Peace Index: July 2007 / Jewish Israelis don't have much faith in negotiations with PA
Lack of hope about peace is behind opposition to withdrawal and the freeing of Palestinian prisoners.
Although a considerable Israeli Jewish minority currently supports an extensive Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (except for the large settlement blocs), the majority does not support such a move even if it occurs in the framework of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Moreover, the majority objected to the recent freeing of the Palestinian prisoners, even though it was aimed at helping Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) boost his status among the Palestinian public, and an even larger majority opposes any future release of Marwan Barghouti despite the possibility that, if freed, he could strengthen the status of the secular Palestinian leadership.
This position partly stems, apparently, from the Israeli Jewish public's current lack of hope that negotiations with the PA can lead to peace in the foreseeable future. This also explains the fact that only a minority at present supports the stationing of an international peacekeeping force in the West Bank to enable an extensive Israeli withdrawal. However, the prevailing view is that the involvement of Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in peace deliberations would raise the chances of achieving a regional peace accord. At the same time, in the national order of priorities of the Israeli Jewish public, the proportion of those who think Israel's domestic and governmental problems are the most serious is twice as high as the proportion of those who think so regarding its foreign and security problems.
A full year after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, the large majority of Israeli Jews believes the decision to go to war was right but the war was poorly managed, although a considerable minority holds the view that both the decision to go to war and its management were defective. A tiny minority both justifies the war and believes it was well-managed.
As for the changes that have occurred since the war, the plurality view regarding both Hezbollah and Israel is that they have been strengthened, compared to the period before the war. However, the proportion of those assessing that the two sides' power has either remained as it was or declined is greater than the proportion of those who think it has increased. A substantial majority of the Jewish public believes the army has taken the necessary corrective measures based on the lessons of the war, but only a small minority says the same about the steps the civil authorities have taken since the war.
On the question of recruitment to the Israel Defense Forces, a sweeping majority of the Jewish public is very worried about that fact that significant percentages of draftees in recent years were not recruited, while making distinctions between groups on the question of whether nonrecruitment is justified. Almost all decline to justify nonrecruitment for reasons of conscience or yeshiva studies, and a considerable majority says the same about exemptions for girls on the basis of being religious. There is broad agreement, however, that nonrecruitment for physical or mental health reasons is justified.
Those are the main findings of the Peace Index survey for July 2007, which was carried out between Monday and Wednesday, July 30-August 1.
Although a substantial minority of the Israeli Jewish public - 42 percent - supports a broad Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (except for the large settlement blocs) in the framework of a peace treaty with the Palestinians, the majority - 53 percent - opposes such a measure. A segmentation of the positions on this question by voting for the Knesset in the most recent elections reveals, not surprisingly, a majority of supporters of a withdrawal among those who voted for Meretz (92 percent), but also among voters for Labor (76 percent), the Pensioners (65 percent) and Kadima (63.5 percent). Conversely, supporters of a withdrawal are only a small minority among voters for Yisrael Beiteinu (29 percent) and Likud (22 percent), and even fewer among voters for the National Religious Party/National Union (19 percent), Shas (6 percent) and United Torah Judaism (0 percent).
Coolness toward the Palestinians is also evident in the position of the majority - 59 percent - that Israel erred in releasing the Palestinian prisoners to strengthen the status of Abu Mazen (33.5 percent think this was the right step and the rest do not know).
An even larger majority - 71 percent - oppose the idea that Israel should set free Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, who was sentenced for his involvement in serious acts of terror. The goal of such an act would be to enable Barghouti, who is very popular among the Palestinian public, to bolster the secular forces in their struggle against Hamas and the Islamic forces (22 percent favor the release and the rest have no opinion on the matter).
This unwillingness to undertake confidence-building measures, and to withdraw from territory, can perhaps be attributed to the lack of belief among the Israeli Jewish majority - 63 percent - that negotiations with the PA can lead to peace in the foreseeable future.
Indeed, among the minority who do think negotiations can lead to a peace treaty, 68 percent favor a far-reaching Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank in the context of such an agreement whereas, among those who do not believe in the chances of negotiations, exactly that number opposes a withdrawal.
At the same time, it appears that the hope for a regional settlement has still not completely eroded; a majority - 53 percent - assesses that the involvement of Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and also Saudi Arabia in political contacts would raise the chances of finding a formula for regional peace (35 percent do not believe such involvement would raise these chances and the rest have no opinion).
Especially interesting is the finding on the question: "When you think about the problems Israel is dealing with today, which type of problem appears to you most severe: the foreign and security problems or the domestic and governmental problems?"
Fifty-five percent responded that the domestic and governmental problems are the gravest and only 22 percent saw the foreign and security problems as more pressing (19 percent regarded the two types of problems as equally severe and the rest had no opinion).
The sense that the domestic problems are more serious may be connected to a finding about the drawing of lessons from the Second Lebanon War. Only 20 percent think the government has taken the measures necessary to fix what was found to be defective in the war, compared to 52 percent who say the army has drawn its lessons and is taking the necessary corrective steps.
More generally, note also that the majority - 55 percent - thinks in retrospect that the war was justified but poorly managed. Thirty-nine percent say both that the decision to go to war was mistaken and it was badly managed, while only 2 percent say the war was both justified and well managed (the rest have no clear opinion).
As for the outcomes of the war, what may explain the fact that the foreign and security issues are perceived as less grave is that 42 percent think Israel emerged stronger from the war and 27 percent believe that its status has not changed.
About one-quarter view Israel's regional military status as weaker. That is, the proportion of those who believe Israel's power has not changed or has weakened is higher than the proportion of those who assess that it has strengthened. Incidentally, a similar assessment was obtained regarding Hezbollah - 44 percent think it has been strengthened, 28 percent that its status remains the same and 18.5 percent that it has weakened.
The issue of the decline in army recruitment rates is now on the public agenda. Interviewees were asked: "Recently it was published that significant percentages of the draft in recent years do not serve in the army or do not complete their full period of service. Some say that in today's situation, when the military drafts are large and there are enough soldiers, this phenomenon is no reason to worry.
However, others say the phenomenon is very worrisome because in the present situation the burden of service is unequally distributed. With which claim do you identify more?" Only 15 percent identified with the first claim, an overwhelming majority of 78 percent with the second. Note that, although in the two youngest age groups as well only a minority supported the first claim, their proportion of support for this claim was higher than in the older groups.
When we asked interviewees about the four main groups in the Jewish population who do not serve in the army, only a small minority justified the nonrecruitment of pacifists and those refusing to serve on a political basis - 16 percent; the nonrecruitment of yeshiva students - 28 percent of the interviewees; and the nonrecruitment of girls who declare their religiousness - 41 percent. However, a majority of 81 percent justified the nonrecruitment of those with social and health problems.
The peace indexes for this month were: General Oslo Index: 34.8 (Jewish sample: 31.4)
General Negotiation Index: 50.1 (Jewish sample: 47.1)
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 July 30-August 1, 2007, and included 600 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 percent. For the survey data see: http://www.tau.ac.il/peace