In this month’s survey we focused on two issues: the U.S. administration’s positions regarding actors in our region, namely Syria and Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The image of American power: A clear majority (66%) of the Jewish public thinks the U.S. administration’s handling of the Syrian issue projects weakness. This view prevails in the Arab public as well, though at a lower rate (49%). It also holds true regarding U.S. behavior toward Iran, with 64% of the Jewish respondents saying the American behavior projects weakness. Among the Arab respondents, the higher rate also “smells” of weakness (39.5%); however, the rate of Arabs who see the U.S. as projecting power is not much smaller (31%), and one-third have no clear opinion on the matter. A segmentation of the Jewish sample’s responses by self-placement on a political right-left continuum shows that in the case of Syria, in all the camps, a majority views the U.S. as showing more weakness than power, although the rate of those on the right who perceive weakness (75% on average) is definitely higher than in the center (56%) and on the left (58%). Regarding U.S. behavior toward Iran, the picture is somewhat different; among those placing themselves on the “hard” left, there is, in fact, a majority (56.5%) that sees U.S. policy as projecting power. In the rest of the camps, the prevailing view is that U.S. behavior toward Iran shows weakness.
Obama's credibility regarding preventing a nuclear Iran: Apparently influenced by the widespread view that the U.S. is displaying weakness on the Syrian and Iranian issues, two-thirds of the Jewish public tends to doubt that President Obama will fulfill his promise that the U.S. will prevent Iran’s development of nuclear weapons at all cost. Indeed, a cross-checking between the two questions reveals that among those who see U.S. behavior on the Syrian issue as projecting power, 69% believe Obama will fulfill his promise, while among those who see American policy as reflecting weakness, only 14% believe that Obama will fulfill his promise. A segmentation of the responses to this question by self-placement on a political right-left continuum reveals that among respondents on the right, with all its different shadings, and in the center, the rate of doubters is higher than believers. The moderate left is evenly split between believers and doubters, while on the “hard” left, the rate of believers that Obama will uphold what he has pledged is higher than the rate of those who doubt it (56.5% vs. 39%). The Arab public sees this matter differently: the rate of those who are sure or who think Obama will fulfill his promise is slightly higher than the rate of those who doubt that he will (41.5% vs. 38%).
Lack of belief in Iran’s promises and lack of trust in the West: The Jewish public does not “buy” the conciliatory spirit emanating from Iranian President Rouhani’s address to the UN General Assembly. Within this population, there is a broad consensus (80%) that Rouhani does not represent a real change in Iran’s policy but only in style. Opinions in the Arab public are divided, with a small majority (47% vs. 42.3%) believing a real change has occurred. It comes as no surprise, then, that an overwhelming majority (77%) of the Jewish public concurs with the stance of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has warned repeatedly that Iran constitutes a danger to the Free World. This public prefers Netanyahu's view to the positions of the Western leaders, who are holding talks with Rouhani aimed at improving relations and reaching an agreement on the nuclear issue. However, a reverse pattern of responses is found in the Arab public, where 56% believe that the Western leaders are on the right track and only 20% think the same about Netanyahu.
Additional nuclear powers in the region are bearable: In light of the animated debate on this issue recently, we repeated a question we first asked in November 2011and again in July 2012: “Some claim that apparently, it will be impossible to prevent Iran from nuclearizing in the long term, and therefore Israel should come to terms with this and devise a defense strategy based on the assumption that Israel is not the only nuclear state in the region. Do you agree or disagree with this approach?” In the two previous measurements, about 60% of the Jewish respondents answered positively; that is, they thought it was possible to live with a nuclear Iran and that Israel should formulate a security strategy that suits the change in circumstances. In the present measurement, this rate stood at 57%. (The corresponding rate in the Arab public was 65%.)
Opposition to signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): The Jewish public’s assessment that the leaders of the international community do not sufficiently grasp the Iranian danger apparently also contributes to strong opposition (71%) to the claim that Israel should sign the NPT, which would subject the Israeli nuclear industry to international supervision. A segmentation of the answers by self-placement on a political-security right-left continuum reveals that in all groups, there is a majority, albeit variable, of respondents opposed to signing the treaty (“hard” right—79%, moderate right—77%, center—69.5%, moderate left—60%, “hard” left—50%). Positions in the Arab public are the opposite, with 69% supporting the demand that Israel sign the NPT.
Nothing new on the Palestinian issue: As in the past, a majority of the Jewish public (61%) indeed supports the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but almost all of the Jewish public (81%) sees no real chance that the talks lately being held under U.S. auspices will eventually lead to a real agreement between the sides. This assessment is undoubtedly influenced by the fact that the rate of those who currently also see the Palestinians as "enemies" (57%) is much higher than that of those who regard them as "neighbors" (25%). Moreover, a sweeping majority of over 80% of the Jewish public opposes the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel—even a limited number—as a quid pro quo for a peace agreement, even though the Palestinians insist on the right of return as a condition for an agreement. In addition, 70% of the Jews do not support the possibility that as a quid pro quo for a permanent peace agreement, Israel would acknowledge partial responsibility for the suffering that was caused to the Palestinians with the creation of the refugee problem.
Among the Arabs, a much larger majority (88%) than in the Jewish public supports negotiations with the Palestinians. But a majority of the Arabs (64%), like the Jews, view the current negotiations as having a low chance of success. In stark contrast to the Jews, however, almost all the Arabs (80%), not surprisingly, view the Palestinians as "neighbors" rather than "enemies" and support both the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and the demand that Israel accept partial responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinian refugees.
The Negotiations Index for September, 2013
The Peace Index project includes ongoing monitoring of the Israeli public's attitudes towards peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The monthly Negotiation Index is comprised of two questions, one focusing on public support for peace negotiations and the other on the degree to which the public believes that such talks will actually lead to peace. The aggregated replies to these two questions are calculated, combined, and standardized on a scale of 0–100, in which 0 represents total lack of support for negotiations and lack of belief in their potential to bear fruit, and 100 represents total support for the process and belief in its potential. Each month, the Negotiations Index presents two distinct findings, one for the general Israeli population and the other for Jewish Israelis.
Negotiation Index: General sample: 46.8; Jewish sample: 43.2.
Graph of the month: Israel should come to terms with the fact that it will be impossible to prevent Iran from nuclearizing in the long term and should devise a security strategy based on the assumption that it is not the only nuclear state in the region (Jewish sample)
The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. This month's survey was conducted by telephone on September 30-October 1, 2013 by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 601 respondents, who constitute a representative national sample of the adult population aged 18 and over. The survey was conducted in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. The maximum measurement error for the entire sample is ±4.5% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.