Summary - October 2003
Among the Israeli Jewish public there is a widespread concern that if Israeli control of the territories continues and no solution based on the principle of “two states for two peoples” is found to the conflict, eventually the Palestinians will become a majority west of the Jordan and a de facto “binational” state will emerge—a possibility that arouses wall-to-wall opposition. On this background, it is easy to understand the wide support both for the construction of the separation fence and for the renewal of political negotiations with the Palestinians. Nevertheless, the Geneva Initiative—even though a large majority have heard of it and also know who are the main personalities identified with it—wins as of today the support of only a minority, and only small numbers believe this initiative has any chance of being realized. A considerable majority also asserts that the Geneva Initiative is not legitimate because only the elected government is authorized to conduct political negotiations. Moreover, the three personalities most identified with the initiative—Yossi Beilin, Amram Mitzna, and Avraham Burg—are regarded as incapable of representing the Israeli national interest.
Those are the main findings of the Peace Index survey for October, which was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 28th and 29th of the month.
In reply to the question of whether there is reason to fear that without a solution based on the principle of two states for two peoples, and with continued Israeli control of the territories, the Palestinians will turn from a minority to a majority and a de facto binational state will emerge west of the Jordan, 67% said that they strongly or moderately fear this scenario, whereas only 24% said they fear this development not very much or not at all (9% did not know). This concern, which is shared by all segments of the Jewish public—Left and Right, religious and secular—is not surprising in light of the sweeping opposition to the possibility of a binational state, which cuts across all camps. Today only 6% support such a solution, whereas 78% favor a two-state solution (11.5% support neither of the two solutions and 4.5% do not know).
The opposition to a binational state stems from three main factors. Some 86% of the Israeli jews think that in such a state Jews and Palestinians would not be able to live together as citizens with equal rights (only 11% think that would be possible and 3% do not know). Eighty percent believe it would be impossible to maintain the security of the Jewish population in a binational state (16% think it would be possible and 4% do not know). Sixty-six percent say that in a binational state it would be impossible to ensure the realization of Jewish identity (25% think it would be possible to realize this identity even in the framework of a binational state).
In light of these positions it is not surprising that, as in the past, there is overwhelming support for the separation fence, with 83% favoring it and only 12% opposing it (5% do not know). On this issue, too, a majority of both right- and left-wing voters is in favor, though to different degrees. Interestingly, the lowest rates of support are among voters for Meretz and for the National Union (60% and 64%, respectively). Presumably, the reasons for the significant opposition to the separation fence among voters of these two parties (35% in Meretz and 27% in the National Union) are different in nature. Support for the fence is also influenced, of course, by considerations of its effectiveness against terror—63% believe that constructing the fence can significantly reduce terror, and another 19% believe that constructing the fence or some other physical barrier can indeed prevent terror. Only 16% think the fence can not prevent or even reduce terror.
Regarding the debate about the route of the fence, we found that a large majority - 63% -favors the view that this route should be determined according to considerations of the Israeli government, whereas only 19% hold the view that the route should follow the Green Line (4% did not respond to this question stating that they oppose the construction of the fence in principle and 14% took no position). As with the sweeping support for constructing the separation fence in principle, on the issue of the route a majority of voters for the large parties favors the view that it should be determined according to considerations of the government, with the exception of Meretz voters, 60% of whom think the fence should follow the Green Line compared to 30% who believe the route should be subject to the government’s considerations.
The concern about the emergence of a binational state and the broad support for an agreement based a two-state solution also stands, apparently, behind the broad support for renewing political negotiations with the Palestinians. At present, 71% favor holding such negotiations and 26% oppose it (3% do not know). Nevertheless, the Geneva Initiative—with 79% of the Jewish public reporting that they have heard of it and 56% saying they can identify the people involved—is currently acceptable, about three weeks after it was publicized, only to about one-fourth of the Jewish public whereas 54% oppose it (21% have no position on the issue). Furthermore, only 7% think the Geneva Initiative stands a chance of being realized, whereas 81% believe its chances are small or nil (12% do not know). As expected, there are considerable gaps in the degree of support for the Geneva Initiative between left-wing voters on the one hand, and right-wing and centrist voters on the other. Thus, among Meretz voters 80% support it and 5% oppose it; among Labor voters 53% support it and 33% oppose it. In the other large parties, the rates of support for the initiative were: Shinui, 27%; Likud, 16%; Shas, 21%; Mafdal (National Religious Party), 11%; and the National Union, 0%.
On the question of whether a group of citizens is entitled to pursue initiatives such as the Geneva Initiative so long as they do not violate the law, or, alternatively, only the elected government is authorized to conduct peace negotiations, since such initiatives, even if legal, undermine the elected government’s status, there is a clear preference (65%) for the second view, with only 28% favoring the first view (7% do not know). The pattern of positions on this question by party distribution is very similar to the pattern that was found on support or opposition to the Geneva Initiative. However, the statement by Member of Knesset Shaul Yahalom (Mafdal) that participation in the initiative constitutes treason, for which the penalty is life imprisonment or death, is viewed as improper by a sweeping majority of 78% (only 14% think it is proper, and 8% do not know). Indeed, Yahalom’s statement is regarded as improper by a considerable majority voters (67%) of his own party, Mafdal.
Among those who had heard of the Geneva Initiative, a large majority correctly identified the main individuals responsible for it. It emerges that the public views the personalities who are most identified with the initiative—Yossi Beilin and, far behind him, Amram Mitzna, Avraham Burg, Haim Oron, Nechama Ronen, and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak—as not very capable of representing the Israeli national interest. Thus, in the eyes of 61%, Yossi Beilin cannot represent the national interest (18% believe that he can, and 21% do not know). As for the others—Mitzna: 57%—cannot, 22%—can, 21%—do not know; Burg: 41%—cannot, 26%—can, 33%—do not know; Ronen: 43%—cannot, 7%—can, 50%—do not know; Shahak: 31%—cannot, 33%—can, 36%—do not know. These findings support the view that the Jewish public’s positions on the Geneva Initiative were influenced not only by the document’s content but also by the political identity of the people involved.
In contrast to the Jewish interviewees, only half of the Arab interviewees said they had heard of the Geneva Initiative and 48% said they had not heard of it. Yet, as expected, support for the Geneva Initiative is much higher among the Arab public than among the Jews: 77% said that they support it or strongly support it, and only 14% opposed it (9% did not know). Nevertheless, many of the Arab interviewees as well expressed skepticism about the initiative’s chances to be realized—only 31.5% thought these chances were high or very high whereas 60% saw them as low or very low (8.5% did not know). The legitimacy of citizens engaging in such political negotiations is much higher among the Arab public than among the Jewish public. A decisive majority—69%—of Arab interviewees identified more with the statement that in Israel as a democratic state citizens are entitled to pursue such initiatives so long as they do not violate the law, whereas only 23% favored the view that such activity, even if legal, undermines the government’s authority.
On the question of a binational state or, alternatively, a two-state solution, we found considerable similarity between the positions of the Arab and Jewish publics. Thus, among the Arabs as well a majority, albeit smaller—60%—believes Jews and Arabs could not live as citizens with equal rights in a binational state (36% said this would be possible and the rest did not know). A majority of 75.5% prefers the two-state solution, only 7% preferring the binational-state solution. Unlike the Jews, however, the Arabs are divided on the question of whether it would be possible to maintain the Jews’ security in a binational framework: 46% think it would be possible, 47% believe it would not (7% do not know). As for the question of preserving the Jews’ identity in a binational framework, among the Arab interviewees a majority of 53% thinks or is certain that this would be impossible, whereas 39% say it would be possible. The very clear contrast on this question concerns the degree of concern about whether continuing the existing situation of Israeli control of the territories will lead to a de facto binational state west of the Jordan in which Palestinians would eventually become a majority. Not surprisingly, 59% of the Arab interviewees said they do not fear such a scenario and only 39% expressed fear of it.
As in the past, the prevailing view among the Arab public is against the construction of the separation fence: 63% oppose it in principle and only 29% support the endeavor (8% do not know). Almost half of the Arab interviewees (49%) do not believe that a physical means such as the fence can prevent or even significantly reduce the terror attacks; about one-fourth believe the fence will reduce the attacks; and 17% think it can prevent them (10% do not know). As for the route of the fence, the clear preference—44%—is for the view that the route should follow the Green Line, with only 13% saying the route should be determined according to the Israeli government’s considerations (26% did not answer the question because of opposition to the fence in principle, and 17% did not know).
Oslo Index: entire sample—31.2; Jewish sample—27.2
Negotiation Index: entire sample—52.3; Jewish sample—50.8
The Peace Index project is conducted at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research of Tel Aviv University, headed by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Dr. Tamar Hermann. The telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv University from October 28 to October 29, and included 574 interviewees who represent the adult Jewish and Arab population of Israel (including the territories and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is about 4.5% in each direction.