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Survey: Despite slogans, Israeli Jews not ready for change

The recent Peace Index shows that when it comes to peace talks and social spending, not much has changed, despite diplomatic developments and a tumultuous summer

The following are highlights from the September 2011 “Peace Index,”  a long-running monthly index of peace and conflict related topics, mixed with other topical questions.  The survey was run by phone from 2-3 October, 2011, among a representative sample of 600 Israeli adults.

Israeli-Palestinian conflictRemarkably stable dynamics. Despite a month that was supposed to be momentous, the central tenet of Israeli public opinion regarding the conflict remains exactly as it has been for years now: The wide majority of Israelis – three-quarters –  supports negotiations, but just 30% believe talks have any hope of bringing peace.

This general approach seems to have become a sort of comfort zone for Israelis: I’ve often wondered if they support negotiations precisely because they know they won’t bring an agreement that will involve painful compromises.

Social Protest: The parallel universe of Arabs and Jews in Israel. The Israeli Jewish public remains completely fired up by the need to continue the social protests – 80% of the Jews say it would be justified to continue. However, among the Arab respondents, just 60% feel this way. Why? The next question offers one explanation, in painful terms: while 83% of Jews believe the protest was successful at putting social justice issues on the agenda in Israel – only 41% of Arabs think so.

Despite the fact that this survey would have only a small sample of Arabs, I’m not at all surprised by the results. Although many held out wide hope for newfound solidarity between the communities in Israel – or at least the start of a process – apparently the remaining 60% of Arabs felt very left out or else cynical – they probably worried that it would be very easy to leave Arabs out of the issues and the proposed solutions, which might even come at their expense.

Despite the rallying cry of the protests, repeated like a mantra, that Israelis wants a change in priorities, it seems that Arab citizens are the ones who are truly prepared to challenge the status quo: while half of Israeli Jews support cutting the defense budget to fund social programs, a full 80% of Arabs back this move.

So despite the tumult of the summer, the Jewish Israeli respondents, judging from this survey, are not genuinely prepared for deep and bold changes to our political or social identity. That makes their activism and protests look somewhat shallow, and I sure hope it will change. At present, the forces of change seem to lie with the Arabs of Israel – but given their own sense of alienation and general rejection by Israeli society, will they take up the gauntlet either on social issues or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Will anyone listen?

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    1. RichardNYC

      Many sociologists attribute the timing of the civil rights movement in the United States to WWII; blacks’ mass mobilization is said to have created economic mobility, political awareness, and increased confidence to demand equality in the following decades. Israeli Arabs’ cynicism, or lack of faith in a system that denies them public resources, is very well founded. Though I don’t necessarily think Arabs have a duty to serve in Israel’s army, it seems likely that some kind of community-wide commitment to public service might help break down the Jewish monopoly on public money/land and help Israeli Arabs break out of he Tibi vs. Lieberman sectarian/nationalist/parochial political dynamic.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Israeli Arabian

      Your so-called “Israeli Arabians” don’t see themselves that way.
      The Mohammed-worshippers used to call themselves Southern Syrians. Now they call themselves “Palestinians”.
      Regardless of what happens: if the Mohammedans establish their KKKaliphate (#194), then these Israeli Arabians will be subject to their Islamic King and Israeli policy is none of their business.
      On the other hand, should the 2-state solution falls through, then there will be a single state/genocidal civil war, and the Israeli Arabians will all be killed or deported anyways.
      So either way, what difference does it make what Israeli Arabians think about domestic policy?

      Reply to Comment
    3. directrob

      The “incitement” and “racism” suppression seems to be seriously broken in this thread…

      Reply to Comment
    4. dayag

      Dahlia, I think you are 100% wrong in saying: ” I’ve often wondered if they support negotiations precisely because they know they won’t bring an agreement that will involve painful compromises.”

      Most Israelis are ready for the painful compromises that will be required; but I really don’t think our Palestinian neighbors are willing to do the same. Many of them want victory, not peace.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard is quite right. The Israeli Palestinians have no great faith in either the solidarity of their fellow “jewish” citizens or the Israeli Government and for good reason. As Richard so rightly observes, service in the armed forces is a direct path to numerous benefits (not all pecuniary) which distinguishes the 2 populations. The haredi population gets these benefits even though they don’t serve. In order to equalise the playing field, a form of compulsory community service in which ALL israeli citizens could choose to serve, would be a first step in mitigating the inequalities in Israeli society. Reform of the ILA, increasing the release of lands to Israeli Palestinian communities, would be a necessary 2nd step.

      Reply to Comment
    6. ARTH

      Why is this such a shock? No significant change has been made in Israeli policy for at least 20 years. The settlements are built and built. The potential for a “two state solution” becomes less and less practical.
      Israel is a right-wing country and one should know and expect that it will stay that way. The assumptions of those who read and write for 972 are totally an illusion.

      Reply to Comment