Israeli Polls
November 2008 Peace Index: Solid majority of Jewish public supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state
Date: 09.12.08

Following are the main findings of the Peace Index for November 2008, conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University.

War and Peace Index - November 2008
Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann

With the date of the Knesset elections drawing nearer and the parties remaining vague on foreign and defense matters, we checked the public’s positions on two central issues: the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the Arab Peace Initiative. On the first issue, the findings of the War and Peace Index show a solid majority among the Jewish public of 58% (vs. 36%) who support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and a slightly larger majority (61% vs. 35%) who see the Palestinians’ claim to an independent state of their own as justified. Moreover, a clear majority, though a bit smaller—53% compared to 38%—also say that in the framework of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Israel could allow itself to agree to an independent Palestinian state’s creation.

This structure of positions among the Jewish public is important and interesting in light of the widespread suspicion of the Palestinians’ intentions. About two-thirds (63%) expressed agreement with the statement that “In reality, most of the Palestinians do not accept the existence of the state of Israel and would destroy it if they could, despite the fact that the PLO leadership is conducting peace negotiations with Israel.” Sixty-three percent agree with that claim while only 20% disagree, and the rest answered that they weren’t sure or didn’t know. A segmentation of the answers to this question with the question on personal support or opposition to establishing an independent Palestinian state reveals, as expected, that among those who agree that the Palestinians would eradicate Israel if they could, the rate of those favoring a Palestinian state is lower than among those who disagree with that claim. Yet, even among those who agree with the claim, a majority of 55% support an independent Palestinian state while 40% oppose it. A similar pattern of segmentations emerges regarding the question of whether the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state of their own is justified and the question of whether Israel could allow itself to agree to such a state. In other words, most of the Jewish public is prepared to accept the idea of an independent Palestinian state while, at the same time, assuming that the Palestinians’ intentions toward Israel are not to accept its existence but rather to destroy it.

This climate of suspicion about the Palestinians’ intentions perhaps makes it easier to understand the reservations about the Arab Peace Initiative (originally the Saudi Initiative) among most of the Jewish public. We first checked how many of the interviewees had heard of the initiative at all (only 43%, vs. 55% who had never heard of it; only 12% reported having seen the large announcement with the main points of the initiative that the Palestinian Authority had published two weeks earlier in the Israeli press). We then presented the main points of the initiative to the interviewees and asked them two questions. The first was whether the Arab states’ declared readiness, as stated in the initiative, to end the conflict and normalize their relations with Israel is an encouraging sign of a profound change in their political outlook. A segmentation of the answers to this question shows that the majority—54%—do not see this as a major change, compared to about one-third—38%—of the Jewish public who agree that the readiness to end the conflict and normalize relations indeed attests to such a far-reaching change. The second question was whether the Israeli government should or should not consider adopting the initiative as it stands. This question was presented to the interviewees in two versions: to half of them, with mention of the fact that the initiative had received a “kosher certificate” from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres; to the other half, without mention of the fact that Olmert had called the initiative “interesting” and Peres had expressed even greater sympathy toward it. To our surprise, the segmentation of the answers to the question’s two versions was almost identical: only about a third said Israel should positively consider adopting the initiative, while the majority—slightly more than half of the interviewees—expressed opposition to this.

Our assessment, based on the findings of previous indexes (for example, the October index), that foreign and defense issues continue—despite the economic situation—to determine which party the Israeli Jewish public decides to vote for, led us to present a question that has proved itself in the past in terms of its electoral “predictive capacity”: “Which government, in your opinion, will succeed in advancing the peace process while safeguarding Israel’s interests in the context of negotiations with the different Arab actors?” The choice presented this time was between a government headed by Ehud Barak, by Binyamin Netanyahu, or by Tzipi Livni. The answers show this order of preferences: 35% thought a Netanyahu-led government was the one that would best succeed in advancing the peace process while safeguarding Israel’s security interests, 25% thought so regarding a Livni-led government, and only 6% opted for a Barak-headed government as the one that would best succeed in fulfilling this task. Among the rest, 15% said all the possibilities were “the same” in their eyes and 20% responded that they did not know or had no clear position on the matter. This distribution indicates that each of the candidates has a potential basis to alter his or her status one way or the other, though the situation of Netanyahu and of Livni is much better than that of Barak.

A segmentation of the answers to this question by voting in the most recent elections reveals that Bibi Netanyahu has a clear advantage among voters for Likud (65%), Shas (71%), Yisrael Beiteinu (65%), the National Religious Party (44%), and Torah Judaism (42%). In addition, he has not inconsiderable support (31%) among Kadima voters. Tzipi Livni mainly has support from voters for Kadima (41%), Labor (40%), Meretz (65%), and the Pensioners (50%). As for Barak, even in his own party his rate of support is no higher than 19%, primarily because of the “defection” of Labor voters to Kadima (as noted, 40%). It should be emphasized, though, that the survey was conducted two days before the Labor Party’s internal elections and the list that waselected could change this picture.

We also found in this survey that the public is split almost exactly down the middle—46% on each side—regarding the rightness of the statement that any government that is formed after the elections will eventually reach a final settlement with the Palestinians. On the other hand, we found a majority—57%—who disagree with the statement that any government that is formed after the elections will eventually agree to a compromise with the Palestinians on the issue of Jerusalem.

General Negotiation Index—51 points (for the Jewish sample—47.6)
General Syria Index—37.8 points (for the Jewish sample—32.9)


The War and Peace Index is funded by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and 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 1-3 December 2008 and included 598 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%.