So, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the settler rabbi who was encouraging soldiers to disobey orders to dismantle outposts, appears to have backed down. But according to a surprising new poll, there are plenty of Israelis who think that insubordination in the army is okay.
Jewish Israelis were asked if they deny the right of right-wing soldiers the option of refusing to participate in evacuating Jewish settlements in the territories. Some 29% of respondents agree to soldiers taking this route; 63% were against. There was also strong support for left-wing soldiers refusing to serve in the territories, with 18% of respondents supporting them and 77% coming out against.
The really fascinating thing about this poll, a monthly Tel Aviv University “War and Peace Index,” is that it shows support for left-wingers refusing to serve in the territories is strong among a group that rarely shows much sympathy for the left — Haredim. With 32% of respondents this community endorsing this “right,” support was higher here than among the religious (31%), the traditional (20%) and the secular (12%). In fact, given that most left-wingers refusing to serve in the territories are secular, all these statistics are surprising.
So what is going on here? The breakdown of support for subordination by right-wing soldiers may offer a clue. Here the rates of support stand at 66% among the Haredim, 50% among the religious, 25% among the traditional, and 12% among the secular. What we seem to see is a surprising case of right-to-left solidarity, with the two groups most strongly in support of right-wing insubordination rallying behind left-wing insubordination in a bid to be consistent.
It’s the million shekel question in the Middle East at the moment — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will quit politics, but is he serious or bluffing? A 60% majority of Israel’s Jewish public thinks the declaration came from tactical considerations while only 24% believe in its sincerity, according to the latest War and Peace Index, a monthly Tel Aviv University poll.
As for whether Abbas is capable of reaching a settlement with Israel that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side and durable, 28% of Jewish Israelis think he can and 68% think or are sure that he cannot.
It seems that suspicion towards Abbas’ declaration, and doubts about his ability to make peace, are also strong among Arab citizens of Israel, with a majority of them also saying he is bluffing about quitting and unlikely to make peace.
Three in five Israeli Jews supports Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements. But when they are asked to factor in that implementing his policy could lead to a deterioration of relations with the U.S., support drops to two in five. The new figures come from Tel Aviv University’s latest monthly survey of Israeli public opinion, the War and Peace Index.
What they show is that on the one hand, Netanyahu seems to representing majority opinion among voters. In short, polls are helping to build up a picture of mainstream Israeli opinion today as unsympathetic towards and prepared to dismantle outlying settlements; expectant that settlement blocs will remain part of Israel, and hesitant about stopping all building in settlements without getting anything in return for doing so.
Netanyahu’s stance that Israel will not establish new settlements, but will expand existing ones according to natural growth seems to fit in with the views of mainstream Israel. On the other hand, what we have long known to be true still applies: Israelis still care deeply about not clashing with the U.S., and at least one in five will, on the basis of this concern, withdraw support for a course of action they otherwise favor.
This month the pollsters surveyed the public on their attitudes towards the Palestinians and came up with some intriguing findings. Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, famously said in 1969 that there was “no such thing as Palestinians,” and some 32% of people polled do not recognize the existence of a Palestinian people. They were not asked why, but it seems that Meir’s logic, shared by many past Israeli leaders, has survived.
If we recall, Meir’s explanation for her statement was that there has never been an independent Palestinian state. She said: “It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
The statistic is fascinating not only because it indicates that a rejection of Palestinian peoplehood, which many presumed to have died out in recent years is alive and well. It also suggests that some Israelis are in favor of creating a state for a people that they claim doesn’t exist.
How so? Well in recent polling support among Israeli Jews for the “two states for two peoples” solution to the conflict, or the creation of a Palestinian state, has been as high as 70%. But in the new Tel Aviv University poll, only 62% believe a Palestinian people exists.
Of course, the tongue-in-cheek response is to ask who would live in and run the state proposed by Israelis who don’t believe in the Palestinians. But the apparently contradictory figures point to the way that backers of the two-state solution increasingly cite pragmatic reasons — and not deeply held convictions that the Palestinians deserve a state. While back in the 1990s, advocates of the two-state solution were often heard talking in terms of every nation’s right to autonomy, today you can believe that the Palestinians don’t exist but still want to give them a state in the hope of a quiet life.
This point is illustrated by considering what happens when pollsters, instead of asking whether respondents support the establishment of a Palestinian state, ask in terms of whether Palestinians have a right to and deserve a state. This is exactly what the Tel Aviv University pollsters did, and only 50% of respondents said they do.
The Tel Aviv University poll also found that some 56% of Israeli Jews oppose Israel taking even partial responsibility for the suffering caused to the Palestinians by the 1948 war, according to a new Tel Aviv University poll.
Respondents were asked for their feelings on the prospect of Israel taking some responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem, even if the Palestinians were to officially take part of the responsibility for the events of 1948. This indicates that while there is majority support today for a dovish position on many issues that could be on the table in peace talks — most importantly dismantling settlements deep in the West Bank — the public is not giving way on this issue.
Every month, Tel Aviv University pollsters gauge Israeli public opinion, and the Bintel Blog closely follows the results.
The latest poll, which was conducted last week just before Barack Obama’s speech, found that 55% of the Israeli public felt that the American president leans in favor of the Palestinians.
Few Israelis, 5%, said that he favors their county’s position, and 31% said they view him as neutral.
As Obama sets about changing America’s relationship with the Muslim world, 60% of Israelis do not trust him to protect Israel’s interests in the process.
Asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Washington, 65% of respondents said it was unsuccessful and just 19% deemed it successful.
Given all the international attention to settlements, the pollsters decided that in this month’s survey they would gauge opinion on this subject.
More Israelis feel that settlements are bad for the state’s interests than those who think they contribute: the figures were 48% and 43% respectively.
Nevertheless, Israelis tend to expect large settlement blocks close to the Green Line to remain part of Israel in any peace settlement (as do most analysts), and therefore 53% of respondents said Israel should not agree to evacuate all settlements, even if a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians hinged on doing so, while 41% said it should.
The figures were very different when it came to illegal outposts and smaller settlements that are among Palestinian towns and villages. Regarding these, just 29% of respondents were against evacuation while 53% were in favor.