This month the Peace Index focused on two areas: domestically, on some issues involving the ongoing wave of terror; externally, on the U.S. presidential campaign and its implications for Israel.
The majority fear for their personal security: At present a majority (66%) of the Jewish public strongly or moderately fears that they or one of the people who are important to them will be harmed in the wave of terror. This is a small decrease from the 70% who said so in December 2015. At the same time, it is still a higher level of fear than at the beginning of the terror wave: in October the rate of those who were fearful stood at 57%. In the Arab public the fear of terror is now higher than in the Jewish public, with 73% saying that they moderately or strongly fear being harmed. In this case we cannot know if it is a fear of being harmed by Palestinian terror or by reactions of an enraged Jewish throng.
The high fear of being harmed in a terror attack perhaps explains the Jewish public’s positions on the measures Israel is taking in fighting the terror.
Is Netanyahu only verbally tough?: We asked: “Do you agree or disagree with the assertion of former foreign minister Lieberman that despite Netanyahu’s tough words, his policy toward the Palestinians actually is not tough enough, and as a result the current terror wave continues at high intensity?” A majority of the Jews (56%) answered positively. The support for Lieberman’s criticism is very high among voters for Shas (93%) and for Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu (92%). His claim also got strong backing from Habayit Hayehudi voters (73%). Sixty-one percent of Likud voters support it, but only a minority of Zionist Union and Meretz voters (37% and 16% respectively) do so. As for the Israeli Arabs, a clear majority (69%) opposes Lieberman’s criticism.
Jewish bereavement and Palestinian bereavement: The Jewish public also takes staunch positions on the statement of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh that the Palestinian families’ grief over the fatalities in the current terror wave is not comparable to the grief of the Israeli families who have lost their loved ones because “the Palestinians sanctify death while we sanctify life.” An overwhelming majority (77%) strongly or moderately agrees with Alsheikh’s assertion. A segmentation of the positions on this question by voting for the Knesset in the most recent elections reveals a majority of supporters among voters for all the parties with the exception of Meretz, where only 21% assented to the police commissioner’s words (even among Zionist Union voters a majority, albeit small—52%—endorsed what he said).
The power of restraint: We found much less support in the Jewish public for the position recently voiced by Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot that restraint should be applied in acting militarily against the current terror wave; as he put it, he would not want “a soldier to empty a cartridge at a 13-year-old girl with scissors.” Fifty percent of the Jewish public disagree with this position while 47.5% support it. In a similar vein, 49% reject the recommendation of senior IDF officers, including Military Intelligence chief Herzi Halevi, that Israel should ease economic conditions in the Gaza Strip and ease the lives of the Palestinians in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria so that the Palestinians will have something to lose, the assumption being that if they have hope, there is a chance that the current wave of attacks will subside (46% support the recommendation). A segmentation by the latest Knesset voting of the Jewish public’s support and opposition to the chief of staff’s proposal shows that the lowest support is among Habayit Hayehudi (19%) and Yisrael Beiteinu (23%) voters. As expected, the highest support was found among Meretz (89.5%) and Zionist Union (70.5%) voters. An identical picture emerged regarding the extent of support by Knesset voting for the proposal to ease the Palestinians’ lives as a way of subduing the terror wave.
The moral nature of the IDF: A sweeping consensus (90%) of the Jewish public thinks the IDF is currently operating in a very or moderately moral fashion in counteracting the terror wave. The lowest rate of support for this claim (though still a majority—63%) was found among Meretz voters. Apparently, then, the longstanding, oft-repeated statement of the political and military leadership that “the IDF is the most moral army in the world” has taken root in almost every part of the Israeli Jewish public. In the Arab public, however, there is an almost equally strong consensus (83%) in the opposite direction—that the IDF’s measures in fighting terror are not moral.
The international criticism of Israel: The Jewish public also believes unanimously (90%) that the international criticism of Israel’s current conduct in fighting the terror is not at all or not so justified. Again, even among Meretz voters whose rate of support for this assessment is the lowest, a majority (53%) still sees the international criticism as unwarranted.
Jerusalem is already divided: This time we repeated a question we asked in 1999: “Do you agree or disagree with the opinion that Jerusalem is actually already divided into two cities: the eastern city and the western city?” Whereas, in the measurement a decade and a half ago, the rate of those who thought the city was not divided was higher than the rate of those who thought the opposite (49% vs. 44%), today a clear majority (61%) of the Jewish public thinks Jerusalem is not a conjoined whole as its leaders preach to it but, instead, is in reality divided into the western and the eastern city. The highest rates of those who think the city is divided were found among Zionist Union (88.5%) and Meretz (85%) voters, and the lowest rate among Shas (13%) voters. Likud voters are split on this question (49% for each view). The same is true of the Israeli Arabs, 47% of whom think it is divided compared to 43% who say it is not.
Discrimination against the eastern city as a cause of the residents’ involvement in terror? We asked: “Some claim that the large number of Arabs from East Jerusalem who are involved in the terror attacks is related to the fact that the state of Israel and the City of Jerusalem discriminate against East Jerusalem compared to West Jerusalem—for example, in the areas of health, education, and other services. In your opinion, is there or is there not a connection between the authorities’ treatment of East Jerusalem and the high involvement of its residents in the terror attacks against Jews?” A majority of the Jewish public (57%) does not see a connection between the discrimination and the involvement in terror; they apparently think instead that the East Jerusalem Arabs’ involvement in the attacks stems from nationalist or other motives. A segmentation of the responses to this question by the most recent voting for the Knesset revealed that only among Meretz and Zionist Union voters does a majority link the discrimination with the East Jerusalem residents’ involvement in terror (89.5% and 68% respectively). A majority of the Israeli Arabs (52%) also see a connection between the two phenomena (24% deny such a connection and the same rate declined to answer or did not know).
We went on to look briefly into Israeli citizens’ views on the U.S. presidential elections. It should be noted that for questions on this topic the “Don’t know” rate is, naturally, relatively high.
Clinton or Sanders?: Between the two Democratic candidates, the highest rate in the Jewish public (40.5%) sees Hillary Clinton as preferable from Israel’s standpoint. Only 16.5% prefer the (Jewish) Democratic candidate Sanders (6% think the two are preferable to the same degree, 10% think neither is preferable, and 27% do not know). A segmentation by Knesset voting showed that the view of Clinton as better for Israel is most common among Yesh Atid and Zionist Union voters (60% in both cases).
The question presented in Arabic to the Arab interviewees was formulated a bit differently: which of the two is more pro-Israel? The prevailing opinion was that both are pro-Israel to the same extent (35%); immediately after came the view that Clinton is more pro-Israel than Sanders (31%). Only 2% saw Sanders as friendlier to Israel, and the rest viewed neither as friendly or had no opinion on the matter.
Is Trump friendly to Israel?: As for the Republican candidates, since the leading candidate at present is Donald Trump, we only asked about his position toward Israel. A majority (61%) of the Jewish public assesses his position as very or moderately friendly, 14% as not at all or not so friendly, while about one-fourth do not know. In the Arab public the “Don’t know” rate (44%) is too high to take this question into account.
A Democratic or Republican president?: A higher percentage of the Jewish public (34%) thinks a Republican president will be better for Israel, compared to 28% who think so regarding a Democratic president. Thirteen percent believe that from the standpoint of Israel’s benefit, it makes no difference from which party a president will be elected, and about one-fourth do not know. Again we slightly changed the formulation in Arabic for the Arab interviewees, asking from which party, in their view, a president will be more pro-Israel. Here the estimate is the opposite of the Jewish public’s: the highest rate (37%) thought a Democratic president would be more pro-Israel. Thirty percent said there was no difference while only 23% considered that a Republic president would be more pro-Israel.
General Index—45.8 (Jewish sample—40.9)
Diagram of the month: Do you agree or disagree with the opinion that Jerusalem is actually already divided into two cities: the eastern city and the western city? (% of Jews, “already divided,” by Knesset voting)
The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program for Mediation and Conflict Resolution
at Tel Aviv University and the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research
of the Israel Democracy Institute. This month’s survey was conducted by telephone from February 28 to March 1, 2016, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 600 respondents, who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population aged 18 and over. The maximum sampling error for the entire sample is ±4.1% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.