Israelis are Hawkish

Israelis Agree With Bibi
In the wake of the flotilla controversy, Israelis resoundingly back their government’s stance on Gaza.


A reliable new poll of Israeli public opinion shows that attitudes on the Gaza blockade are heavily hawkish — in diametric opposition not only to most international reactions, but also much of the Israeli media’s own commentary. This finding is the first detailed measurement of Israeli views following the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) violent boarding of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine people. The poll surveyed Israeli Jewish opinion and was conducted by telephone interviews on June 7 by Pechter Middle East Polls, a young, Princeton, N.J.-based survey research and analysis firm working with pollsters throughout the region.

In the aftermath of the recent ship-boarding incident, three-quarters of Jewish Israelis say Israel should not open the Gaza Strip to international aid shipments. Narrower, yet still solid, majorities also say Israel should not accept an international investigation, nor adjust its tactics to win favorable international consideration.

Will Israelis Speak Up?
How the flotilla controversy lives on in Israel.
By Dahlia Scheindlin

Even more surprising, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s job-approval rating has now climbed into positive territory: 53 percent of respondents were satisfied with his performance, while 40 percent were dissatisfied. By contrast, 71 percent voiced dissatisfaction with U.S. President Barack Obama, and a clear majority, 63 percent, are also dissatisfied with the overall U.S. reaction to the Gaza flotilla controversy so far.

To put this reaction in context, it helps to first look at popular assessments of the deadly ship-boarding operation itself. The sole previously reported survey on this point, from a June 4 Maariv newspaper poll, concluded that a majority of Israelis thought that the operation should have been conducted “in a different way.” However, in the subsequent Pechter poll, Israelis Jews were asked to consider how they think IDF soldiers should have acted once confronted with violent activists aboard the ship. A plurality, 46 percent, thought Israel used the “right amount of force” aboard the Mavi Marmara, and nearly as many, 39 percent, said Israel used “not enough force” in boarding the Turkish ship. Only 8 percent thought that the IDF used too much force.

The Israeli public appears even more inclined to hawkish solutions when it comes to future attempts to breach the Gaza blockade. The poll noted media reports about Iran’s purported plan to send Red Crescent vessels to Gaza, asking respondents if Israel should “let them in quietly” or “stop them whatever it takes.” The results are strikingly lopsided: 84 percent would stop them, whatever it takes, while just 7 percent would let them in quietly. Similarly, when asked what Israel should do if the Turkish navy and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally attempt to break the Gaza blockade, as some reports have suggested might happen, three-quarters said Israel should stop them at any cost.

Alternative policies garner only minority support from the Israeli public. Just one-fifth (22 percent) of respondents advocate opening Gaza to international humanitarian shipments. More incremental shifts elicit a slightly more sympathetic popular response, but fall well short of gaining majority support. Two-fifths (37 percent) of those surveyed would support “an international inquiry committee that will investigate the recent ship incident.” Almost as many (35 percent) agree with the general proposition that Israel should “adjust its tactics to elicit a more favorable international reaction.”

This data carries a number of important political implications, both for Israeli domestic politics and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Of most immediate importance, Netanyahu’s job is not in jeopardy as a result of this latest international imbroglio. If the Israeli public were to blame any of its elected officials for this diplomatic setback, it would be Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who represents the Labor Party. The new Pechter poll shows that Barak’s approval rating, unlike Netanyahu’s, is now in negative territory: Just 41 percent are satisfied with his job performance, against 52 percent dissatisfied. Even so, around 75 percent of Israelis reject the notion that Barak should resign his post, according to last week’s Maariv poll.

The Israeli public’s hawkish stance also constrains Netanyahu’s ability to substantially alter Israel’s Gaza policy in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident. In moving toward acceptance of some kind of international presence on an investigative commission and toward some increase in Israel’s allowance of humanitarian aid to Gaza, Netanyahu is reaching the outer limits of what the Israeli electorate could realistically be persuaded to accept.

The survey also found extremely high levels of intensity among respondents, a fact that makes it particularly difficult for the Israeli government to move against the tide of public opinion. In my 30 years of professionally analyzing Israeli and Arab polls, I have rarely seen such a passionate response from those surveyed. For example, among the very large majorities who said Israel should do whatever it takes to block Iranian or Turkish vessels from reaching Gaza, extraordinarily high percentages said they feel “strongly” about the issue: 68 percent for Turkish boats, and an even higher proportion, 78 percent, regarding Iranian blockade-runners.

The one methodological caveat to this conclusion concerns Israel’s Arab citizens, who constitute approximately 18 percent of its adult population and vote freely in its elections, but are usually considered separately in survey analysis. Had they been included in this latest poll, previous research suggests that the overall numbers would have shifted modestly in a more dovish direction. However, Arab Israeli opinion will almost certainly not be a major factor considered by the current Israeli government, which relies on the support of Jewish Zionist parties to maintain power.

These findings, however, do not spell doom for hopes of a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Crucially, the Israeli public’s stance on Gaza coexists with relatively dovish views on other key Palestinian issues. For nearly a decade now, even during wars or major surges in terrorist attacks, a solid majority of Israeli Jews have consistently supported a two-state solution to the dispute. This fundamental fact was again attested as recently as March, in the latest Hebrew University/Truman Institute poll, which showed 68 percent in favor of that option. Moreover, that poll showed a narrow majority explicitly willing to accept “dismantling most of the settlements” in the West Bank as the price for peace.

Netanyahu’s challenge is to translate these opinions into a policy that can bring both long-term security and peace to his people. Given the Israeli public’s hawkish views toward Hamas-ruled Gaza, but their willingness to explore concessions in the West Bank under Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the most realistic way forward is surprisingly straightforward: Keep pushing Israel and the Palestinian Authority toward new, practical, political agreements. Find better ways to help the people of Gaza, but not their Hamas rulers — whom Israelis rightly view as a threat, not only to their own security, but also to any prospect of Palestinian-Israeli peace. In other words, work with Abbas, against Hamas.

June 15, 2010 | 5 Comments »

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  1. Next Hizbullah War May Be Over Israel’s Gas and Oil Fields

    by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

    See It’s a day of “JOY” above.

    Hizbullah has laid claim to a huge oil and gas field that Israel discovered off its northeastern Mediterranean Coast — and which Lebanon already has claimed as well.

    The terrorist organization warned that it will not allow Israel to take possession of the offshore fields, which could make the Jewish State energy self-sufficient for the first time in history.

    The As-Safir Lebanese newspaper told its readers that the gas field “was located between Israeli and Cypriot territorial waters and stretches toward the Lebanese coast.”Lebanese newspapers also reported that previous Israeli gas finds “were either taking place in areas stretching to Lebanese territorial waters or other spots far away from the Israeli coast.”

    Hizbullah’s claims were stated by the party’s executive council chief Hashem Safieddine, who was quoted by the Tehran Times as saying it would not allow Israel to “loot” Lebanese gas resources.

    Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri previously said, “Israel is racing to make the case a fait accompli and was quick to present itself as an oil emirate, ignoring the fact that, according to the maps, the deposit extends into Lebanese waters. Exploring our options in this field is our best bet to pay off Lebanon’s debts.”

    The Israeli government immediately responded to the Lebanese claims, saying they are totally unfounded and that all of the gas and oil fields are off the coast of Israel and not Lebanon.

    Dr. Yaakov Mimran, director of energy exploration for the National Infrastructures Ministry, called the claims “nonsense.” He added, “These noises occur when they smell gas. Until then they sit quietly and let the other side spend the money.”

    Marine law expert Amir Cohen-Dor told the Globes business news service that the Dalit and Tamar gas fields are within Israel’s contiguous economic zone, and that United Nations regulations clearly state that Israel can develop them.

  2. Uncle, this is a must. You once said Israelis have been lenient towards the Arab/Palestinians.

    I said that?

    If there was any leniency, I must have meant that we didn’t kill them all. Most are still with us, I’m sorry to say.

  3. The poll numbers on the Hawkish side would increase if BB and Barak would assert Israeli power more forcefully


    Uncle, this is a must. You once said Israelis have been lenient towards the Arab/Palestinians. Too lenient for sure, allowing Arabs to construct in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria where they do not belong.

    I know I sound like a broken record but the Palestinians are nothing more than a anti-Semitic tool or measure to destroy Israel. Unfortunately they have a gun to their heads held by Hamas, the proxy of Iran and like Iranians are victims of bad terrorist governments.

    As a Goldwater Hawk, I would provide aid and support to the Iranians, Syrians and the likes to overthrow the criminals in charge. This would include air strikes of various military installations.

  4. Joy, I think this sort of corroborates my previous stated opinion on what Israelis think as opposed to their shitty government.

    The poll numbers on the Hawkish side would increase if BB and Barak would assert Israeli power more forcefully.

    There is no more identifiable left in Israel outside of the Universities, Media/press and courts. That said, whoever controls those institutions controls the country.