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The Peace Index:
Survey dates: 30/06/2009 - 01/07/2009

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The position of Prime Minister Netanyahu, which includes agreeing that Israel will not establish new settlements but stands by its right to expand existing ones according to natural growth, is endorsed today by most of the Israeli Jewish public: 61% support it while 31% oppose it (the rest have no position). The support for Netanyahu’s position is shared by voters for all the parties except Meretz, only 7% of whose voters support it, and Labor, whose voters are evenly split between supporters and opponents.

However, the broad support for Netanyahu’s position erodes considerably, and the gap between the two camps narrows, when one mentions to the interviewees the possibility that implementing Netanyahu’s position could cause a worsening of relations with the U.S. government. Under that scenario, only 40% still support Netanyahu’s position while a slightly higher rate (48%) oppose it. In other words, more than one-third of those who, in principle, support Netanyahu’s policy on the settlements issue would oppose, in this context, risking a deterioration of relations with the Obama administration.

Positions on the settlements issue are linked, of course, not only to U.S.-Israeli relations but primarily to the public’s positions regarding the Palestinians. This time we checked a few basic questions in this context, and we found that a clear majority—62%—of the Israeli Jewish public today recognizes the existence of a Palestinian people (32% oppose this and the rest do not know). A segmentation by voting for the Knesset reveals that only among voters for Shas, the Jewish Home, and the National Union does the majority claim there is no such thing as a Palestinian people. Among those who recognize that the Palestinians are a people, an overwhelming majority of 80.5% also supports the right of the Palestinian people to an independent state. Even among those who do recognize the Palestinian people, however, there are still about one-fifth who do not recognize its right to a state or have no position on the matter. In the total Jewish sector today, then, only a small majority of 50% say the Palestinians deserve an independent state of their own, 43% do not think so and the rest do not know.

The smallness of the majority that recognizes the Palestinians’ right to an independent state can be explained in terms of the prevailing view in the Jewish public (71%) that most of the Palestinians do not recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. This position is common to voters for all the parties although, not surprisingly, among Labor and Meretz voters the proportion of those who think most of the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people is considerable—42% and 35%, respectively. The widespread public position on this question is significant in light of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinians should publicly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. It also points—again—to the great convergence we have found recently between the positions of the current government and those of most of the public on questions concerning Israeli policy on the Palestinian issue.

Moreover, we also found in this survey that even recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as the state of the Jewish people would not necessarily strengthen the Jewish public’s willingness for a territorial compromise. Indeed, some 60% say they would oppose a Palestinian state that would include all the territories conquered in 1967, even if there was official Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The exceptions on this issue are voters for Meretz and Kadima, a majority of whom supports a withdrawal to the 1967 borders if there is Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. A majority of the Jewish public (56%) also opposes Israel taking even partial responsibility for the suffering caused to the Palestinians by the 1948 war, including, for example, the creation of the refugee problem, even if the Palestinians were to officially take part of the responsibility for the Naqba. Only among Meretz voters is a majority—78%—prepared to accept partial responsibility if the Palestinians take partial responsibility as well.

In contrast to the convergence between the public and the government on the Palestinian question, on the question of Gilad Shalit a clear majority of the Jewish public is currently critical of the government’s policy. Fifty-nine percent think the government’s approach is neither effective nor wise while 31% take the opposite view (10% do not know). The dissent from the government’s policy on this issue is shared by voters for all the parties except the Jewish Home, without disparities of age, gender, religiosity, education, or income. Not surprisingly, then, a majority (58%) recommends to the Shalit family that they intensify their protest activity. This position is common to a majority of the public without party, age, economic, or other disparities, with one notable exception that raises questions on the influence of gender regarding issues connected to parenthood: a full 70% of women support intensifying the protest while among men the supporters and opponents are evenly split. This gap is all the more significant considering that generally women tend less than men to support protest, let alone intense protest.

The War and Peace Index is funded by the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University. The telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv University on June 30-July 1, 2009 and included 503 interviewees who represent the adult population of Israel (including the territories and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4.5%.

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