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62% of Israeli Jews: gov't should do more for peace

A new survey by Professor Shibley Telhami, with the University of Maryland, provides helpful, realistic, not always happy information about attitudes in the region. Nrg and ynet both reported on the survey; but here’s my choice of the interesting highlights with the full poll data linked in. The bottom line is that that Jewish and Arab Israelis are feeling harsh but pragmatic; there are openings in support of peace, but it takes a close reading to find them.

The surveys here were conducted for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, a center-liberal leaning think-tank where Telhami is a Senior Fellow. One survey was conducted by Dahaf polling institute, among 500 Jewish Israeli adults from November 17-25; the margin of error was +/-4.5%. A second survey was conducted among the Palestinian/Arab population of Israel, from October 20-November 3, by Zogby International. The sample was 600 adults, with a +/-4.0% margin of error. (Here’s the American sample). In general, when reading polls please note: if these details don’t appear, beware of shoddy methodology.

Here are my selections from the data; read the full surveys for plenty more information. In the Jewish sample:

•    A majority of Israeli Jews believe there will be peace with Palestinians – 51% compared to 47% who say there will not be peace. Forty-three percent say there will be peace but it will take time; eight percent say it will happen in the next five years.

•    Forty percent – a plurality – are prepared for a just resolution to the conflict based roughly on the 1967 borders and a two state solution. But 27% reject that even under favorable terms, and 30% reject both positions; for a total of 57% supporting “rejectionist” views.

•    Enough of the cynical manipulation of Israelis’ feelings about Obama. The Jerusalem Post has found the magical poll question that repeatedly gives him a low number, which it loves to keep asking; so that the hearsay ends up being “Obama’s ratings in Israel are in the single digits!” Wrong. How about a straight favorability question: In this survey, 41% of Israelis feel positive about him and 51% feel negative. That’s a realistic ten-point gap reflecting the tough-love line the Administration tried to take – and Israelis’ nervous, uncertain reaction. Not even close to hatred.

•    Sixty-two percent of Israelis do not need the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for negotiations. Hear that, Binyamin Netanyahu? You’re out of touch.

•    More than seven-in-ten Jewish Israelis support the notion that Israel is the “homeland of the Jews and all its citizens,” basically a Meretz position.

•    Sixty-two percent of Israelis think Israel should be doing more than it is doing today to reach peace. Hear that, J-Street detractors?  You’re out of touch.

And among the Arab citizens of Israel:

•    The plurality, 32%, view Iran as the biggest threat to them (nearly twice as many as those who cite Israel); 54% think a nuclear Iran would make things worse (more than twice as many as the opposing view). A majority thinks the world should not pressure Iran to stop its program (50%, versus 41% who believe Iran should be pressured) – but the gap between the two responses has closed significantly since 2009 (53% to 38%)

•    Clear majorities in 2009 and 2010 reject the notion of transferring Israeli Arab towns to the Palestinian authority. Fifty-eight percent currently oppose it, although this is a surprising drop from 66% in 2009. Perhaps Liebermanism has caused such despair that growing numbers of our citizens feel they must secede.

•    Resistance to national service is falling and compared to 2009, there are now more Arabs who would do it under the right conditions, than those who reject it: 49% would do it if there is a Palestinian state or unconditionally, compared to 47% who reject it (a drop from 51% who rejected national service in 2009). A majority, 57% (three points higher than in 2009

•    A majority, 57% (three points higher than in 2009) believe that Palestinian right of return is so important there can be no compromise. This is a sobering obstacle to their support for a future agreement, which is likely to include a compromise. It’s about the same level of resistance most Jewish Israelis have toward compromising on Jerusalem – which becomes more flexible when an agreement seems like a reality. Maybe we can expect a similar pattern among Arabs in Israel.

•    They are more pessimistic about peace: 63% believe it will never happen. That certainly must contribute to the internal tension between Jews and Arabs in Israel. I.e., peace could mitigate some of the tension.

Is there a clear message? That it’s complicated. Both sides hold rejectionist attitudes that frighten the other – but the data also shows some shared goals and pragmatic willingness to accept the other. If the leaders were really seeking to make peace, they would draw courage from the latter instead of whining out excuses based on the former.

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    1. David

      Since when has the Brookings Institution been liberal? Centrist, maybe. And since when has Haim Saban been anything but an Israeli apologist?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Sounds like a “made to order” poll, i.e. the poll was designed to make it seem that the Israeli population supports “peace” and the policies of the “peace mafia”. All the other polls I heard have large majorities saying that they don’t believe the Palestinians will ever agree to make peace, while at the same time a majority wants a continuation of the negotiations. I live in Israel and few of the people I am in contact with seem to believe there will be peace, but of course, that is only anectdotal evidence.
      It is interesting to note that only 8% in this poll thinks there will be peace in the near future. What do the rest think will happen to enable peace in the long-term?

      Regarding the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state”- I interpret this as meaning the Israeli demand that the Arab side give up demanding the Palestinian “Right of Return” and that any agreement reached will bring the end of all further demands. If the question were put that way, I think there would be a larger majority in favor of this Israeli demand. It is also possible that the majority not in favor of “recognition of Israel as a Jewish state” view this as a precondition, and that it should be dropped as such, but they would accept it as part of a final agreement.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben, the poll does not seem to be ‘made to order’ as well and I try not to write about those kinds of polls, except to critique them. But don’t trust me on it – look at the full survey yourself and decide. The very first question I described in the Jewish sample shows precisely the uncertainty among Jews. I will say that the point here was to see what data offers opportunities for peace, so that the leaders realize they cannot always use the excuse “our people don’t want it.” None of it contradicts your correct, well-supported observation that many people want the negotiations to continue although they don’t believe their will be peace – but that’s why i like the more nuanced view in that first question.
      All your critique in your second paragraph sounds pretty legitimate and plausible to me.
      One thing – what in the world is the peace mafia? Since when did the notion of seeking a fair, pragmatic, negotiated solution that allows the continued existence of Israel without the mutual assured destruction of the conflict (even if the solution will never be perfect) become a negative pursuit?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben Israel

      Thank you for your reasoned response. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the term “peace mafia” here, I certainly understand those who aspire to what you defined as a fair solution. The problem is that I too often encounter a harsh delegitimization by progressives of those who don’t believe that a peace agreement is achievable (as indeed I don’t) and of those who believe that the Jewish people have a right to settle throughout Judea/Samaria, regardless of whatever political arrangement could possibly emerge in the future (as I do).
      I recently heard a lecture by Ami Ayalon, a veteran “believer in the peace process” and he gave the usual pep-talk about how we have to get out of Judea/Samaria. When asked hard question about how this is to come about, how do we ensure security of Israel, what do we do when the Arabs will continue to oppose Israel’s existece even after a pull-out, he only could give evasive answers. My use of the term “peace mafia” results from years of seeing a refusal by those who advocate these policies (which I stated are understandable) to address their repeated failure to bring peace when in power, and which instead brought increased violence and increased delegitimization of Israel in spite of Oslo and the withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza, and their refusal to address genuine concerns of people about their policies. Thus it seems that we are dealing with a closed group of people who are not capable of dealing with a reality that is outside of their perception of things.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben, I understand your perception. I agree that those who have traditionally supported a negotiated two-state solution do not have all the answers to the tough questions you raise. how to deal with ongoing security violations despite negotiated accords? How to respond to violations even as we acknowledge the urgent need to end the occupation and reach a negotiated solution? these are pan-Israel problems that anyone in power must address, left right or striped and polka-dotted, because they are a reality.
      Unfortunately, the answer of the current government (which claims it favors a negotiated two-state solution) and of those who actively oppose such resolution have also been inadequate (not to mention close-minded). Some have gone for military escalation.the current gov’t seems to believe in status quo but that doesn’t exist – current policies create ever-greater short-and long-term security threats, in my analysis. Meanwhile actually reaching a negotiated settlement ameliorates some threats, even if others persist. The “status quo” cannot be justified as beneficial to israeli security…
      Finally, maybe this isn’t your particular take (which is your right), but controlling the Palestinian population at current levels is simply immoral and a gross human rights violation, and i take that very seriously. of course that too won’t be perfect once an agreement is signed! but will improve.
      don’t expect miracles – expect incremental change. at least that’s my view…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Y.

      I can’t tell how reliable the poll was (I’d like to see the questionnaire in Hebrew), but this article is full of obvious spin. Some examples:

      • “Sixty-two percent of Israelis do not need the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for negotiations. Hear that, Binyamin Netanyahu? You’re out of touch.” No one ever made it a condition of negotiations. Israelis do support the demand per the poll, but they seem to have accepted Nethanyahu’s proclaimed “no preconditions” approach to negotiating.

      • “A majority of Israeli Jews believe there will be peace with Palestinians… Forty-three percent say there will be peace but it will take time… eight percent say it will happen in the next five years.” The 43% response is meaningless except a sign of optimism. After all, no one expects the conflict to last forever. The key response is the 8% response, which indicates no one sees the conflict ending in the near term.

      • “Enough of the cynical manipulation of Israelis’ feelings about Obama… How about a straight favorability question”. Irrelevant. No one cares if Israelis like Obama – most of us can’t vote in the US. The question is whether they like Obama’s policies, and especially whether they prefer electing leaders more to the liking of the American president – and the JPost polls show clearly the answer is “no”.

      • “More than seven-in-ten Jewish Israelis support the notion that Israel is the “homeland of the Jews and all its citizens,” basically a Meretz position.” No, Meretz’s position is the state should be a “state of all its citizens”. The question asked is different – it doesn’t mention “state”, but “homeland” and is therefor just a descriptive question (of course many non-Jews were born here) with a very different meaning in Hebrew. The rightwing equivalent would be to ask to define Israel as “the state between the Jordan and the Sea”, and than tell everyone the poll says everyone opposes a Palestinian state based on the answer…

      Reply to Comment
    7. Y – on your first point – yes it was a condition. this is just one report but it’s been a major feature of the current government’s policy.

      -on your second point – we’ll agree to disagree.
      -your third point: You have a legitimate point. I think the issue is credibility of the American president not because Israelis think about voting for him, but in terms of his credibility on policy here. The J post question is relevant, but so is liking him – i.e., believing that he is trustworthy, well-intentioned, capable, committed, etc. And favorability questions are at least as good a barometer of that. But – legitimate point.
      -Your last point: No – you’re referring to Hadash. Check the party platforms, they’re all on line. Here’s the wording copied right from the Meretz platform ישראל היא מדינת העם היהודי ומדינת כל אזרחיה
      and the link so you can read it yourself:

      Reply to Comment
    8. Y.

      – Again, it wasn’t a condition for _negotiations_ (what your post stated). It was something Israel expected to get in/following a _peace agreement_. Understanding this changes the poll from showing opposition to the PM’s position to actually showing major (75%) support.
      The CSM link actually supports my point (Nethanyahu calls it “a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict” not a prerequisite for negotiations). Nethanyahu was very public with his “no preconditions to negotiations” stand, and I don’t believe I need to paste links to show this.

      – ok.

      – we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think Israelis can believe someone is a capable decent guy but does not represent our interests.

      – I stand corrected on Meretz (even though their formula makes little sense), but my argument was that if the Hebrew poll question follows its rendering in the English PDF, it is misleading. There’s a difference between asking about “homeland” and asking about “state”. The question is presented about the second, while the phrasing is about the former.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Re – Netanyahu: Yes, recognition was a condition for negotiations. Read this, from 2009

      There was talk about whether or not he backtracked after that. But the fact that recognition later (this autumn) became a quid pro quo for extending the settlement freeze


      makes it a de facto condition – since the settlement freeze was a condition for Palestinians to negotiate. You can argue about whether the Palestinian condition was legitimate – but the recognition of the Jewish State was definitely inserted as a condition of the negotiating process.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Y.

      Dahila, the 2009 line was before the Bar Ilan speech and obviously doesn’t apply now – no recognition didn’t stop Nethanyahu from negotiating in September.

      Now, he did suggest using it as a quid-per-pro with the freeze, but I don’t agree it means he was refusing to negotiate unless they did recognize Israel as such – its the Palestinians which are preventing negotiations by demanding a freeze, and if they dropped their demand, there would be negotiations even without said recognition.

      Now, we are talking about the poll response, and what matters here is what other respondents think. I strongly suspect most other poll respondents agree with me and don’t think it was a precondition to negotiations either – especially since Nethanyahu made a deal with the Americans to extend the freeze without said recognition just days before the poll was conducted… [Yeah, it didn’t work out eventually, but no one knew that when the poll was conducted].

      Reply to Comment
    11. Martin Sandberger

      You seem to be an intelligent woman. Why dont you recognize what 4 billion people already recognize? The state of israel is an illegitimate entity founded on ehtnic cleansing and backed by mythological history. The wound cannot be healed without Palestine being returned to its original inhabitants. Your talents would best be used to encourage immigration to places where you have a real historic claim

      Reply to Comment