This month the Peace Index focused mainly on two interrelated issues: the American peace initiative and Israeli-Palestinian relations.
U.S. commitment to reaching an agreement: A considerable majority (59%) of the Jewish public believes that the United States is committed to bringing about the signing of a peace agreement. The rate of those who think so in the Arab public is even higher—72%. A segmentation of the Jewish sample’s responses by the interviewees’ self-definition on a political right-left spectrum reveals that a majority of all the camps believes the United States is committed to achieving an agreement, but this majority is smaller on the right (52%) than among the moderate right and the center (60%), the moderate left (71%), and the left (75%).
U.S. commitment to Israel’s security: An even larger majority of the Jewish public (63.5%) believes that the United States, and first and foremost Secretary of State John Kerry, is committed to ensuring Israel’s security in the context of the negotiations with the Palestinians. The majority of the Arab public that thinks the United States is committed to Israel’s security in the context of those negotiations is even larger than for the Jewish public—78%. A segmentation of the Jewish interviewees’ responses according to the same right-left spectrum shows that on the right as a whole, the rate that sees such a commitment comes to 60%, in the center about two-thirds, and on the left as a whole, 85%.
The significance of external pressure toward signing an agreement: We asked: “Some claim that the only way to get the two sides, Israel and the Palestinians, to sign an agreement is by exerting strong external pressure on them, mainly from the United States, since otherwise they will never reach agreements by themselves. Do you agree or disagree with this claim?” It turns out that the Jewish public is divided into two almost equal camps, with 49.5% agreeing with the claim that only external pressure will lead to an agreement and 49% disagreeing. A segmentation of the responses here by the respondents’ self-placement on the right-left spectrum uncovers profound disparities: on the right, the majority (60%) disagrees with the claim, the center is evenly split between the two positions, while on the left as a whole a large majority—75%—agrees that without external pressure the sides will not reach an agreement. The rate of those in the Arab public who agree with the claim is very high—77%.
Support for U.S. pressure: As for positions on the U.S. exerting pressure on the two sides, in the Jewish public 53% opposes such pressure and 43% support such pressure. A segmentation of the responses by self-placement on the right-left spectrum shows, as expected, that a majority on the right (69%) and on the moderate right (64.5%) is against pressure, the center is split, while on the moderate left and the left the support for such pressure is high at 73%. Among the Arabs, not surprisingly, a majority (79%) supports U.S. pressure aimed at reaching peace.
The Israeli government’s ability to withstand pressure: Here too the Israeli Jewish public is divided: 48% say the government will be able to withstand pressure and 47% that it will not be able. A segmentation by self-placement on the right-left spectrum turns up small, unsystematic gaps between the political camps. The Arab public credits the Netanyahu government with greater ability to withstand pressure; 65% think it can hold up under U.S. pressure if it is exerted.
A regional peace agreement: In light of the diagnosis of some Israeli peace groups that the chances of reaching a bilateral peace with the Palestinians alone are low and hence a regional approach should be adopted, we asked: “Some claim that there is no chance of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and therefore the negotiations should be regional, that is, they should also include an active role for Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and others. Do you agree or disagree with the claim that the negotiations should be regional and not only bilateral?” It turns out that the Jewish public also has little yen for the regional possibility: only 36% support including the regional states in the negotiations while a majority (58%) opposes doing so. A segmentation by self-placement on the right-left spectrum shows that only on the moderate left is there a small majority (52%) that supports the regional approach, while in all the other camps, including the “deep” left, the majority is against it. In the Arab public a certain majority (57%) supports broadening the negotiations to incorporate more of the region’s states.
(Mis)trust toward the Palestinians: Despite the trust that a majority of the Israeli Jewish public feels toward the United States regarding its commitment both to Israel’s security and to achieving a peace agreement, this population’s trust toward the Palestinians is very weak both as a personal position and as a group assessment. On a scale of 0 (no trust at all) to 10 (full trust), the average grades for trust are 3.09 (personal trust) and 3.29 (interviewees’ assessment of the general Jewish population’s trust toward the Palestinians). It is notable, though, that the Jewish public does not delude itself about the degree of trust felt by the Palestinian population. Actually, this is a “mirror” assessment: the average grade of the Jewish public for the Palestinian population’s degree of trust toward Israel is 3.25. Nevertheless, as a segmentation of the responses to the following questions shows, the Jewish public does not completely absolve itself of responsibility for the Palestinian mistrust.
Is there a chance that trust will be built?: Despite the gloomy picture regarding Israelis’ trust toward Palestinians, a considerable minority (43%) of the Jewish public believes that, even in light of the history of the two sides’ relations, it is possible to build trust between them, while 54.5% do not see it as possible. The Arab public shows greater optimism, with 74% seeing a chance to build trust in the future.
Who has the responsibility for building trust?: To the question of which of the two sides has the responsibility to take the significant steps toward building trust between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the majority (59%) thinks the responsibility is held equally by the two sides (though the rate of Jews who put the responsibility on the Palestinians is higher than the rate assigning it to the Israelis—27% and 11%, respectively). In the Arab public, 60% think the effort should be divided evenly between the two sides, 31.5% say Israel should invest more effort, and only 5% believe the Palestinians need to make more of an effort for trust to be built between the sides.
The influence of Israeli policy on the increase in terror attacks: A majority, not large, of the Jewish public (54%) think Israel’s official policy toward the Palestinian residents of the territories has an effect on the recent increase in terror attacks. Surprisingly, dramatic disparities between the political camps were not found on this question, perhaps because they interpreted the term “official policy” in different ways. The majority of the Arab public that thinks Israeli policy has an effect on the terror attacks is much larger than for the Jewish public—85%.
The effect of the presence of the Israeli settlements in the territories on the increase in attacks: In the Jewish public a small majority thinks the presence of the Jewish settlements has an effect (51%) compared to 46% who hold the opposite view. The gaps between the right and the left on this question are huge (right—39% think the presence of the settlements has an effect on the increase in terror attacks, moderate right—46%, center—53%, moderate left—83%, left—91%). In the Arab public 88% see the presence of the settlements in the territories has having an effect on the recent increase in terror attacks.
Is a third intifada occurring?: We asked the interviewees for their opinion on the defense establishment’s view that the recent terror attacks are an assortment of incidents and do not indicate the beginning of a third intifada. It turns out that the Jewish public is divided on the question of the accuracy of this assessment: 49% agree with the stance of the defense establishment while 45% do not agree with it.
Negotiation index: General sample—46.1 (Jewish sample: 40.3)
Graph of the month: Do you support or oppose the United States exerting pressure on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, to push them toward reaching an agreement? (% support, according to self-placement on the right-left spectrum)
The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute
. This month's survey was conducted by telephone on December 30-31, 2013, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 606 respondents, who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population aged 18 and over. The survey was conducted in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. The maximum measurement error is ±4.5% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.