June 2007: “The Peace Index” finds that 70% of the Jewish public in Israel support a "two state" agreement with the Palestinians

June 2007: “The Peace Index” finds that 70% of the Jewish public in Israel support a "two state" agreement with the Palestinians
Date: 15.06.07
Source: The Tami Steinmetz Center
“The Peace Index” from the beginning of June, conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center at the Tel Aviv University, finds that 70% of the Jewish public in Israel support an agreement with the Palestinians based on the “two states for two peoples” principle.

Peace Index: June 2007

Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann

Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip has not eroded the Israeli Jewish public’s consistent support for the two-states-for-two-peoples formula as a basis for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This public does not, however, see that solution as achievable in the near future, particularly given the widespread view that Abu Mazen’s government will be unable to prevent Hamas’s takeover of the West Bank even if it receives assistance from Israel and other countries. Despite and perhaps because of that assessment, a majority supports Israeli assistance to Abu Mazen’s government so as to strengthen it against Hamas, but on condition that this government meets Israel’s prior demands and with clear distinctions between areas where Israel should and should not assist it. While the majority favors financial assistance, there is sweeping opposition to supplying weapons and removing checkpoints, and on the issue of releasing prisoners the rate of opponents is slightly higher than that of supporters. On the question of humanitarian assistance to the residents of Gaza, a clear majority is in favor even on the assumption that the aid is likely to strengthen the Hamas government.


The Syrian issue showed the long standing trend of widespread opposition to a full peace agreement in return for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This opposition seems to be bolstered by the prevailing view that in the context of such an agreement Syria would not be prepared to cut its ties to Iran and Hizballah or end its support for Hamas and the other terror organizations.

On the question of who among the heads of the three large parties is now most capable of safeguarding Israel’s security interests while promoting the chances to achieve peace with the Arabs, there is a clear preference for Bibi Netanyahu over Ehud Barak, with Ehud Olmert trailing far behind. This order of preference is evidently connected to the finding that the rate of those defining themselves as right-wing on foreign and defense issues is considerably higher than the rate of those defining themselves as centrist or left-wing.

Those are the main findings of the Peace Index survey that was carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 26-27.

Seventy percent of the Israeli Jewish public presently supports a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the two-states-for-two-peoples formula (26.5% oppose it and the rest do not know). However, to the question of whether or not it is possible to reach an agreement based on this formula in the near future, 39% replied that it is possible and 55% that it is not. As expected, there is a close connection between support for the two-state solution and the belief that it is achievable. Among the believers the rate of support comes to 94% whereas the nonbelievers are equally divided between supporters and opponents.

The prevailing pessimistic assessment of the chances of the two-state formula is apparently linked to the fact that about half the public thinks the Abu Mazen government will be unable to prevent a Hamas takeover of the West Bank even if it receives assistance from Israel and other countries (43% think it will be able to prevent it and the rest do not know). Despite and perhaps because of this, as many as 54% support providing assistance to the Abu Mazen government (compared to 41% who oppose it and 5% who do not know). The overwhelming majority (67%), however, would condition such assistance on the Abu Mazen government fulfilling the Israeli government’s prior demands such as recognizing Israel and putting a stop to terrorism. Only 22.5% support assistance without conditions, 4% oppose it under any conditions, and the rest do not know.


As for the types of assistance, a majority supports releasing the frozen Palestinian funds (54.5% in favor, 39% against) but a larger majority opposes providing weapons (79%) and removing checkpoints (71%). Regarding prisoner releases as well, the rate of opponents (54%) is higher than that of supporters (39%). As for humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Gaza by allowing the provision of medicine, foods, and other essential items, a clear majority of 58% think Israel should do so even on the assumption that such aid is likely to strengthen the Hamas government there, with 40% opposed.

On the Syrian issue, the occasional reports of Bashar Assad’s readiness to reach a peace agreement with Israel apparently have not affected the Israeli Jewish public’s consistent opposition to full withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for a full peace treaty, with rates of opposition and support at 63% and 20%, respectively. Fourteen percent are ambivalent and the rest do not know. The opposition to an agreement seems to stem, at least in part, from the unanimous (85%) assessment that Syria would not be prepared, in return for the Golan, to cut off its relations with Iran and end its support for Hizballah, Hamas, and the other Palestinian terror organizations whose leaders are based in Damascus.

With Ehud Barak having been elected leader of the Labor Party, we checked who among the leaders of the three large parties can, in the public’s view, best safeguard Israel’s security interests while advancing the chances for peace. The findings show that 38% of the Israeli Jewish public prefer Bibi Netanyahu, 24% Ehud Barak, and 5.5% Ehud Olmert. Twenty-four percent reject all three and the rest (8.5%) have no clear position on the matter. This means the heads of the two currently largest partners, the senior partners in the coalition, do not reach between them the level of trust accorded to the head of the main opposition party, at least in the political-security sphere. These findings are consistent with the responses to the question: “How would you define your worldview on foreign and defense issues?” Some 23.5% defined themselves as Right, 19.5% as moderate Right, 24.5% as Center, 15% as moderate Left, and 7% as Left (10.5% did not know). In other words, the Jewish public clearly tends to the Right. Interestingly, the rate of those defining themselves as centrist is nearly five times higher than the rate of confidence in Ehud Olmert, the leader of the centrist party. Indeed, a cross-section of the responses to this question with the voting for the last Knesset elections shows that only 7% of the Kadima voters currently prefer Ehud Olmert whereas 38% and 22.5% of them, respectively, prefer Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak (24.5% saw none of the three as worthy).

Among Israeli Arabs, whose positions on the conflict generally are close to those of the residents of the Palestinian Authority, disagreements surfaced on the question of assistance to the Abu Mazen government, apparently because of the connection between such assistance and strengthening Hamas. Thus, 35% support assistance to the Abu Mazen government, 49% oppose it, and 16% do not know. Similarly, only about one-third favor supplying weapons to the forces under Abu Mazen’s command while about half are against it. There is, however, a broad consensus among the Israeli Arabs in favor of releasing prisoners (96%), removing checkpoints (92%), and transferring frozen funds (86.5%). In other words, a majority of the Israeli Arab public opposes assistance that is aimed at strengthening Abu Mazen’s government in its struggle against Hamas, whether because they think Israel should not thus interfere in an intra-Palestinian struggle or because of identification with Hamas.

Indexes:


General Oslo: 35.0; Jews: 32.9
General Negotiations: 48.5; Jews: 46.6
General Syria: 36.4; Jews: 32.0

The Peace Index Project is conducted at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University, headed by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann. The telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv University on June 26-27, 2007, and included 580 interviewees who represent the adult Jewish and Arab population of Israel (including the territories and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4.5%.

For the survey data see: http://www.tau.ac.il/peace