved presenting participants with hypothetical scenarios reflecting Israel’s traditional and new foreign policy approaches. The results indicate that exposure to the new defensive-oriented policy generated significantly less support and feelings of pride among participants, suggesting a potential impact on citizens’ sense of national identity and security.

Dr. Riemer explains, “This study seeks to provide empirical support for the premise that individual citizens become attached to their state’s foreign policy practices, and deviations from these practices can impair their sense of ontological security. The results highlight the importance of understanding the intricate link between foreign policy and citizens’ sense of security in shaping national identity.”

The research paper titled “Foreign policy and citizens’ ontological security: An experimental approach” is now available in Political Studies Association and can be accessed here.


Ofek Riemer1


1) Department of International Relations, Faculty of Social Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem