Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann
The first part of this month’s Peace Index looks at the expected impact of Donald Trump’s election as the next U.S. president. The second part explores domestic issues linked to the conflict, including the relation between democratic values and national security.
Trump is good for Israel: About half of the Jewish public (48.5%) believes that President-elect Trump is more sympathetic to Israel, while only 1% think he is more sympathetic to the Palestinians. Twenty-two percent saw him as equally sympathetic to the two sides, and 7% did not see him as favoring either side. Amid the uncertainty on this matter, an especially high rate of respondents (22%) had no clear opinion. Notably, among the interviewees who defined themselves as right-wing, the rate who think Trump is more sympathetic to Israel comes to a majority, almost double the rate among those defining themselves as left-wing. The same holds true for the Arab public, though probably with a different valence: similar to the Jewish right, here too a clear majority (60%) views President-elect Trump as more sympathetic to Israel.
The anticipated policy on the conflict: On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prevailing view in the Jewish public (47%) is that the new U.S. administration will try to convince the sides to reach a compromise and an agreement between them. Twenty-two percent think it will not intervene on the issue, while 17% expect the new administration to exert heavy pressure on both sides to reach an agreement. To a large extent these assessments accord with what the Jewish public desires: on the question “What would you want the U.S. administration to do?” the highest rate (40%) responded that they would want it to try to convince the sides to reach an agreement, 33% preferred that it not intervene in the conflict, and 19% wanted it to exert heavy pressure on the sides to reach an agreement. A segmentation of the responses according to political camp did not reveal systematic differences in expectations about the Trump administration’s policy on the conflict. However, when it came to preferences, we found that among those defining themselves as right-wing, a higher rate would not want the administration to intervene on the issue; while among those defining themselves as left-wing, a higher rate would want it to exert heavy pressure on both sides to reach an agreement.
As in the Jewish public, the highest rate in the Arab public (42%) thinks the new administration will try to convince the sides to reach an agreement. Here, though, the rate of those who do not expect it to intervene is higher than in the Jewish public (32%). On this question, anomalously, the rate of “Don’t know” responses in the Jewish public exceeds the rate in the Arab public. As for preferences, in the Arab public almost two-thirds would want the Trump administration to convince the sides to reach an agreement.
Construction in the territories: In the Jewish public the highest rate believes that the Trump administration will not interfere with Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank (39%) or will even support construction (23%). Only a small minority of 18% thinks it will prevent construction, and the rest (20%) do not know. In the Arab public the highest rate (48%) thinks the Trump administration will support Israeli building in the territories; only 11% believe it will act to prevent it. About one-third do not expect it to intervene in this issue.
U.S.-Israeli relations in the Trump era: A very large majority of the Jewish public (80.5%) expressed agreement with the recent statement by Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States, that “Israel has no doubt that President-elect Trump is a true friend of Israel…. We look forward to working…with all of the members of the Trump administration…and making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever.” In the Arab public a very similar rate thinks U.S.-Israeli relations will flourish during Trump’s tenure, though that expectation is not necessarily to this public’s liking.
Antisemitism in the United States: As we have seen, Israelis tend to expect the Trump administration to be sympathetic. Not surprisingly, then, a majority of the Jewish public (55%) views fears that the new president’s election will foster a rise in U.S. antisemitism as unwarranted. Indeed, the fear of burgeoning U.S. antisemitism in the wake of Trump’s election is considerably higher among those defining themselves as left-wing, and in the center as well, than among those defining themselves as right-wing. If, though, U.S. antisemitism does indeed intensify, an overwhelming majority (73%) believes that the Israeli government should intervene on American Jewry’s behalf and use its ties with the U.S. administration to get it to act against the antisemitic phenomena. This finding testifies both to Israeli Jewry’s solidarity with American Jewry and to their sense of responsibility toward them. It also reflects the Jewish public’s belief that Israel is capable of influencing the new U.S. administration, and indicates the sort of “parental” role that Israeli Jews assume toward Diaspora Jewry.
From the external arena we moved to the domestic one. First, we dealt with two issues recently on the agenda:
The government’s policy and the rule of law: At the end of December the Samaria settlement of Amona is supposed to be evacuated, in line with a Supreme Court ruling that it had been built without the proper authorizations and partially on private Palestinian land. Under pressure from the Bayit Yehudi Party, the government is advancing a special law that will make it possible to avoid evacuating the settlement (the Regulation Law). This contravenes the position of the attorney-general, who maintains that such legislation—which circumvents the Supreme Court edict, damages the rule of law, and even endangers Israel because much international criticism will be leveled at it based on precepts of international law—should be avoided. On this background, we asked with which of the two positions the interviewees agreed more—the government’s or the attorney-general’s. The responses indicate that the Jewish public is divided on this question, with the rate of supporters of the government’s position (46%) only slightly higher than the rate of supporters of the attorney-general’s (43%). A segmentation of the responses by political camp yields the expected results: among those defining themselves as right-wing, more than two-thirds identify more with the government’s position; among those defining themselves as left-wing, some 80% identify more with the attorney-general’s stance.
The "muezzin law": Another issue recently on the governmental and public agenda is the “muezzin law,” which prohibits the use of loudspeakers in mosques in Israel. Fifty-six percent of the Jewish public currently supports the law, which was recently approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. At the same time, a slightly larger majority (59%) thinks understandings can be reached on the problem of the disturbance created by the muezzins’ calls, and that the issue can be resolved in less official ways. In the Arab public we found a consensus (93%) that understandings and a satisfactory solution could be achieved in ways that are less formal than legislation.
And on somewhat more essential domestic issues:
The future of Judea and Samaria/the West Bank: Similar to last month, this time as well we found for the Jewish public that the rate of supporters of annexing all of Judea and Samaria/the West Bank to the state of Israel (44%) is significantly higher than the rate of opponents (38%). As for the assertion that “If the territories are annexed and one state is established under Israeli rule, there will be no choice but to give the Palestinians full and equal civil rights,” 48% disagree while 42% agree. That is, a small but significant minority of the Jewish public supports a situation that the international community regards as apartheid.
Are the Jewish people the chosen people? To the question “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘The Jewish people is the chosen people and hence is greater than other peoples’?” the majority of the Jewish respondents indeed answered negatively (55%), but a very large minority (41%) answered positively. A segmentation of the responses to this question by political camp revealed that a majority of the right-wing camp views the Jewish people as chosen and as greater than the other peoples, while in the center and on the left only a small minority holds that view. A segmentation by religiosity found a very large majority of proponents of the superiority of the Jewish people among the haredim (80%), the religious-traditional (72%), and the religious (64%). Only a tiny minority was found among the nonreligious-traditional and the secular. Also of interest here is the finding that the Jewish public is evenly split between those who agree with the statement that “Arabs only understand force” (49%) and those who disagree with it (47.5%). A segmentation of the responses to the question by political camp and by religiosity yields a very similar picture to the segmentation of the responses to the previous question.
Criticizing policy in times of security tension: A certain majority (55%) of the Jewish public agrees that criticizing policy in times of security tension is illegitimate. Hence it is not surprising, though worrisome from a democratic standpoint, that almost half of Israeli Jewish citizens think the political Left is not loyal to the country (48%). This rate is slightly but significantly higher statistically than the rate who think the opposite (43%). In contrast, in the Arab public 69% view the Israeli left as loyal to the country.
The use of force to thwart a "harmful" policy: We asked, “Some claim that if a citizen or group of citizens thinks the government is acting against what they see as Israel’s national interests, it is their right to try to prevent the government’s action even by the use of force. Do you agree or disagree with this claim?” Only 9% of the Jewish public (and 24% of the Arab public) expressed support for this statement. No clear connection was found between the answers to this question and self-affiliation with one or another political camp.
Negotiations Index: 45.3 (Jews—43.4)
Diagram of the month: “In your opinion, what will be the Trump administration’s position on Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank?” (%, 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 November 29 to December 1, 2016, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 600 respondents (500 Jews, 100 Arabs), 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.