In the aftermath of Israel’s military operation in Gaza and the February elections, Israelis and Palestinians share hawkish positions and gloomy expectations regarding the peace process
Among other findings of the joint Truman PSR poll: Both Palestinians and Israelis believe that given the outcome of the Israeli military operation in Gaza, Palestinians are worse off than before the operation. Two thirds of Israelis believe that Israel stopped its military operation in Gaza too early, but only 30% think that Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip and stay there if shelling of Israeli communities continues
These are the results of the most recent poll conducted jointly by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, between March 1-7, 2009. This joint survey was conducted with the support of the Ford Foundation Cairo office and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Both Israelis and Palestinians oppose return to Palestinian-Israeli final status negotiations before the Roadmap conditions for each side are met -- cessation of Palestinian violence on one hand and an Israeli freeze on settlement activity on the other. Both sides are also pessimistic with regard to the prospects of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to the state of Israel in the near future and the ability of the new Israeli government to reach a settlement.
Support for a cease fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has been steadily declining among Israelis in the last months and reached 48% in our March poll. Among Palestinians support for a cease fire is stable, and 75% of Palestinians support it.
The joint poll also examined threat perceptions and support for violence in the aftermath of the Israeli military operation in Gaza and domestic political issues on both sides.
The Palestinian sample size was 1270 adults interviewed face-to-face in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in 127 randomly selected locations between March 5-7, 2009. The margin of error is 3%. The Israeli sample includes 602 adult Israelis interviewed by phone in Hebrew Arabic or Russian between March 1-3, 2009. The margin of error is 4.5%. The poll was planned and supervised by Dr. Yaacov Shamir, the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University, and Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR).
For further details on the Palestinian survey contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki or Walid Ladadweh, at tel. 02-2964933 or email email@example.com. On the Israeli survey, contact Dr. Yaacov Shamir at tel. 03-6419429 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(A) Negotiation Tracks on the Agenda
The Israeli-Palestinian track
- 48% of the Israelis support the renewal of the cease fire with Hamas in Gaza and 47% oppose it. These results indicate further decline in support for a cease fire in the last six months: in December 2008 51% supported it and 44% opposed it, and in September 55% supported and 39% opposed it. Among Palestinians support for a cease fire is similar to what it was in December: 75% support and 23% oppose the renewal of the cease fire in Gaza
- 50% of the Israelis support and 48% oppose talks with Hamas if needed to reach a compromise agreement with the Palestinians. In December 2008, 55% supported and 43% opposed such talks. A sizeable Israeli majority (69%) support and only 27% oppose talks with a national unity government composed jointly of Hamas and Fatah if such a government is reestablished. In December 2008 these figures were 67% and 30% respectively.
- 38% of the Palestinians support and 58% oppose return to Palestinian-Israeli final status negotiations before an Israeli freeze on settlement activity. 40% of Israelis support and 58% oppose return to Palestinian-Israeli final status negotiations before cessation of Palestinian violence.
- 70% of the Israeli public don’t believe that the new Israeli government will succeed to lead Israel to a final status settlement with the Palestinians, while 18% believe it will succeed. Among the Palestinians, 7% expect that negotiations with the new government will be more successful in ending settlement expansion and bringing peace, and 62% expect settlements to continue to expand and peace efforts to fail. In this regard, 70% of the Palestinians think that there is no difference between Israeli right-wing parties and parties of the center and left; 26% think that there are differences between them.
- 73% of the Palestinians and 60% among Israelis think that chances for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State next to the State of Israel in the next five years are non-existent or low; 24% of the Palestinians and 37% of the Israelis believe the chances are medium or high.
- 58% of the Israelis and 50% of the Palestinians agree that after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the settlement of all issues in dispute, including the refugees and Jerusalem issues, there will be a mutual recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the state of the Palestinian people.
The Arab League (Saudi) Plan
- 64% of the Israelis oppose and 33% support the Saudi initiative which calls for Arab recognition of and normalization of relations with Israel after it ends its occupation of Arab territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The plan calls for Israeli retreat from all territories occupied in 1967 including Gaza the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The refugees problem will be resolved through negotiation in a just and agreed upon manner and in accordance with UN resolution 194. In return, all Arab states will recognize Israel and its right to secure borders, will sign peace treaties with her and establish normal diplomatic relation. In our December 2008 poll 61% of the Israelis opposed the plan while 36% supported it. Among Palestinians, 58% support the plan and 39% oppose it; in December 2008, 66% supported the plan and 30% opposed it.
- 63% of Israelis oppose full evacuation of the Golan Heights in return for a complete peace agreement with Syria, and 28% support it. If in the peace agreement, Syria will commit to disconnect itself from Iran and stop its support of Hizbulla and Hamas, support increases to 39%.
- 71% of the Israeli public do not believe that the new Israeli government will succeed to lead Israel to a peace agreement with Syria, while 19% believe it will succeed.
(B) Conflict Management, Threat Perceptions and Support for Violence
- Among Israelis, 30% suggest that Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip and stay there if the shelling of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip continues; 38% think that Israel should carry out ad-hoc operations against the shelling and get out; 28% believe that Israel should use primarily diplomatic rather than military steps.
- 43% of the Israelis believe that Israel cannot overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza while 55% believe it can.
- With regard to the recent military operation of Israel in Gaza, 66% of the Israelis believe that Israel stopped the operation too early, 15% think it was stopped too late, and 16% think it was stopped in the right time
- 11% of the Palestinians believe that given the outcome of the Israeli operation in Gaza Palestinians are today better off than before the operation, 71% believe they are worse off, while 17% think they are about the same. Among Israelis, 16% believe Palestinians are today better off than before the operation, 58% believe they are worse off, and 22% think they are about the same.
- Now in the aftermath of the Israeli operation in Gaza, 11% of the Palestinians and 7% of the Israelis expect that the two sides will go back to negotiations and that armed confrontations will stop. On the other hand, 33% and 40% respectively believe that armed confrontations will not stop and the two sides will not return to negotiations. 50% of the Palestinians and 51% of the Israelis believe that the two sides will return to negotiations but some armed confrontations will continue.
- 44% among Israelis, think that Palestinian armed confrontations so far have helped them to achieve national and political goals that negotiations could not achieve; 52% of the Israelis don’t think so.
- 54% of the Palestinians support and 42% oppose armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel.
- Among Israelis, 60% are worried that they or their family may be harmed by Arabs in their daily life. Among Palestinians 50% fear that their security and safety and that of their family are not assured.
- A majority of the Israeli public believe (54%) that Israel should bomb the Iranian nuclear reactor if the efforts of the international community to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons fail. 35% oppose it.
(C) Israeli Domestic Political Affairs
- 57% of the Israeli public support and 37% oppose a law proposed by the Israel Beitenu party which makes civil rights conditional upon a declaration of loyalty to the state.
- 50% of the Israeli public support and 32% oppose a law proposed by the Israel Beitenu party that will permit registration as a couple for those banned by the religious establishment to marry (similar to civic marriage).
- In the poll we also examined the Israeli public's assessments of the current economic crisis. 62% blame the world economic crisis and the globalization process; 25% put the blame on mismanagement of the economy by the current and previous government. 7% percent of the Israelis believe that the crisis stems mainly from the Intifada and the cessation of foreign investments, and 4% blame welfare payments which don't encourage people to go out to work. As to the conditions needed to put the economy back on track, 70% believe it is possible to solve the crisis without a political process with the Palestinians, while 27% believe that it is impossible. In the 2003 economic crisis (in our April 2003 poll), most Israelis believed that the crisis stemmed mainly from the Intifada which brought about the cessation of foreign investments, and about half believed it was impossible to solve the crisis without a political process with the Palestinians.
- Israelis were asked about their preferences about government spending in several areas. 94% of the public support more spending for creating jobs, 86% support more spending for healthcare, 84% support more spending for education and only 59% support more spending for national security. On the other hand, 51% prefer to reduce spending on settlements, and 54% would like to see less spending for religious establishments and seminaries. These results are very similar to those obtained in our April 2003 poll which followed the 2003 elections with respect to jobs and healthcare. Support for increased government spending for education and national security increased by about 10%; while opposition to spending on settlements and religious establishments dropped by 19% and 12% respectively.
(D) Palestinian Domestic Political Affairs
- If new presidential elections were held today and the two candidates were Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmud Abbas, the former receives 47% of the vote and the later 45%. Three months ago, Abbas received 48% and Haniyeh 38%. In the Gaza Strip Abbas wins with 50% of the vote compared to 44% for Haniyeh. But if the competition was between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, the former wins with 61% of the vote compared to 34% for Haniyeh. Three months ago, Barghouti received 59% and Haniyeh 32%.
- Popularity of Hamas increases from 28% in our December 2008 poll to 33% in this poll while the popularity of Fateh drops from 42% to 40% during the same period. The gap between Fateh and Hamas reaches 12 percentage points in favor of Fateh in the Gaza Strip but reaches only 3 percentage points in the West Bank, also in favor of Fateh.
- Decline in the popularity of Abbas and Fateh reflects a decline in the percentage of popular satisfaction with the performance of president Abbas from 46% three months ago to 40% in this poll. Moreover, positive evaluation of the performance of Salam Fayyad’s government declines from 34% to 32% during the same period while positive evaluation of the performance of Haniyeh’s government increases significantly from 36% to 43%.
- Moreover, it seems that public perception of the ending of Abbas’s term in office is leading 27% to believe that the legitimate president today is the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and 24% to believe that there is no legitimate president today, while only 39% believe that the legitimate president today is Abbas.