Joint Israeli-Palestinian Public Opinion Poll, June 2005
WHILE ISRAELI SUPPORT FOR THE DISENGAGEMENT DROPS, ISRAELIS SEE DECLINING PROSPECTS FOR THE SETTLEMENT PROJECT IN THE WEST BANK, WHEREAS PALESTINIANS EXPECT IT TO GROW
The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, conducted a joint survey of Palestinian and Israeli public opinion between June 6 and 11 , 2005.*
The poll was designed to examine Israelis and Israeli settlers’ attitudes on the disengagement plan, Palestinians’ attitudes on the forthcoming legislative council elections, and both publics’ assessments of future developments.
This is the 12th joint poll in an ongoing research project on the opinions of the two publics. The first poll was conducted in July 2000 in the wake of the Camp David summit.
The poll was planned and supervised by Dr. Yaacov Shamir, professor of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University, currently a senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace, and Dr. Khalil Shikaki, professor of Political Science and director of PSR. The two surveys included both identical questions as well as specific questions for each public. A representative sample of 1320 Palestinians in 120 locations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem was interviewed face-to-face with a sampling error of 3%. The interviews were conducted June 9-11. The Israeli data are based on telephone interviews with a representative sample of the general Israeli public with 526 Israelis and a representative sample of 501 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza strip (sampling error of 4.5%). The interviews were conducted in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian between June 6 and 9.
The following summary highlights the findings of the joint poll. For further details on the Palestinian survey, contact Dr. Khalil Shikaki at tel. 02-2964933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. On the Israeli survey, contact Dr. Yaacov Shamir at tel. 202-429-3870 or email email@example.com.
Summary of Results
(1) Disengagement and the future of the settlement project
- Israeli support for the disengagement plan has declined in our current poll. 53% of Israelis support now Sharon’s disengagement plan and 39% oppose it. In our previous survey in March this year 65% supported the plan. Surprisingly however also 25% in the settlers sample support the disengagement.
- 45% of the Israelis and 72% of the Palestinians see Sharon's plan to evacuate the Israeli settlements from Gaza as a victory for the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, compared to 52% among Israelis and 26% among Palestinians who don’t see it as such. In addition, 51% of the Israelis and 66% of the Palestinians believe that the Palestinian Intifada and armed confrontation has helped Palestinians achieve national and political goals that negotiations could not achieve. Israeli settlers are closer to the Palestinians in their perceptions. 72% of the settlers think the disengagement is a victory for the Palestinians and 77% believe the Intifada has helped them achieve political goals.
- Nevertheless, 65% of the Israeli public and 46% of the settlers believe that the disengagement will eventually take place despite being postponed to mid-August. 29% of the Israelis and 46% of the settlers do not believe it will materialize. Moreover, 52% of the general public and 69% of the settlers believe that Sharon is planning to expand the disengagement in the future and evacuate more settlements in the West Bank.
- As to the future of the settlements in the longer run, 58% of the general Israeli public and 42% of the Israeli settlers believe that in the coming years, the number of settlements in the West Bank will decrease. 18% of the general Israeli public, and 34% of the settlers expect the number of settlements to increase in the future. In contrast, a majority of the Palestinians (52%) fear that the number of settlements will increase in the future and 33% think it will decline.
- Consistent with their expectations, 62% of the Israelis support dismantling most of the settlements in the territories as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This figure represents a slight decline compared to 67% obtained last March. A surprising 30% of the settlers support dismantling most settlements for peace with the Palestinians. The Israeli public is divided as to the contribution of the settlements to Israel’s national security. 39% of the Israelis believe that the settlements hurt Israel’s national security while 37% believe they contribute to it with 19% who think that settlements neither contribute nor hurt. Among settlers 73% believe that they contribute to Israel’s security.
(2) Past and Future Resistance to the Disengagement
- In our survey we attempted to get an account of the scale of protest to be expected at the time of the disengagement and the means that seem justified to be used in such a protest. Both settlers and our general Israeli public sample were asked how one should respond to the disengagement decision. In the general public over 80% believe that the decision should be obeyed (40%) or resisted by legal means (45%). A similar majority among settlers believes in abiding by the law, although 61% support resistance by legal means and only 21% think the decision should be obeyed. However a significant minority in both samples - 15% of the settlers and 14% of the general public - believe the disengagement should be resisted by all means. Two years ago, in June 2003, we asked the same question about a future possible evacuation decision, and obtained virtually the same results.
- As to perceptions of violence that might take place during the disengagement, apparently the settlers succeeded to intimidate the Israeli public. While 15% of the settlers think that the proper response is to resist the decision by all means, 38% of Israelis think that the majority of the settlers will do so.
- When inquiring more specifically about the means justified to use in such a struggle, 71% of the settlers and 46% of the general public believe that it is justified to bring down the government, 17% among the settlers and 11% in the general public say that it is justified to endanger oneself and one's family, and 9% of the settlers and 7% of the general public believe it is justified to endanger other citizens in such a struggle. Compared to two years ago, the major change in the settlement community has been an increase in support for the political route, that of bringing down the government (from 54% to 71%). The support for the radical and violent-prone means has not increased significantly.
- As to actual intentions to participate in protest activities at the time of the disengagement, 18% of the settlers and 3% of the general public claim they will definitely participate in such a protest in person. 11% of the settlers and 2% of the general Israeli sample also definitely plan to be in person in the Gaza Strip at the time of the evacuation and take an active part in the resistance to the disengagement.
- In order to help us translate these protest intentions into actual behavior, we further inquired about our respondents’ participation in anti-disengagement protest activities in the past. 37% of the settlers in the territories reported that they participated in at least one such activity. 26% participated in demonstrations, marches or assemblies against the disengagement in the Gaza strip, 30% participated in such activities that were held within the 1967 borders, 20% participated in persuasion activities such as discussion groups, house calls, distribution of fliers or picketing on road intersections and 5% participated in person in active resistance to IDF evacuation of an outpost or settlement. Among the general population 8% participated in at least one protest activity in the past. Of those, 4% participated in demonstrations, marches or assemblies against the disengagement in the Gaza strip, 5% participated in such activities within the 1967 borders, 3% participated in persuasion activities such as discussion groups, house calls, distribution of fliers or picketing on road intersections, and only one respondent said he participated in person in active resistance to IDF evacuation of an outpost or settlement. Extrapolating from these reported protest patterns it seems that only few Israelis living within the green line may participate in active resistance to the evacuation, but more are likely to rally and demonstrate against it. As to settlers, they are obviously much more mobilized and motivated. Judging by the percent who reported participating in active resistance to IDF evacuation in the past, we might expect large numbers of settlers attempting to arrive to the Gaza strip to get actively involved in disrupting the disengagement.
- It is important to note the low degree of legitimacy that settlers afford to Israel’s democratic institutions. Less than half of the settlers in our survey consider the government and the Knesset to have legitimate authority to decide on evacuation of settlements. (49% and 48% respectively). 52% accept the Knesset authority but only by a Jewish majority. 63% accept the authority of a referendum. 26% accept rabbinical authority, of those 5% consider only rabbinical authority as legitimate. Compared to June 2003, all of these bodies have lost in legitimacy among settlers. Today, 8% consider none of these bodies as legitimate; together with the 5% of settlers who accept only rabbinical authority, these are the two groups of settlers providing the most radical and violent-prone responses in our survey.
(3) Facilitating the Disengagement
- Given the heightened level of rage among the settlers in the settlements to be evacuated, we asked both the settlers’ sample and the general Israeli public sample to rank the most important step which can facilitate the emotional frenzy among the settlers. The most important such step in the eyes of both the general public and the settlers is more generous financial or economic compensation. 41% of the public and 32% of the settlers rank this step as most important. Next for the settlers is political compensation by expanding the settlement project: 29% rank it first in importance. Third is emotional compensation through empathy and understanding, and perceived as least important is ideological compensation by strengthening the Jewish identity of the state through legislation and social arrangements.
- We further asked our samples what would be the right arrangement for the settlements included in the disengagement plan, if the disengagement were part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. 56% of the settlers would prefer the current arrangement of compensation and free choice of where to live. 14% would prefer to allow settlers to continue to live in the territories under Palestinian rule, 11% would prefer the government to settle them in an alternate settlement in the territories, and only 4% would prefer the government to settle them in an alternate community within the green line.
(4) Palestinians and Israelis’ expectations for future developments.
- Both publics were asked to assess the coming developments following the postponement of the disengagement and Abu-Mazin’s visit to the US. 23% of the Palestinians and 9% of the Israelis believe that negotiations will resume soon enough and armed confrontations will completely stop. 52% of the Palestinians and 60% of the Israelis believe that negotiations will resume but some armed attacks will continue, and 18% of the Palestinians and 27% of the Israelis think that armed confrontations will not stop and the two sides will not return to negotiations.
- Assessing the longer range prospects for a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinians , 46% of the Palestinians and 36% of the Israelis believe that a political settlement is not possible ever, 29% of the Palestinians and 31% of the Israelis think that it will be achieved only in many generations to come or in the next generation, 19% of the Palestinians and 27% of the Israelis think it will be achieved in the next decade or in the next few years.
- 40% of the Palestinians and 15% of the Israelis believe that Hamas’ readiness to participate in the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections indicates more willingness to accept the peace process; 20% of the Palestinians and 17% of the Israelis think it indicates less willingness to do so, and 34% of the Palestinians and 62% of the Israelis believe that it indicates no change in Hamas position regarding the peace process. If Hamas wins the majority of seats in the next elections, 39% of the Palestinians and 53% of the Israelis believe that the peace process will slow down or stop while 30% of the Palestinians and 8% of the Israelis believe that the peace process will accelerate and 24% of the Palestinians and 32% of the Israelis believe that the peace process will not be affected.
(5) Palestinian Legislative Council Elections and Other Palestinian internal Affairs
- 38% of Palestinians support and 60% oppose the collection of arms from armed Palestinian groups and factions. But 77% support and 22% oppose the current ceasefire between Palestinians and Israelis.
- If elections are held today, Fateh would win 44% of the seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council and 33% would go to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Only 3% would go to leftist forces and 8% to independents. 12% are undecided.
- With regard to current negotiations between Israel and the PA, the Palestinian public organizes its short term priorities as follows: release of prisoners would come first, stop building the separation barrier would come second, return of laborers to work inside Israel would come third, freezing settlement construction would come fourth, and removal of checkpoints would come fifth.