There is widespread concern is among Israeli Jews that if Israeli maintains its grip on the territories and no solution is reached based on the principle of "two states for two peoples," the Palestinians will eventually become a majority west of the Jordan and a de facto "binational" state will emerge. This is a possibility that meets wall-to-wall opposition.
Against this background, it is easy to understand wide support both for the construction of the separation fence and for the renewal of political negotiations with the Palestinians.
Nevertheless, even though a large majority has heard of it and also knows who are the main personalities identified with it, the Geneva Initiative has only the support a minority, and only a small number believe this initiative has any chance of being realized.
A considerable majority also asserts that the Geneva Initiative is not legitimate because only the elected government is authorized to conduct political negotiations. Moreover, the three personalities most identified with the initiative - Yossi Beilin, Amram Mitzna, and Avraham Burg - are regarded as incapable of representing the Israeli national interest. Those are the main findings of the Peace Index survey for October, which was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 28th and 29th of the month.
The question was asked whether there is reason to fear that without a solution based on the principle of two states for two peoples, and with continued Israeli control of the territories, the Palestinians will turn from a minority to a majority and a de facto binational state will emerge west of the Jordan. In reply 67 percent said they strongly or moderately fear this scenario, whereas only 24 percent said they fear this not very much or not at all (9 percent did not know).
This concern, which is shared by all segments of the Jewish public, left and right, religious and secular, is not surprising given the sweeping opposition to the possibility of a binational state, which cuts across all camps.
Today only 6 percent support such a solution, whereas 78 percent favor a two-state solution. Some 11.5 percent support neither of the two solutions and 4.5 percent do not know.
Opposition to a binational state encompasses three main factors. Some 86 percent of Israeli Jews think that in such a state Jews and Palestinians would not be able to live together as citizens with equal rights - only 11 percent think that would be possible and 3 percent do not know.
Eighty percent believe it would be impossible to maintain the security of the Jewish population in a binational state - 16 percent think it would be possible and 4 percent do not know.
Sixty-six percent say that in a binational state it would be impossible to ensure the realization of Jewish identity - 25 percent think it would be possible to realize this identity even in the framework of a binational state.
Given these positions it is not surprising that, as in the past, there is overwhelming support for the separation fence, with 83 percent favoring it and only 12 percent opposing it - 5 percent do not know. On this issue, too, a majority of both right- and left-wing voters is in favor, though to different degrees. Interestingly, the lowest rates of support are among voters for Meretz and for the National Union - 60 percent and 64 percent, respectively.
Presumably, the reasons for the significant opposition to the separation fence among voters of these two parties - 35 percent in Meretz and 27 percent in the National Union - are different in nature.
Support for the fence is also influenced, of course, by considerations of its effectiveness against terror. Some 63 percent believe the fence can significantly reduce terror, and another 19 percent believe that constructing the fence or some other physical barrier can indeed prevent terror. Only 16 percent think the fence can not prevent or even reduce terror.
Regarding the debate about the route of the fence, we found that a large majority - 63 percent - favors the view that this route should be determined according to considerations of the Israeli government. Only 19 percent hold the view that the route should follow the Green Line - 4 percent did not respond to this question stating that they oppose the construction of the fence in principle and 14 percent took no position.
As with the sweeping support for constructing the separation fence in principle, on the issue of the route a majority of voters for the large parties favors the view that it should be determined according to considerations of the government. Meretz voters are the exception - 60 percent of them think the fence should follow the Green Line, compared to 30 percent who believe the route should be subject to the government's considerations.
The concern about the emergence of a binational state and the broad support for an agreement based a two-state solution is also apparently behind the broad support for renewing political negotiations with the Palestinians. At present, 71 percent favor holding negotiations, 26 percent oppose it and 3 percent do not know.
Nevertheless, the Geneva Initiative - with 79 percent of the Jewish public reporting that they have heard of it, and 56 percent saying they can identify the people involved - was acceptable about three weeks after it was publicized to only one-fourth of the Jewish public and 54 percent opposed it, while 21 percent have no position on the issue.
Only 7 percent think the Geneva Initiative stands a chance of being realized, whereas 81 percent believe its chances are small or nil and 12 percent do not know.
As expected, there are considerable gaps in the degree of support for the Geneva Initiative between left-wing and right-wing and centrist voters.
Thus, among Meretz voters 80 percent support it and 5 percent oppose it. Among Labor voters 53 percent support it and 33 percent oppose it. In the other large parties, the rates of support for the initiative were - Shinui, 27 percent; Likud, 16 percent; Shas, 21 percent; Mafdal (National Religious Party), 11 percent; and the National Union, 0 percent.
On the question of whether a group of citizens is entitled to pursue initiatives such as the Geneva Initiative so long as they do not violate the law, or, alternatively, only the elected government is authorized to conduct peace negotiations, since such initiatives, even if legal, undermine the elected government's status, there is a clear preference - 65 percent - for the second view.
Only 28 percent favor the first view and - 7 percent do not know. The pattern of positions on this question by party distribution is very similar to the pattern that was found on support or opposition to the Geneva Initiative.
However, the statement by Shaul Yahalom, MK (NRP), that participation in the initiative constitutes treason, for which the penalty is life imprisonment or death, is viewed as improper by a sweeping majority of 78 percent - only 14 percent thought it was proper, and 8 percent did not know. Indeed, Yahalom's statement was regarded as improper by a considerable majority of voters, 67 percent, of his own party.
Among those who had heard of the Geneva Initiative, a large majority correctly identified the main individuals responsible for it. It emerges that the public views the personalities who are most identified with the initiative - Yossi Beilin and, far behind him, Amram Mitzna, Avraham Burg, Haim Oron, Nechama Ronen, and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak - as not very capable of representing the Israeli national interest.
Thus, in the eyes of 61 percent, Yossi Beilin cannot represent the national interest. Some 18 percent believe he can, and 21 percent do not know. As for the others - Mitzna, 57 percent, cannot, 22 percent can, 21 percent don't know; Burg, 41 percent cannot, 26 percent can, 33 percent don't know; Ronen, 43 percent cannot, 7 percent can, 50 percent don't know; Shahak, 31 percent cannot, 33 percent can, 36 percent don't know.
These findings support the view that the Jewish public's positions on the Geneva Initiative were influenced not only by the document's content but also by the political identity of the people involved.
In contrast to the Jewish interviewees, only half of the Arab interviewees said they had heard of the Geneva Initiative and 48 percent said they had not heard of it.
Yet, as expected, support for the Geneva Initiative is much higher among the Arab public than among the Jews. Some 77 percent said they support it or strongly support it, 14 percent opposed it and 9 percent did not know.
Nevertheless, many of the Arab interviewees had well-expressed skepticism about the initiative's chances to be realized. Only 31.5 percent thought these chances were high or very high, 60 percent saw them as low or very low and 8.5 percent did not know.
The legitimacy of citizens engaging in such political negotiations is much higher among the Arab public than among the Jewish public. A decisive majority - 69 percent - of Arab interviewees identified more with the statement that in Israel as a democratic state citizens are entitled to pursue such initiatives so long as they do not violate the law. Just 23 percent favored the view that such activity, even if legal, undermines the government's authority.
On the question of a binational state or, alternatively, a two-state solution, there was considerable similarity between the positions of the Arab and Jewish publics. Thus, among the Arabs as well a majority, albeit smaller - 60 percent - believes Jews and Arabs could not live as citizens with equal rights in a binational state, while 36 percent said this would be possible and the rest did not know.
A majority of 75.5 percent prefers the two-state solution, only 7 percent preferring the binational-state solution. Unlike the Jews, however, the Arabs are divided on the question of whether it would be possible to maintain the Jews' security in a binational framework - 46 percent think it would be possible, 47 percent believe it would not and 7 percent do not know.
As for the question of preserving the Jews' identity in a binational framework, among the Arab interviewees a majority of 53 percent thinks or is certain that this would be impossible, whereas 39 percent say it would be possible.
The very clear contrast on this question concerns the degree of concern about whether continuing the existing situation of Israeli control of the territories will lead to a de facto binational state west of the Jordan in which Palestinians would eventually become a majority. Not surprisingly, 59 percent of the Arab interviewees said they do not fear such a scenario and only 39 percent expressed fear of it.
As in the past, the prevailing view among the Arab public is against the construction of the separation fence: 63 percent oppose it in principle, only 29 percent support it and 8 percent do not know.
Almost half of the Arab interviewees (49 percent) do not believe a physical means such as the fence can prevent or even significantly reduce the terror attacks. About one-fourth believe the fence will reduce the attacks, 17 percent think it can prevent them, 10 percent do not know.
As for the route of the fence, the clear preference-44 percent-is for the view that the route should follow the Green Line, with only 13 percent saying the route should be determined according to the Israeli government's considerations. Some 26 percent did not answer the question because of opposition to the fence in principle, and 17 percent did not know.
Oslo Index - entire sample, 31.2; Jewish sample, 27.2
Negotiation Index - entire sample, 52.3; Jewish sample, 50.8
The Peace Index project is conducted at the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research of Tel Aviv University, headed by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Dr. Tamar Hermann. The sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percent.
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