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Summary - December 2000

Broadly speaking, the Jewish public in Israel rejects the components of President Clinton's proposals as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement; for the most part it believes that Israel should refuse to accept the US mediation proposal -- despite the fact that an overwhelming majority supports a continuation of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and believes that the most effective means to reach an agreement acceptable to both sides can only be reached through negotiations -- not confrontations. The majority estimates that the Al-Aqsa intifadah lowered Israelis’ readiness to comply with Palestinian demands, and moreover lessened the chances of peace. The majority feels that the Palestinian side is responsible for the recent deterioration in relations; only a minority considers both sides equally to blame and only a tiny minority feels that the fault lies with Israel. It is therefore hardly surprising that Israeli Jews now consider the Palestinians more violent and less trustworthy -- but also weaker -- than they were in the past.

Where internal conflicts are concerned, there has been a rise in public support for unlawful manifestations of protest and even for violent once in the event that the government adopts a policy perceived as countering Israel's national interests in the context of the peace process. These are the principal findings of the December Peace Index.

As stated earlier, a distinct majority of Israel's Jewish public opposes the individual clauses of President Clinton's recent mediation proposal submitted to the Israelis and Palestinians, to which the Government of Israel has in principle promised to give favorable consideration. 63% objected to the clause stating that sovereignty over Jerusalem would be divided between Israel and the Palestinians in accordance with the composition of its residents. In other words, the Jewish part of Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel, and the Arab parts would constitute the capital of the Palestinian State (30.5% were in favor and 6.5% had no opinion on the matter.) With regard to handing the Temple Mount over to Palestinian sovereignty, albeit in recognition of the historic rights of the Jewish people -- while the Western Wall and the Jewish (and Armenian) Quarter would remain under Israeli sovereignty -- opposition ran even higher: 66% were opposed (27% agreed and 7% had no opinion.) The strongest opposition -- 77% -- was registered on the proposal according refugees the right to return to the Palestinian State, of whom Israel would absorb tens of thousands of refugees for family unification and humanitarian reasons; (only 24% agreed and 6% had no clear opinion.) It was interesting to note the relatively low degree of opposition to transferring 95% of West Bank territory to the Palestinians, leaving Israel with only 5% of the land on which 80% of the settlers are concentrated, although opposition per se ran high -- 60%. (32% were in favor and 7% didn't know.)

A segmentation of responses according to premiership votes in the coming elections indicates quite considerable differences in the respective stands of the two camps on this issue, albeit of a similar mold.: Sharon voters are very much in agreement, while Barak voters are divided. Regarding the partitioning Jerusalem into two capitals, 83% of the former are opposed, 11% are in favor, and the remainder don't know; in the Barak voters' camp a majority of 59% is in favor, 35% are opposed and 6% don't know. A similar situation is revealed on the question of sovereignty over the Temple Mount. With regard to the refugees' right of return, the majority of Sharon voters as well as the majority of Barak voters are opposed to the right of return in the suggested format; the extent of the opposed majorities varies between 84% of Sharon voters and 54% of Barak voters. 78.5% of Sharon voters are opposed to returning territories in the format suggested by Clinton, whereas 60% of Barak voters are in favor.

Asked whether Israel should accept the proposal in its entirety, or reject it -- 57% of the overall public favor rejection and 31% support acceptance (12% don't know). However a segmentation of responses in line with the imminent vote on the premiership reveals that a decisive majority -- 76% -- of Sharon's camp wants Israel to reject the proposal, while a 59% majority of Barak voters wants Israel to accept it. In other words, the overall opposition to the American entire proposal is lower than the opposition to each of its individual components. This is probably because of the respondents’ fears of the outcomes in terms of the Israeli-American relations if Israel is the one to turn down Clinton’s last peace initiative.

Unwillingness to accept these proposals is altogether in keeping with prevailing estimates that the Al Aqsa intifadah has diminished Israelis’ readiness to comply with Palestinian demands in the context of the peace negotiations. (52.5% feel that way against 26% who feel that it has increased Israel's readiness to meet the Palestinians halfway.)

Most respondents feel that the recent intifadah has lessened chances of reaching a peace agreement: 55% feel it has affected these chances, and only 19% think it has increased them; (18.5% feel that it has not affected chances either way, and the remainder don't know.)

Negative feelings are also strongly reflected in the Israeli Jewish public stereotype of the Palestinian people: 69% now define them as violent, against 47% in June 2000, while 51.5% now consider them dishonest, against only 35% in an earlier poll. There has also been a certain drop in estimates of the Palestinians' strength: while 42% formerly considered them strong, only 33% this time feel that way now.

Continuing violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, parallel with accelerating political negotiations and strong differences of opinion on the compromises Israel can make in order to reach an acceptable solution to the conflict, and on the present government's right to conduct negotiations, have again raised the issue of the kind of protest measures permissible to Israelis who feel that government policy runs counter to the national interest. A decisive majority of 90.3% favor the right to use legal protest measures only, i.e. authorized demonstrations (9.7% are opposed.) The use of illegal -- albeit non-violent -- protest is supported by 16.8% (83.2% are opposed.) At this time 12.3% favor the use of violent protest (against 87.7% who are opposed.) These figures are very close to our findings close to the date of Rabin's assassination in the autumn of 1995 (particularly the legitimizing of violent protests, which was then supported by 13.3%). They indicate a continuing "recovery" from the shock of Rabin's murder, already indicated by us last summer. As in the past, there has again been an increase in the degree of religiosity as a key variable in explaining the extent of legitimacy that respondents accorded to the various types of protest. Violent protest was supported by 19.4% of the orthodox and religious, 13.9% of the traditional and 7.2% of the secular public.

The peace indices show a slight rise this month: the general peace index in December was 59.6 against 58.7 in November (57.7 in the Jewish sample against 56.9 in November); the Oslo index was 44.5 against 43.8 in November (43.4 in the Jewish sample, against 41.6 in November); the Syria index was 41.4 against 38.8 (37.4 in the Jewish sample, against 34.0 in November).

The peace index project was conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Research Institute for Peace at Tel Aviv University, headed by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Dr. Tamar Hermann, and was this month carried out under the aegis of the "People to People" project. The telephone interviews were conducted by the "Makhshov" Institute on 22-23 December in the Arab sector and on 25-26 December in the Jewish sector. They comprise 574 respondents, representing the adult population of both groups. Margin of error in a sample of this size is approx. 4.5%.


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