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Sunday, June 14, 2009
[Asking the questions to get desired response] The People's Voice: Results of a Public Opinion Survey on National Security Issues

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:

No one would accuse Yehuda Ben Meir of failing to do whatever in his power
to promote his pro-withdrawal views over the course of his career.

In this case, the poll uses the device of asking about "settlement
expansion" without specifically mentioning expansion for "natural growth".
All polls carried out in the last two weeks (after this poll) - including
the much touted Dahaf poll - have consistently shown that once mention was
made of "natural growth" that the majority of Israelis oppose a settlement
freeze.

So much for Ben Meir's policy recommendation for a settlement freeze based
on a slanted poll question.

As for the result finding support for a "two state solution", this is what
might be termed the result for the "Dumbo question". That is to say - if
elephants could fly we would climb on the back of Dumbo and enjoy the ride
and by the very same degree of likelihood if it was possible to establish a
Palestinian state that would permanently honor a series of restrictions and
conditions Israelis would support the establishment of a sovereign
Palestinian state.

But Dumbo only flies in the movies and the Israeli public, when asked by
pollsters, consistently recognizes that it is unrealistic to expect that
security restrictions on a Palestinian state can be enforced.

So Ben Meir asks the "Dumbo question" to yield the result he wants and
declines to follow up with the other questions that demonstrate Israelis
ultimately roundly reject the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian
state.

That's ok for polemics, but the Institute for National Security Studies
purports to offer policy recommendations based on serious work - not just
ideology.]

The People's Voice: Results of a Public Opinion Survey on National Security
Issues
INSS Insight No. 114, June 14, 2009
Ben Meir, Yehuda
www.inss.org.il/publications.php?cat=21&incat=&read=2990

The heightened disagreement between the United States and Israel over a
solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and future settlement activity
in the West Bank has come to the fore. This evening the Israeli prime
minister is scheduled to deliver a major policy address that is seen as an
answer to President Obama's recent Cairo speech. Mr. Netanyahu is expected
to outline his policies - including specific plans and proposals - with
regard to the peace process as well as other central challenges facing
Israel in the political-military arena.

In context of the prime minister's speech and its aftermath, a critical
question concerns the opinions and attitudes of the Israeli public on these
issues. As part of an ongoing project at the Institute for National Security
Studies,[1]an in-depth study of the opinions of the adult Jewish population
of Israel on a broad range of national security issues was conducted during
the first three weeks of May 2009. A number of key findings regarding issues
that are at the forefront of Israel's political, diplomatic, and public
agenda are presented below.

Settlements and Unauthorized Outposts

According to the survey, only 25 percent of the Jewish population oppose the
removal of the unauthorized outposts, 57 percent support their removal even
by force, and another 18 percent support their removal only in agreement
with the occupants. Forty-two percent of the public oppose expansion of the
settlements, while 41 percent support further development of the
settlements, "but not if it will result in a confrontation with the United
States"; only 17 percent support further settlement activity "irrespective
of the American position."

These findings suggest that government can count on extensive public support
should it decide to forcefully remove the unauthorized outposts after
attempts to reach agreement with the occupants are exhausted. Overall, the
issue of settlements continues to divide the Israeli public. However, the
vast majority of the public does not want a confrontation with the United
States over this issue. The government can expect public support should it
decide to curtail settlement activity as part of a wider understanding with
the United States.

The Contours of a Permanent Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The readiness of the Israeli public to accept the establishment of a
Palestinian state has increased over the past 25 years, from 21 percent in
1987 to 61 percent in 2006, and down slightly in 2007 - 55 percent - 53
percent in 2009. At the same time support for the "two states for two
peoples" solution is consistently and significantly higher. In 2007, 63
percent of the Jewish population supported this solution, and in 2009, 64
percent. The difference in the degree of support for the two options is
probably due to the fact that the term "Palestinian state" still has a
negative connotation for many Israelis, while "two states for two peoples"
is seen by a clear majority of Israelis as the only viable solution.

The readiness of the Israeli public to evacuate settlements within the
context of a negotiated agreement was also examined. Opinions on this issue
have changed little over the past three years. There is barely any support
for the evacuation of all the settlements in the West Bank, which in effect
would mean a return to the 1967 borders - 14 percent in 2007 and 15 percent
in the current poll support this position. On the other hand, 43 percent are
willing to "evacuate only the small and isolated settlements" compared to 45
percent in 2007. Forty-one to forty-two percent oppose the evacuation of
settlements "under any circumstances." Again, these results relate to the
evacuation of settlements "in the context of a permanent settlement."
Respondents were asked for their opinion regarding the evacuation of
settlements in the context of a partial agreement. Here, the public is
evenly divided - only 10 percent support the evacuation of all the
settlements, 42 percent are willing to evacuate the small and isolated
settlements - all told 52 percent, while 48 percent oppose evacuation of
settlements under any circumstances.

These findings suggest that adoption by the prime minister of the "two
states for two peoples" formula would enjoy wide support among the public
and therefore should not be expected to cause serious problems in the
coalition. In addition, the government can expect to enjoy majority support
if at some time in the future it decides to evacuate settlements lying
outside the major settlement blocs and east of the security fence, in the
context of an agreement with the Palestinians backed by American and
possible regional support (such as, for example, the establishment of a
Palestinian state with provisional borders).

The Hamas Threat from Gaza

The results on this issue are unequivocal: only 18 percent of the Jewish
public support direct or indirect dialogue with Hamas. At the same time,
only one third is in favor of toppling the Hamas government "even by
occupying the entire Gaza Strip." The remaining 50 percent are in favor of
deterring Hamas by military action in Gaza (38 percent) or continuation of
the blockade (10 percent). The conclusion from the data is that dialogue
with Hamas is outside the Israeli consensus.

The Future of the Golan Heights

The Israeli public is decidedly opposed to withdrawal from the Golan
Heights. Respondents were asked their opinion regarding withdrawal from the
Golan in the context of a peace treaty with Syria, including full diplomatic
and economic relations with Israel, demilitarization of the Golan Heights,
severance of the alliance with Iran, expulsion of the terrorist
organizations from Syria, and an end to aid for Hizbollah. Merely 3 percent
of the public support returning all of the Golan to Syria, and another 6
percent are willing to do so on condition that "the border be distanced from
the Sea of Galilee"; 11 percent are willing to withdraw from part of the
Golan - all told 20 percent. A clear majority, 60 percent, oppose any
withdrawal from the Golan, and the remaining 20 percent are "willing to
return the Golan to Syrian sovereignty but leave the Israeli settlements on
the Golan (such as, for example, with a 100-year lease)."

The conclusion from these results is clear: the Israeli government has no
mandate to reach an agreement with Syria over the Golan unless a solution
can be found that would enable the Israeli communities there to remain or
there would be a dramatic change in the present circumstances. The findings
also suggest that the Israeli public has no confidence in Syria's intentions
or commitments.

A Nuclear Iran

Fifty-nine percent of the Jewish public support an Israeli military strike
against Iran's nuclear installations should Israel determine that Iran
possesses nuclear weapons. Forty-one percent believe that "Israel should use
all the diplomatic means available to dismantle Iran's nuclear capability
but avoid a military attack." These figures should be seen in the context of
two other results. Respondents were asked what would be the effect on their
personal lives if Iran developed nuclear weapons. Eighty percent responded
that their personal lives "would not be expected to change," with only 3
percent stating that they would emigrate from Israel; 9 percent said they
would consider moving to another community; and 8 percent stated that they
"would consider moving to another country." This result is consistent with
the fact that only 21 percent of the respondents believe that even should
Iran acquire nuclear weapons "it would attack Israel with nuclear weapons
with the goal of Israel's destruction." There is good reason to assume that
the Israeli public is quite confident in Israel's deterrence capability.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1Since 1985 the Institute for National Security Studies (and before that
the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies) has conducted an annual national
security public opinion poll, and has charted trends and changes in Israeli
public opinion on issues of national security.

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