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Poll: Netanyahu, US congress & AIPAC stand to the right of Israeli public

According to Maariv’s poll, 57 percent of Israelis accept the principles outlined in president Obama’s Middle East speech. By being more pro-Israeli than the Knesset, the US Congress indicates that the road to peace and justice in the region cannot pass through Washington

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011. In Israel, Kantor's view would have placed him in a settler's party (photo: AIPAC)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011. In Israel, Kantor's view would have placed him in a settler's party (photo: AIPAC)

In the morning following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress, a poll published by the Israeli daily Maariv indicates that while Netanyahu enjoys considerable support among Israelis, the public is far more inclined than its prime minister to make concessions to the Palestinians.

According to a Teleseker-Maariv poll, conducted last night, a clear majority of 57 percent of Israelis would have wanted Netanyahu to say “yes” or “yes, but” (figures break 10 percent “yes”, 47 “yes, but”) to the path to a two-state solution outlined in President Obama’s speech.

(As pollster Dahlia Scheindlin wrote on this site, such figures correspond to previous polls, which show, for most part, the support of most of the Jewish public for a two-state solution based on the ‘67 borders.)

At the same time, if elections were held today, the Maariv poll has Netanyahu’s Likud party receiving 30 seats (it holds 27 today), with opposition party Kadima dropping from 27 to 26 seats. The poll shows Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu rising from 14 to 16 seats.

If those numbers represent the real attitude of the Israeli public, then Netanyahu has presented a false picture in the speeches given during his U.S. visit– he enjoys a stronger coalition than he cares to present, but in rejecting the 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations, he doesn’t reflect the views of most Israelis.

My bet is that with time, more Israelis will come to oppose the ‘67-based solution and a compromise over Jerusalem, as the prime minister’s messages increasingly sinks in with some of his supporters, who are now more open to concessions than he is.

What’s even more interesting is how far to the right the Washington establishment is on these issues. If they were Israelis, all of those attacking President Obama on Israel – from the Senate majority leader to the Washington Post’s editorial page – would have been part of the right flank of the Likud, or a moderate settler party. Right now, the Israeli consensus – if such thing exists – is to the left of the beltway (though Netanyahu is working very hard to change that).

If the events of the past few days have taught us anything, it’s that the unique connection between Washington politicians (Republicans and Democrats alike), the Jewish lobby and Israeli hawks is the main obstacle to the termination of the occupation.

Under the current circumstances, the road to justice and peace in the region cannot pass through the U.S. capital.

This post was updated – see italic.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Koshiro

      The polls are essentially worthless, because they ask about “adjustments” which could mean this or that.

      I’d like to see a poll where Jewish Israelis are presented with a concrete plan including 1:1 land swaps, like the Geneva Accords. That would have some meaning.

      “1967 with adjustments” can in theory mean hemmed-in, disconnected bantustans.

      Reply to Comment
    2. It indicates an opportunity to oppose Netanyahu electorally.

      My proposal would be to campaign on the basis of Israel’s devolution of relationships with neighbors, its increasing isolation. Egypt, Jordan, Turkey (close allies not alienated). Increased tension with Palestine. Deferred but increasing tension with Syria, Lebanon.

      The prospect of devolving from 2/3 of the Israeli border at peace to 100% of frontier in conflict, and with the settlement maze incorporated within Israel, that MORE borders are exposed than even the green line.

      The only defensible borders in a state of animosity is the rectangle of river to sea, which belies the FACT that peace is not constructed 80% defense, 20% good relations, but the other way, 80% good relations supported by 20% defensibility.

      Its dangerous for Israel and for Israelis.

      Reply to Comment
    3. @KOSHIR:

      You are wrong. Polls usually DO mention “land swaps”. See the link to Dahlia’s post in my article for more info.

      Reply to Comment
    4. max

      Words are malleable, and distortion is easy. “based on the ’67 lines (not borders!)” could very well mean that the negotiation is not about pre-’67 Israel. What Netanyahu says is that the new border will not be the same as the ’67 lines, to reflect demographic and security realities. That’s also what Obama clarified, though they obviously disagree (at least) on what are the security needs. If you have to distort words in order to make your point, your position is indeed weak.
      .
      Koshiro: I agree with your observation (see above) but don’t see the relevance of the Geneva Accords, in particular its 1:1 interpretation

      Reply to Comment
    5. max

      Following on my previous comment: it seems like the actual numbers in the poll do not fit the “clear majority” qualification as “… outlined in President Obama’s speech” part, but only to its ““yes” to the path to a two-state solution”.
      So Koshiro is right, his mistake between “swaps” and “1:1 swaps” notwithstanding: the poll shows that the Israeli public accepts a 2-state solution, but says nothing about how it should look like

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel

      Poll on questions like this are meaningless. Asking things like “are you for peace according to so-and-so’s plan” without a detailed explanation of what that plan is will always give a higher rate of support than if the terms are spelled out explicitly. That is why the Left has always rammed through their programs like the Olso Agreements and the destruction of Gush Katif with minimal public discussion.
      When Sharon agreed to have a referendum of Likud members regarding his destruction of Gush Katif, he defined it as a vote of confidence in his leadership. The polls showed him winning comfortably, something like 70-30. When the actual vote was held, he lost 60-40.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Koshiro

      “You are wrong. Polls usually DO mention “land swaps”. See the link to Dahlia’s post in my article for more info.”
      ‘Land swaps’ is just as non-committal as ‘adjustments’. A ‘land swap’ under the terms discussed under the wrongly-lauded ‘Clinton parameters’ would mean that Israel took 100km2 of prime real estate and the Palestinians got 30km2 of desert in return.

      ‘Land swap’ is a meaningless buzzword unless referring to a concrete proposal.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ben Israel

      Having read the piece, I must say the headline of this column is TOTALLY misleading. The implication is that 57% of the public supports Obama’s position over Netanyahu’s. Actually only TEN PERCENT say this, another 47% say they agree with PARTS of Obama’s position. Note how Netanyanu’s position if there were elections is being strengthened so it is clear that the implication that the public opposes his position compared to Netanyahu’s is totally unwarranted.

      Reply to Comment
    9. @Ben:

      I interpreted the figures just as Maariv – who published the poll (See the papar’s top headline this morning in the printed edition).

      However, I should have posted the exact break of the figure, to which you pointed. I updated the post accordingly.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply to Comment
    10. David

      “I interpreted the figures just as Maariv – who published the poll.”

      In that case, you both need lessons in logical thinking. Maybe you can get a deal – study together and get a discount.

      Do you think you can base a foreign policy on a poll which summarized everything into one or two words??? And how do you know that Bibi himself isn’t saying “yes, but”?

      Reply to Comment
    11. max

      It’s funny, as just 2 days ago Yossi Gurvitz was deriding NRG for not checking the info they receive before publishing, and a few days earlier the “right” was laughing at Ynet for publishing a clip proving the opposite of what the undelying text was claiming :)

      Reply to Comment
    12. While poll results a=can be interesting, unless the question is very specific, such as would you vote for person A or person B, they tend to produce vague results.

      News commentators almost always interpret the questions and the results. Simply present the facts such as the precise questions asked and the precise results and let the viewers determine if the results are as claimed.

      Vague questions are interpreted in to many ways to produce true meaning. What did President Obama mean by (pre-) 67 borders (actually armistice lines) and land swaps, and the emotional issue of Jerusalem? Most people I have spoken to believe it was diplomatic code for not returning to the pre-1967 lines, but only a statement that he believed the Palestinian entity should have approximately the amount of land encompassed in that area, from which Israeli troops should withdraw, but only after the Palestinians proved they had established a truly peaceful State which will not include Hamas participation. A land standard all reasonable persons believe in, but doubt the Palestinians will go along with it.

      Regardless, US Congressional support, from both Democratic and Republican parties, for Netanyahu and Israel will offset any problems caused by the General Assembly. The US is the world’s ruling power and will prevent the UN collection of nations from damaging Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Sylvia

      And the most hilarious of all: a Haaretz poll that gave Shimon Peres 100% approval among Israelis.
      This is how reliable those polls are.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Saeed Hotary

      I agree that the peace cannot come thru Washington. I am hopeful that there will be a UN declaration in September cancelling the creation of israel. Since the UN will not participate, a UN force, led by England, Iran, and Turkey will forcibly evacuate israelis from Palestine and resettle them in their homelands

      Reply to Comment
    15. delia ruhe

      “My bet is that with time, more Israelis will come to oppose the ‘67-based solution . . .”

      That’s my bet too. Give it a coupla weeks, let Bibi’s dashing performance with Congress sink in, and these poll numbers will change in Bibi’s favour.

      But perhaps we shouldn’t panic. Mindset-wise, Israel is where Western Europe was in the late 19th century — full of hubris and enjoying all the perqs of colonialism. It took two world wars to bring them to their senses. I don’t think it will require quite that much to wake up Israel.

      Right now, we should keep an eye on the Palestinians and hope that they’re getting good advice and some kindly mentoring. They need to be encouraged to go forward to the UN in September and to continue with peaceful protests — even pick up the pace a bit.

      Reply to Comment
    16. CBCalif

      To Richard Witty, et al:
      Defensible Borders versus Good Relationships:

      Czechoslovakia succumbed to Western pressure in the 1930′s and gave up its ethnically German populated Sudetenland to Germany, its only defensible border area, in return for good relations. I wonder how they liked the outcome of a philosophy that peace is not constructed 80% defense, 20% good relations, but the other way, 80% good relations supported by 20% defensibility.

      Israel needs not good relationships with its neighbors who in truth, except for some of the Jordanians who also fear their neighbors, aim for their destruction. Israel needs and has American support, increasing weapons technology such as Iron Dome and the forthcoming and recently tested Laser Weapons systems, it excellent military, and its Jericho missile nuclear weapons delivery system
      to secure its independence.

      Adopt the 80% god relationships with their neighboring states and entities (Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, etc.) instead of an 80+% defense posture and Israel will share the fate of Czechoslovakia. Of course, unless NATO saves them. Yes–I am being sarcastic.

      My opinion of Israel’s neighbors comes from many years of having lived intimately among the Palestinians, many of who I dearly care for, and from having many Jordanian friends.

      The King of Jordan shortsightedly wants a large Palestinian State only so he can remove large numbers of them from his country. The few that have Jordanian citizenship routinely have it taken from them. The Jordanians have never forgotten Black September and consider the Palestinians a threat to their survival.

      Reply to Comment
    17. May

      Congress is to the right of Likud because (a) seeking the Jewish vote in US elections and (b) because a fair number of them believe the Jews need to go back to Israel so Jesus can return, condemn them to hell, and end the world. Neither is a very good reason to continue the current situation.

      Hamas may be best known as a terrorist organization, but like the IRA in Ireland, peace will not happen unless they are part of a solution as opposed to being marginalized as the problem. A Palestine that exists as a series of walled off reservations, confined and totally dependent on Israel for everything, denied its own rightful claims of Jerusalem as an important religious center, its historical rights to the land and property ignored, will never be able to contain its despair and fury. And the world will not be safe as a result. Does Israel really want to be a “jailor” of a burgeoning populace that exists as a confined welfare state into perpetuity? Or is it ready to join the human race as a neighbor that will allow these people they pushed off most of the land to flourish in their own right, and settle into a civil society with its own economy and identity, as well as dignity into the future.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Arik Elman

      Way to go spinning the whole theory out of one sloppy poll. Maariv could simply ask “Do you support Obama’s demand that Israel withdraw to 1967 borders with minimal agreed swaps?” and save its tattered reputation, but then the result just won’t be satisfactory, wouldn’t it?

      Reply to Comment
    19. [...] Remaining blind to these facts is essential for us Israelis to maintain ourselves as historically righteous victims. So, yes. These speeches were so much fun, because they allow us to forget it all, and even receive some friendly applause. [...]

      Reply to Comment
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