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The Peace Index:
Date Published: 09/12/2014
Survey dates: 01/12/2014 - 03/12/2014

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This month the Peace Index Survey, which was carried out before the new elections were announced, focused on the three issues that lately were at the center of the public discourse and probably will also play a role in the election campaign: the nation-state law (Israel: The Nation-State of the Jewish People), the employment of Israeli Arabs, and the negotiations with the Palestinians.

The nation-state law: A majority of the Jewish public (52%) thinks the nation-state law, in the version proposed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, does not contradict the principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. A much larger majority (73%) also sees no contradiction between Israel being both a Jewish and a democratic state. At the same time, there is almost a consensus (88%) that it is important that Israel will be a democratic state.

At the same time, the public clearly distinguished between its position on the law and the motives of the person proposing it. Only a minority (30%) believe that Netanyahu’s initiative stemmed mainly from genuine concern about strengthening Israel’s character as a Jewish state, while twice as many (61%) consider that his initiative was aimed mainly at boosting his popularity in the right-wing camp and among the settlers. To the question of whether the law would damage or benefit Israel’s interests, 31% of the Jewish interviewees responded that it would benefit them, but 39.5% said the law would harm Israel's interests. 21.5% said that it would neither benefit nor harm them (8% did not answer this question).

As for the Arab public, a very large majority (82%) thinks the proposed law does
contradict the principles of the Declaration of Independence and a similar rate (83%) also sees a contradiction between Israel being both a Jewish and a democratic state.

The nation-state law and the international arena: We asked, “Israeli governments have always claimed that Israel is ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ and used that claim as an important asset for Israel’s struggles in the international arena. Do you agree or disagree that the passing of the nation-state law would weaken Israel’s ability to make use of that claim?” Here it turns out that the Jewish public is very much divided in its opinion: 45.5% agree while 44% reject the view that passing the nation-state law would weaken Israel’s ability to make use of the claim that it is “the only democracy in the Middle East” as an important asset in its struggles in the international arena. That is, nearly half think that passing the Jewish nation-state law would damage the country’s image in the eyes of the international community.

Employing Israeli Arabs: After the recent spate of terror attacks, the mayor of Ashkelon called to stop employing Israeli Arabs in construction work at educational institutions in the city, claiming that this would enhance the residents’ sense of security. We looked into the Jewish public’s position on the calls to avoid employing Arab workers. The responses show that, along with a small majority (52%) that opposes these calls, a large minority (43%) supports them.

However, when we asked about employing Arab doctors or nurses in hospitals and nursing institutions, the rate of those favoring the employment of Arabs rose to 69% while the rate of opponents sank to 25.5%. One possible explanation for the gap in the distribution of responses to the two questions is that the public regards hospitals as less “sensitive” workplaces when it comes to employing Arabs; they are seen as places where the ascriptive identity of the individual, whether a worker or a service receiver, plays less of a role. Another possible explanation, somewhat cynical, is that because the Jewish public realizes that Israel’s hospitals and nursing institutions could not function without Arab medical personnel, it accepts their employment there for lack of any other choice, while in other kinds of work there are alternatives to the Arabs. It should be noted, however, that in this survey we also found sweeping opposition in the Jewish public (90%) to attacks on joint Jewish-Arab educational facilities, such as the arson attack on the bilingual school in Jerusalem.

The negotiations with the Palestinians: A majority of the Jewish public (58%) rejected the claim that the strengthening of Hamas in the West Bank and concomitant weakening of Mahmoud Abbas’s status stems mainly from the standstill in the political negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. In the same vein, while 41% see both sides as equally responsible for the standstill, 48% hold the view that the responsibility for this situation falls mainly on the Palestinian side, while only 9% assign it to the Israeli side. When asked to whom it is more important to reach a permanent peace settlement, 39% responded that it is equally important to both sides, 41% saw it as more important to Israel, while only 16% believed that a permanent peace is more important to the Palestinians. We also asked which approach the interviewees see as more appropriate: to renew the negotiations with Abbas with the aim of reaching a political settlement based on the principle of two states for two peoples, as the Western and moderate Arab states (such as Egypt) demand, or, alternatively, to continue the current policy of refraining from negotiations while strengthening Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The majority (54%) opted for the first possibility, 40% for the second.

In the Arab public, conversely, a small majority (52%) agrees with the assertion that the weakening of Abbas and strengthening of Hamas stems from the political standstill. Some 60.5% pin the responsibility for the failure to resume the negotiations on both sides equally, 28.5% place the responsibility for the fact that the negotiations are not being renewed on Israel alone, while only 1% assign the responsibility mainly to the Palestinian side. About two-thirds (63%) of the Arab interviewees responded that peace is equally important to both sides; 85% see renewing the negotiations with Abbas as the preferable possibility from the standpoint of Israel’s interests.

Accept a compromise? Recently Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that he would be proposing a peace plan involving a compromise with the Palestinians, because the unity of the people is more important that the unity of the land. Asked whether they agreed with or opposed this position of Lieberman’s, 59% of the Jewish interviewees said that they support the proposal (against 34%). A similar pattern, though less pronounced, emerged when we again checked whether the public agrees with or opposes Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement about a year ago that a peace agreement is necessary to prevent a situation where Israel would in the foreseeable future become a binational state without a Jewish majority: at present 52% think Netanyahu’s assertion is correct (38% oppose his assertion). In other words, a clear majority—though not very large—of the Jewish public accepts the need for a territorial compromise in principle.

Negotiations index: 45.0 (Jewish sample: 41.6)

Graph of the month: In your opinion, is there or is there not a contradiction between Israel being both a Jewish and a democratic state? (Jewish sample)

Graph of the month: In your opinion, is there or is there not a contradiction between Israel being both a Jewish and a democratic state?  (Jewish sample)

The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program for Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Guttman Center for Surveys of the Israel Democracy Institute. This month's survey was conducted by telephone on December 1-3, 2014, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 602 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 ±4.1% at a confidence level of 95%. Statistical processing was done by Ms. Yasmin Alkalay.


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