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Tuesday, May 6, 2008
War and Peace Index: April 2008 75% of Israeli Jews: in next five years Israel will find itself at war with one or more Arab states.

War and Peace Index: April 2008

The War and Peace Index is an ongoing public-opinion survey project aimed at
systematically tracking the prevailing trends in Israeli public opinion on
the regional conflict and its effects on Israeli society. The project was
launched as the Peace Index in September 1993. The change in name (along
with the change in venue from Haaretz to ynet) reflects the worsening of
relations between Israel and the Arab and Islamic world in recent years, it
being impossible to ignore that the possibility of war has returned to the
picture. The data for the index are collected in a monthly telephone survey
that is based on a probabilistic representative sample of the entire adult
population of Israel (age 18+) including Arabs, kibbutzim and moshavim, and
the settlements in the territories. The size of the sample is about 600 men
and women and the sampling error is about 4.5%.

The survey is funded by two academic bodies belonging to Tel Aviv
University: the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens
Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution. The surveys are conducted by
the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv University. The joint academic
responsibility for the project, including formulation of the questionnaires
and analysis of the findings, is held by Prof. Ephraim Yaar of Tel Aviv
University and Prof. Tamar Hermann of the Open University.

For the survey data, see www.tau.ac.il/peace

On the eve of Israel's 60th Independence Day the security threat is at the
center of public awareness, and the opinions on different aspects of it are
in most cases unequivocal. Some 75% of the Israeli Jewish public thinks that
in the next five years Israel will find itself at war with one or more Arab
states. Note that more women than men, more people with higher education
than without it, and more second-generation native Israelis than those of
other extractions, Ashkenazi or Mizrahi, expect a war to break out in the
next few years.

In the Israeli Jewish public as a whole, opinions are more or less evenly
divided between those who see a possibility in the next five years that
Israel will sign a peace agreement with at least one additional Arab state
and those who see no such possibility (interestingly, the younger age groups
are more pessimistic on this issue than the older ones, and also show less
support for negotiating with the Palestinian Authority). But as for
achieving a settlement with Syria and the Palestinians, the two most
relevant regional actors, assessments of the chances are much lower: 66% of
the entire Jewish public does not believe in the chances of an agreement
with Syria and 70% think the same regarding the Palestinians.

At present the Jewish public's willingness to "pay" for a peace agreement is
particularly low. Only 19% support an Israeli withdrawal from all of the
Golan Heights for a full peace treaty with Syria while the overwhelming
majority-75%- oppose it (6% did not know). As for the Palestinians, a
majority-57%-favor holding negotiations with the PA but 34% are against
(among these there is, as noted above, a higher representation of the
younger age groups, and also of those with less education and of those
defining themselves as religious or haredi). An even larger majority of 70%
support the formula of "two states for two peoples" (25% oppose this
solution; again, among the opponents there is a larger representation of the
younger age group and of second-generation Israeli natives, and also of
those defining themselves as religious or haredi).

But when it comes to substantial concessions-in Jerusalem, for example-the
positions of a majority of the Jewish public are quite hard-line. Fifty-five
percent (vs. 40%) are not willing to see the Arab neighborhoods handed over
to Palestinian sovereignty, 60% are not in favor of joint
Israeli-Palestinian administration of the Temple Mount and the Jerusalem
holy places, and 83% oppose handing over the Old City to the Palestinians.

What, in the view of the Jewish public, is the gravest security danger
facing Israel today? Thirty-eight percent put the Iranian nuclear threat in
first place (fear of the Iranian threat is higher in the older age group,
among the less religious groups-the traditional and the secular, and among
men). For twenty percent the gravest danger is that the Israel Defense
Forces will not be sufficiently prepared for war if one breaks out in the
future (here the apprehension is in fact higher among the younger age
groups, who are perhaps more affected by the events of the Second Lebanon
War and do not carry memories of the victories in past wars). Seventeen
percent are most worried that the Israeli Arabs will launch a violent
rebellion against the state and only 12% see the gravest threat as an
intensification of the Palestinians' struggle against Israel (the
rest-13%-did not know).

Notwithstanding all of the above, when asked to assess the balance of
achievements of the state of Israel in the 60 years of its independence, an
overwhelming majority of 78% say Israel has succeeded in the military sphere
(17% think it has failed and 5% do not know). In the economic sphere as
well, the prevailing assessment is positive (65% succeeded, 30% failed, 5%
do not know). However, the scale tips to the negative on the closing of
economic and social gaps (66% failed, 25% succeeded, 9% do not know), on
imparting a sense of equality and belonging to the Arab citizens (50%
failed, 38% succeeded, 12% do not know), and on promoting peace (57% failed,
37% succeeded, 6% do not know).

The assessments of today's situation compared to the past and the
expectations for the future show a contrasting pattern. Whereas the rate of
those who currently see the national security situation as worse than ten
years ago, when Israel celebrated 50 years of independence-38%-is higher
than the rate of those who think the current situation is better-23% (31%
think the situation has remained as it was and the rest do not know), the
Jewish public's attitude toward the future is optimistic. That is, the rate
of those who believe that in another ten years, when Israel celebrates 70
years of independence, the national security situation will be
better-38.5%-is much higher than the proportion who say it will be
worse-15%; 24% expect the situation to stay the same and the rest do not
know. Interestingly, the younger age groups are in fact less optimistic
about the future than the older ones.

And what is the most important goal for which Israel should strive in the
coming decade? For the Jewish public achieving peace indeed comes first but,
apparently because of the pessimism about the chances of realizing this
goal, only 19% of the respondents chose it as the ultimate objective. Very
close behind are two domestic objectives: reducing the socioeconomic gaps
and the war on corruption (17% each). In fourth place in the public's
priorities is enhancing unity among the people (12%), followed by improving
the economic situation (11%). The rest of the respondents did not choose any
one of these objectives, or any objective, as the most important. And how do
the Israeli Arabs view the situation? It turns out that on many questions
their position does not differ from that of the Israeli Jews. For example,
in the Arab public, too, a majority-61%-expect Israel to find itself in a
war in the next five years; but unlike the Jewish public, here a
majority-62%-also think Israel will sign a peace agreement with at least one
additional Arab state. As in the Jewish public, the rate of those who do not
believe the contacts with the Palestinians will lead to a peace
agreement-52%-is higher than the rate of those who see a chance they will
bear the hoped-for fruit (45%). As for the ranking of the threats, the order
is identical to what we found among the Jewish interviewees: for the Arab
public the greatest fear is of the Iranian efforts to attain nuclear
weapons, with an intensification of the Palestinian struggle against Israel
coming last. The Arab public also sees the balance of Israel's achievements
similarly to the Jewish public, citing successes mainly in the military
domain. The assessment of success in the economic sphere is lower, seemingly
because the Arab public enjoys less of the fruits of the recent years'
economic growth. However, the harshest judgment is on promoting peace, with
62% of the Arab interviewees saying Israel has failed in this regard; 60%
also give it a failing grade on imparting equality and a sense of belonging
to its Arab citizens. Like the Jewish public, the Arab public's view of the
present national security situation tends to be pessimistic with the
majority seeing it as worse than ten years ago. However, unlike the Jewish
public's optimism on the future national security situation, the Arab public
expects it to be worse in the coming decade than it is today.

As for the goals for the next decade, the Arab public is much more unanimous
and unequivocal than the Jewish public: 46% put achieving peace in first
place, with improving the economic situation-13%-a distant second.

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