The Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, who announced his intention to leave politics, pondered on Thursday at the Pentagon, where he received a Department of Defense Medal on exceptional public service from his American counterpart, Leon Panetta. Thinking about the consequences of the Palestinian UN bid, Barak said "nothing can replace the direct negotiation with no preconditions" - adding, however, that "of course, we cannot start it during the election period in Israel. We would prefer to see it being delayed for another three months or so and then start negotiation with no preconditions with the next government of Israel. But as we all know, Abu Mazen rejected this proposal and turned to the U.N. I don't think that it can change. In a way, that's the right way to make things worse rather than to solve them."
For Palestinians, both the elections and the possible congressional punishment of cutting aid (House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros Lehtitnen warned that "reckless" UN agencies shouldn't receive further funding from the US), means further delay. How do the Israelis see the day after - if the two-state solution fails?
A new Israel public opinion poll, fielded by the Dahaf Institute and released by the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution, ahead of the annual Saban forum, reveals that 51 percent of Israelis are saying that lasting peace with the Palestinians will never happen; 40 percent say it is inevitable - but will take more than five years. If the two-state solution collapses – 13 percent think it will lead to the one-state solution; 37 percent say that the status quo will remain; 35 percent expect intense conflict for years to come, and six percent expect that the Palestinians will give up.
Half of Israeli Jews are ready to accept the Arab Peace Initiative - 67' borders and normalization of relations with all Arab states - as the basis for negotiations, 42 percent think Israel should reject it.
The last outburst of violence in Gaza didn't seem to change much: 38 percent of Israelis say that a strategic situation for the country remains the same as it was before the Gaza crisis, 36 percent say it improved, 21 percent - worsened.
Forty percent think Israel was victorious, 45 percent say neither side prevailed, and 11 percent think Hamas won. 40 percent of Israelis don't believe the conflict with militants in Gaza will ever end, 27 percent think a major military campaign or the reoccupation of Gaza will work, and only 29 percent believe it will end through a peace agreement with the Palestinians - probably a big part of the skepticism is the lack of confidence that Palestinian moderates will prevail in the political discourse between Ramallah and Gaza. As Israeli UN Envoy Ron Prosor said in his speech on Thursday, addressing the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: "You can't even visit nearly half of the state you claim to represent".
On the Arab Spring, pessimism prevails again: 51 percent of Israelis think it had a negative impact on their country, 15 percent - positive. Prognoses on the day after the fall of the Assad regime are not bright either: 42 percent of Israelis think it will actually be worse, 30 percent - better. But, as Minister Ehud Barak stressed in his press-conference with Minister of Defense Leon Panetta on Thursday, there is a "reason to be worried" that weapons in the hands of the Syrian opposition might be used against Israel - adding however, that "there is an urgent need to topple him - he creates huge damage, it's criminal behavior on a global scale, what he's doing to his own people, using jet fighters and helicopters and artillery and tanks, killing his own people".
As far as Egypt is concerned - President Mohamed Morsi largely behaved as 48 percent of Israelis expected, 23 percent think his policies are worse, and 17 percent were positively surprised. Forty-one percent of the Israelis believe the peace agreement will hold with some changes, 36 percent think it will remain as is, and only 17 percent of Israelis say that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty is likely to be terminated in the next four years.
On the Iranian front – 87 percent of Israelis and 92 percent of Israeli Jews believe Iran is likely to develop a nuclear weapon. Fifty-eight percent are ready to support a nuclear-free Middle East arrangement.
The poll provided for a large space for the Jewish Democrats' post-elections "we told you so" moment. This year, President Barack Obama leaped to the front of the list of world leaders most admired by Israelis (last year, he lagged behind Angela Merkel and Bill Clinton). Sixty percent of Israelis have a positive view of Obama - and while 61 percent think the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favored in these elections, Obama's rival, Governor Mitt Romney (despite Netanyahu's denial), 60 percent think that Netanyahu-Obama relations would not influence the relationship between the countries, though 54 percent also think that Obama's second term won't bring significant changed for Israelis and Palestinians.
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