The Middle East Forum commissioned the Smith Institute to carry out a survey to find out what what Israelis think about convincing Palestinians that they lost their century-long war with Zionism.
what does the Jewish Israeli public think about convincing Palestinians that they lost their century-long war with Zionism, that the gig is up? In other words, what do Israelis think about winning? To find out, the Middle East Forum commissioned the Smith Institute to carry out a survey of 700 adult Israeli Jews. Carried out on June 27-28, the poll has a margin of error of 3.7%.
It reveals a widespread belief that a Palestinian recognition of defeat will eventually lead to an acceptance of Israel as the Jewish state, thereby ending the conflict.
Palestinian defeat: “A peace agreement with the Palestinians will only be possible once the Palestinian leadership recognizes the fact that it has been defeated in its struggle against Israel.” Overall, 58% of respondents agree, with opinion deeply polarized by political outlook: 69% on the Right concur but only 16% on the Left do so.
Israeli victory: “The reason that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still continues is that none of the military operations or diplomatic engagements with the Palestinian leadership have led to Israeli victory.” This resembles the first statement but reverses it; doing so increases the positive responses to 65% of the Israeli public. More surprising, the results show that, across the entire political spectrum from Right to Left, an awareness exists that Israel needs to win.
They also show that a majority of every subgroup of voter – male and female, young and old, adherents of every kind of Judaism, supporters of every Jewish political party represented in parliament – concur with this sentiment.
US embassy: “Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem will be seen by the majority of Palestinians as a defeat.” The same percentage of respondents, 65%, also agrees with this assertion, with the Right supporting it only slightly more than the Left (68% to 58%). That religious Jews heavily endorse this statement (89% of those who identify with the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism), much more so than the secular (53% of Kulanu Party supporters) does not come as a surprise. That, again, a majority of every sub-group backs the idea does surprise, however.
Jewish state: “Israeli victory can only be achieved once the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state.” A similar 67% agree with this statement but the breakdown is, as with the first statement, acutely political: 76% of the Right agrees and 26% of the Left does. On the other hand, party affiliation makes almost no difference (both UTJ and Kulanu members come in at 71%) with the single, spectacular exception of Meretz (which weighs in at 33%).
What to make of all these numbers? That the four parallel questions all win majority support points to the profound evolution of the Israeli public since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1992. No longer does it have faith that good-will gestures will win reciprocity from the Palestinians, put credence in Palestinian leaders, or believe in appeasement. The consistent support for these propositions, ranging only from 58% to 67% support, confirms that most Israeli Jews want a different and tough policy.
The surprise comes in the turmoil below the stately overall numbers.
That two of them (defeat and Jewish state) divide along Right-Left lines and two of them (victory and US embassy) do not points to the fact that choosing which issue to promote has critical importance to who supports what. Backing the US Embassy move to Jerusalem and Palestinian acceptance of Israel as the Jewish state look similar but attitudes range widely. For example, twice as many supporters of the hard-Left Meretz Party back the embassy issue as they do the Jewish state one (67% vs. 33%).
That most Israeli Jewish adults want Palestinian defeat and Israeli victory confirms the utility of the July 11 launch of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus. Co-chaired by Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) and Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), the caucus seeks to explore Israeli strategies and tactics once the US government gives a green light for an Israeli victory.
“Debating the peace process to most Israelis,” commented a former Israeli prime ministerial aide back in 2013, “is the equivalent of debating the color of the shirt you will wear when landing on Mars.” It’s time for a shift in focus away from hopeless and counterproductive negotiations to ending the conflict the time-proven way: Through victory.
The author is president of the Middle East Forum.