The Peace Index survey that was conducted at the end of October concentrated on some aspects of Israel’s strategic situation and of Israeli-Palestinian relations: the diplomatic stalemate; the outlook for the future, including questions about a possible annexation of the territories; as well as—after the unusual interview that Defense Minister Lieberman gave to the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds—the relationship with Hamas in Gaza.
Israel’s strategic security and political-diplomatic situation: At present the Jewish public is evenly split between those who think Israel’s security situation is now “so-so” (40%) and those who think it is good (39%). Only about one-fifth view the country’s situation in this regard as poor. That is, the prevailing opinion is that the security situation is medium and higher. A different picture emerges for the situation in the political-diplomatic domain: here 37% consider that Israel’s situation is “so-so,” 36% that it is poor, and only about one-fourth see the situation as good. In other words, the prevailing view is that the situation in the political-diplomatic sphere is medium and lower. A cross-checking of the positions on the security situation with the respondents’ self-definition as right-wing, centrist, or left-wing did not reveal significant differences between the three camps.
However, significant differences were found in the assessments of Israel’s political-diplomatic situation according to self-affiliation with a political camp. The rate of those who think Israel’s situation in this domain is poor comes to 66% on the left, 42% in the center, and only 27% on the right. That is, the right, which is today the largest political camp in Israel, is not particularly worried by the strategic political-diplomatic situation, the left is very worried, while the center is somewhat worried.
The picture for the Arab public is different: a majority of 53% of the interviewees defined Israel’s security situation as good and another 23% as “so-so.” That is, somewhat surprisingly, compared to the Jewish public the Arabs’ assessment of the security situation is more flattering to Israel. The same is true regarding the political-diplomatic situation: the highest rate in the Arab public indeed views the situation as “so-so” (36%), but unlike the Jewish public’s assessment, in second place here is the opinion of the situation as good (31%). Only 21% of the Arab respondents saw Israel’s political-diplomatic situation as poor.
And what about the diplomatic stalemate? The Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency, Hillary Clinton, recently said that a diplomatic stalemate is preferable to the total lack of a peace process. We wanted to know what the Israeli public thinks on this question. We found that in the Jewish public the opinions are evenly split between those who agree that a stalemated process is preferable to the absence of a process (44%) and those who think the opposite (45%). In the Arab public, the majority (54%) disagree with the view that a diplomatic stalemate is preferable to not having a process.
Regarding the stalemated diplomatic process, another important finding should be added: a majority of the Jewish public (53.5%) are sure or think that the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians can keep going for a long time. Forty-one percent are sure or think the opposite. On the left only a minority (about a third) believes the situation can continue as it is, while on the right there is a majority of more than half.
In the Jewish public, among those who think the current situation cannot continue, 47% expect that the stalemate will end because international pressure will be exerted on Israel to end its control of the territories, 20% assess that a Palestinian uprising will erupt, and 10% think Israel will annex Judea and Samaria/the West Bank. A total of 7.5% chose other possibilities that would bring an end to the stalemate. A particularly high rate (15.5%) does not know what will happen.
In the Arab public we found an almost identical majority (53%) to that in the Jewish public who see no change on the horizon regarding the existing situation, compared to 37% who think the opposite. Among those who thought the existing situation could not remain as it is, the highest rate (28%) foresaw a Palestinian uprising. Eleven percent considered that there would be external pressures on Israel to end the occupation, while 11% said the change would take the form of Israel annexing the territories. Thirty-four percent chose other possibilities.
Another question that was asked in this context was: “In light of the situation, are you for or against annexing all of Judea and Samaria/the West Bank to the state of Israel?” In the Jewish public the highest rate (46%) favored annexation, compared to an only slightly lower rate (42%) who expressed opposition to it. Whereas on the left and in the center there was, as expected, only a minority of supporters of annexation, among those who defined themselves as right-wingers there was a majority of supporters for it in light of the existing situation. Among the Arab interviewees we found a definite majority, over three-fourths (76%), who opposed the idea of annexing the territories.
What about Gaza? In an interview that Defense Minister Lieberman recently gave to the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, he said, “The next war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza will be the last. We have no desire to return to the Gaza Strip and conquer it, but if a new war is forced on us—it will be Hamas’s last, because we will destroy it completely.” To the question of whether Israel is now capable or incapable of destroying Hamas in Gaza if it decides to do so, a clear majority (67%) of the Israeli Jewish public responded that Israel was capable of it. And what will happen if Israel indeed succeeds to destroy Hamas in Gaza? Among the Jews, 30.5% think anarchy will result there, 22% say Israel will have to return to Gaza and run its affairs, and 21% consider that an Islamic movement more radical than Hamas, such as Al-Qaeda or Da’esh, will take over there. Another 15% think Fatah will rule Gaza if Hamas is overthrown. In other words, there is a wide distribution of opinions on the question of what will happen in Gaza on the day after Israel ousts Hamas, if such a day arrives.
Among the Arab respondents we found a clear majority (70%) who said that Israel was not capable of destroying Hamas. At the same time, here too the most common assessment (28%) is that if that happens in any case, chaos will reign in Gaza. About another one-fourth thought that in such a case Fatah would take control of Gaza. Thirteen percent foresaw the rise of an Islamic movement more radical than Hamas.
Another important difference between the Israeli Jewish and Israeli Arab publics’ assessments of the situation in Gaza concerns the question of whether Hamas, at present, is interested in another war with Israel. A majority of the Jews (54%) think Hamas has an interest in such a war, compared to a large majority of the Arabs (69%) who think Hamas has no interest in it.
In the same interview Lieberman also said that if Hamas stops digging tunnels and firing rockets at the south, Israel will help build a port, an airport, and other facilities for economic growth in Gaza. On the question of whether this is an appropriate offer from Israel’s standpoint, a majority (54%) of the Jewish respondents answered positively while 43% replied negatively. That is, a small but clear majority supports Lieberman’s proposal.
And from here to another issue—the Public Broadcasting Corporation—which in recent weeks has been at the heart of the public discourse.
The future of public broadcasting: Against the backdrop of the claim by coalition chairman David Bitan that the Public Broadcasting Corporation, which is supposed to be established in January, should be canceled on the grounds that the existing Broadcasting Authority is sufficient once it undergoes a streamlining process, we asked: “In your opinion, does Bitan’s effort stem more from a desire to save the state money or more from political motives?” The distribution of the Jewish public’s positions on this question is unequivocal: the majority (58.5%) holds the view that the move stems more from political motives. Only 9% think it stems from the desire to save the state money. The rest are divided between those who believe the move stems from both factors to the same extent (12.5%), from neither of them (2%), and those who do not know (18%).
On the same subject, Minister Regev said not long ago that there is no justification for public broadcasting unless the government has control over it. Against the backdrop of this statement, we asked: “Do you agree or disagree with the idea that the government is entitled to be involved in the contents and the appointments of the public broadcasting networks if it funds them?” The distribution of opinions on this question is also quite clear-cut: 61% of the Jewish public opposes the idea that the government is entitled to intervene. An even more pronounced division of opinions was found on the question of what is motivating the prime minister’s recent intensive efforts to make major changes in the media market: 66% of the Jewish respondents answered that it stems from the desire to strengthen his political control over the Israeli media, while only 24% thought it stemmed from the desire to make the Israeli media more balanced and high-quality. A segmentation of the answers by self-affiliation with one of the political camps revealed a majority on the right, center, and left who think Netanyahu is acting here out of a desire to increase his control over the Israeli media, with 53% saying so on the right, while in the center and on the left the corresponding rates came to 100% (!). A similar pattern of opposition across the camps to harming the status of public broadcasting was also found regarding the activity of Bitan and the statement by Regev.
The U.S. presidential elections: As at the beginning of October, in the week before the U.S. elections the rate among the Jewish public who thought Clinton would be elected (53%) was considerably higher than the rate who believed Trump would the presidency (28%). A similar picture to that in early October was obtained on the question of which of the two is the preferable candidate from Israel’s standpoint. In the current survey, a perfect balance was found between the two candidates regarding their expected policy toward Israel. At the beginning of the month, however, the rate of those who thought Clinton would be better was almost double the rate who thought Trump would be preferable for Israel (42% and 26.5% respectively). In the Arab public, the highest rate (44%) thinks the two candidates to be U.S. president are the same from Israel’s standpoint.
Negotiations Index: 46.1 (Jewish Index 42.9)
Diagram of the month: In your opinion, generally speaking can the diplomatic freeze between Israel and the Palestinians keep going for a long time? (%, by nationality)
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 October 31 to November 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 measurement error for the entire sample is ±4.1% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.