June 3, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 223

Israeli Public Opinion Regarding Palestinian Violence, PM Sharon's Policies, and Settlements

June 3, 2001
Special Dispatch No. 223

The main findings of three recent polls conducted in Israel demonstrated that the majority of Israelis show determination in face of the ongoing violence, support of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies regarding the Al-Aqsa Intifada, and revealed, for the first time, sympathetic views towards the settlers. Professor Ephraim Yaar and Dr. Tamar Hermann of the Tami Steinmetz Center at Tel-Aviv University conducted the first poll, while the second poll was conducted by Dr. Mina Tzemach of the Dahaf Institute and the results were published in Yediot Ahronot on May 22, 2001. The third poll was carried out by the Gallup Organization and published in Ma'ariv on May 25, 2001. Following are the main findings of the three polls:

The Tami Steinmetz Center Findings:

On the question of "How satisfied, or dissatisfied are you with the Sharon government's handling of the Palestinian issue?" A 52% majority of Israelis polled responded that they are very or fairly satisfied, 38% were very or fairly dissatisfied and 10% did not know. When considering only Jewish responses, support increased to 60%. 43% of those polled believed that "government policy reflects the correct balance between a tough and yielding stance."[1] Almost one third of Israelis polled considered the current policies "too yielding," while 16% of Israelis (and less than 10% of Israeli Jews) polled considered their government's policies too hard-line.[2]

In addition, this poll showed almost no difference between the opinions of those who are traditional Labor voters and those who are traditional Likud voters: 59% of those who voted Labor during the 1999 elections claimed that they are satisfied with Sharon's policies, while 64% of those who voted Likud in 1999 claimed they are satisfied. Even among those who voted for Meretz, the Israeli political party most associated with the peace movement, 41% said they are satisfied with the government's policies.

On the question of whether the Palestinian population supports the use of violence against Israel, "a large majority of the Israeli public (73%) feels that the greater part of the Palestinians support violence."[3] However, the events of the Al-Aqsa Intifada have not damaged the willingness of the Israeli public to continue searching for those elements within Palestinian society that aspire for peace. The study revealed that a 56% majority of the Israeli public supports meetings "between 'ordinary' Israelis and Palestinians, for instance in a school related, professional, or commercial and cultural relations contexts," in order to advance mutual understanding and the possibility for peace between the two sides.[4]

The Dahaf Institute's Findings:

Dr. Tzemach's poll also found support of the Sharon government's policies regarding the Palestinians, and an overwhelming public willingness to persevere. The poll asked the public about the Israeli Air Force bombing of Palestinian targets, which is considered the most forceful to date against Palestinian violence. On the question of whether the bombing of Palestinian targets using F-16 fighter jets was a proper retaliatory measure for the suicide bombing in Netanya, an overwhelming majority of 62% responded positively.

With regards to the mood of the general public, 69% of Israelis polled said they feel "extremely worried" about the state of affairs, and 61% believe that this situation is likely to escalate to war in the near future.[5] However, despite this dire state of public mood, 79% of Israelis stated that "the Israeli public has the ability to persevere until a resolution that is acceptable to them is reached."[6]

The Gallup Organization's Findings: According to Ma'ariv commentator Moshe Tzazna, who reported on the Gallup Organization's poll, "the murderous terror attacks against the settlers, the daily shooting events directed at them, the Palestinian incitement, and the settlers restraint in the face of this state of affairs, created -- maybe for the first time since the settlement activity began -- a view that is different from what has been the [negative] consensus [held by the general Israeli public] so far."[7] Tzazna believes that the reason for this sudden expression of sympathy towards the settlers is that "the terror attacks turned the State of Israel, as a whole, into a terror stricken target...the entire county is now the front in the fight against terror."[8]

According to this poll, a sizable minority of 49% of Israelis believe the settlements are an obstacle for peace, 41% see the settlements as a Zionist enterprise, and 10% do not know. Regarding the feeling that the general Israeli public holds toward the settlers, 76% held positive or neutral feelings.

[1] Peace Index -- April 2001. Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann, The Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, Tel Aviv University.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Dr. Mina Tzemach and the Dahaf Polling Institute. Yediot Ahronot, May 22, 2001.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Gallup Poll. Ma'ariv, May 25, 2001.

[8] Ibid.

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