The defense budget: The first matter we explored was the Israeli public’s position on the dispute between the top defense chiefs and the Finance Ministry over the need to increase the defense budget. We asked with which claim respondents agreed more: the defense establishment’s claim that the army requires a budget increment because of the threats facing Israel, or the Finance Ministry’s claim that the defense budget was increased only recently and any increment for the army will come at the expense of welfare budgets. We found that the Finance Ministry’s claim wins greater support in the Jewish public (49%) than that of the Defense Ministry (37%), even though about two-thirds define the level of security-military risk to Israel as very high (23%) or moderately high (45%). The explanation apparently lies in two mutually reinforcing factors: first, the Jewish public agrees unanimously that the IDF, as it is at present, is capable of dealing with the security threats and challenges confronting Israel (91%). Second, a majority of the public (51%) believes that the socioeconomic challenges now facing Israel pose a greater threat to its future than the security-military ones (30% think the opposite). When we segmented responses to the question on agreeing with the Defense Ministry or the Finance Ministry according to assessments of the extent to which the IDF is prepared to play its role, an interesting finding emerged: both among those who think the IDF is prepared and those who think it is not, a higher rate supports the Finance Ministry than the Defense Ministry. A segmentation of the responses to the question regarding the two claims by self-placement on the political left, center, or right revealed that, whereas those who located themselves on the right are more or less evenly divided between supporters of the two ministries, among those putting themselves in the center twice as many favored the Finance Ministry over the Defense Ministry. As for those locating themselves on the left, the rate of Finance Ministry supporters is three times higher (!) than the rate of Defense Ministry supporters. Incidentally, a segmentation of the question on the IDF’s preparedness by the division into political camps did not turn up a significant disparity between the right, center, and left. In all three camps about 90% saw the IDF as prepared to carry out its missions, which means the defense chiefs did not manage to persuade the public that the IDF desperately needs a budget hike. A majority in all three camps does see a significant external threat to Israel, but this varies between 73% on the right who see one, 60.5% in the center, and 61.5% on the left. As for the Arabs, a majority similar to the one among the Jews favors the Finance Ministry’s claim while a lower rate than among the Jews supports the Defense Ministry’s position. Here the rate of those who do not know or have no opinion is higher. On the issue of the IDF’s preparedness as well, the breakdown of opinions among the Arabs is substantially similar to the one we presented for the Jews. The largest disparity emerges on the question of the threat to Israel: in contrast to the Jews, a majority of whom view the risk as moderately or very high, a majority of the Arabs see the risk as moderately or very low (51.5%). A larger majority of the Arabs than among the Jews (62.5%) regards the socioeconomic challenges facing Israel as greater than the security-military ones.
Implications of the failure to reach understandings with the Palestinians: A considerable majority of the Jewish public (60%) disagrees with the claim that given the failure to reach understandings, Israel should, for its own reasons, unilaterally withdraw from extensive parts of the West Bank so as to scale back its rule over the Palestinian population and avoid a binational reality. On the claim, however, that in light of the failure to reach understandings Israel should officially annex the areas that are important to it in terms of settlement and security, the ratio between supporters and opponents is more balanced: 49% oppose annexation in this context while 43% favor it. These findings show that the Jewish public is mostly inclined to oppose the claim that in light of the lack of success in reaching understandings with the Palestinians, Israel should take unilateral steps of one kind or another. A segmentation of the answers to these questions by interviewees’ political camp turns up huge gaps: on the right only 25% support a unilateral withdrawal, in the center 43%, while on the left a large majority of 77% favors one. As for unilateral annexation, the picture, of course, is the reverse: on the right 55% support such an annexation given the failure to reach understandings with the Palestinians, compared to 33% in the center and 21.5% on the left. Among the Arabs over two-thirds support a unilateral Israeli withdrawal and an even larger majority (72%) opposes a unilateral annexation.
Price-tag actions: The majority of the Jewish interviewees believe that most the Jewish public does not support the price-tag actions. Assessments of the amount of opposition, however, vary according to the identity of the targets of the actions. The rate of those who think only a small minority or no one in the Jewish public supports price-tag actions against churches comes to 73%; against mosques, to 67%; against property of Israeli Arabs, to 64%; and against property of Palestinians in the West Bank, to 59%. In other words, less legitimacy is ascribed to price-tag actions when the target is a religious symbol than when it is property. Moreover, when it comes to attacking a religious symbol, there is less legitimacy if the attack is against a Christian symbol (a church) than if it is against a Muslim one (a mosque), and when it comes to property, there is less when the attack is on Palestinian citizens of Israel than when it is on Palestinians in the West Bank. At the same time, a substantial majority (67%) of the Jewish public thinks the Israeli authorities are making a real effort to apprehend the perpetrators of the price-tag actions. Twenty-nine percent say the authorities are not making a sincere effort and 4% do not know. Among the Arabs, the opinions are more divided: 48% see the authorities as making a real effort to catch the perpetrators compared to 43% who do not. But on all four questions about the degree of support for price-tag actions in the Jewish public, the rate of Arabs who think the support is high clearly exceeds that rate among the Jews.
Israel versus Obama and the United States: In light of U.S. president Barack Obama’s recent assertion that the responsibility for the negotiations’ failure rests mainly with Israel, we asked: in your opinion, is that statement a sign that the United States intends to significantly reduce its traditional support for Israel? The responses show that the majority of the Jewish public (65%) is sure or moderately sure that the statement does not augur a reduction of support. In the Arab public, the opinions on these questions are similar to those in the Jewish public as a whole. On the question, though, of whether Israel could or could not withstand a substantial decrease of American support, the Jewish public’s views are more or less balanced between a small majority (50%) who think Israel could not let this happen to itself and 44% who take the opposite view. It appears, then, that the public attributes greater significance to the consequences of reduced American support than to the connection between Obama’s assertion and the possibility of such a reduction. A segmentation of the answers by political camps shows—and not for the first time—that the right is much more optimistic about Israel’s resilience: 70% of those placing themselves on the right think Israel could withstand a substantial diminution of American support compared to 24% and 9% in the center and on the left, respectively.
Negotiations index—49.7 (Jewish sample: 46.7).
Graph of the month: In the dispute between the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry over increments to the defense budget, with which claim do you identify more: with the claim of the defense chiefs that such an increment is needed because of the threats to Israel or with the claim of the top Finance Ministry officials that only a few months ago the defense budget was increased and any increment for the army will come at the expense of welfare budgets (entire public, %)?
The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program for Mediation and Conflict Resolution
at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute
. This month's survey was conducted by telephone on May 28-29, 2014, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 605 respondents, who constitute a representative national sample of the overall adult population aged 18 and over. The maximum measurement error for the entire sample is ±4.1% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.