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The Peace Index:
Date Published: 07/01/2015
Survey dates: 29/12/2014 - 31/12/2014

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The picture that emerges from the Peace Index survey conducted on December 29-31 (before the results of the Likud primaries were announced) indicates that the right remains the dominant political force among the Jewish public.

Who will set up the next government? About 60% of the Jewish public thinks the right-wing bloc has a better chance to establish the new government while only 24% believe the chances of the center-left bloc are better. When we asked which bloc the interviewees preferred to establish the next government, the gap had indeed narrowed a bit but the clear preference for the right remained: 55% preferred a right-wing government compared to 32.5% who preferred a center-left one. A comparison between the two questions shows that there are some who prefer a center-left government but still view the right as having better chances.

The prevailing position (52%) in the Arab public is that the center-left bloc has the better chance to form the next government, and an even higher rate (63%) also prefers that it be the bloc to do so.

To which bloc do the Jewish parties belong? Less than three months before the elections it appears that the various parties’ positions on the political-security issue are not completely clear. The two parties most identified in the Jewish public with the political-security right are Bayit Yehudi led by Naftali Bennett (72%) and Likud led by Binyamin Netanyahu (70.5%). Two other parties that are perceived by a certain majority as right-wing, though not as decisively as the two previous ones, are Ha’am Itanu led by Eli Yishai (52%) and Yisrael Beiteinu led by Avigdor Lieberman (51%). Shas led by Aryeh Deri is also more perceived as right-wing (41%) than as a centrist (23%) or leftist (7%) party. The parties most identified with the left are Meretz led by Zehava Galon (72%) and Labor-Hatnuah (the Zionist Camp) led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni (50%). Only two parties are identified by the highest rate as centrist on the political-security issue, though in these cases, too, not overwhelmingly so: Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid (center—46.5%, left—24%, right—8%) and Kulanu led by Moshe Kahlon (center—31%, right—22%, left—5%). The data show, therefore, that the Jewish public is not sure about the political-security location of a considerable portion of the parties, especially with regard to (in order) Kulanu (not clear—25%), Ha’am Itanu (18%), Yisrael Beiteinu (perhaps because of what is being said about Lieberman’s “centralization”), and Shas (17% each).

An interesting and somewhat disturbing finding in terms of political literacy is that among the Arab interviewees the highest rate of respondents (41%-50%) said, regarding each of the Jewish parties they were asked about, that it was not clear to them where it was located on the political-security right-center-left spectrum.

Who is best suited to serve as the next prime minister? The dominance of the right is also clearly evident in the Jewish interviewees’ answers to this question. At the top of the list is Netanyahu with a preference rate of 34%. Although that is not a high rate in absolute terms, it certainly stands out compared to other candidates; the next highest preference rate is Herzog’s at 18%. In other words, the rate of those who see Herzog as the best-suited candidate for the prime minister’s post is about half the rate of those who see Netanyahu as most qualified to serve in the position, something that does not augur well for Herzog and his associates. In third place is Naftali Bennett with a preference rate of 10.5%, while Tzipi Livni comes in fourth with 6%. That is, the two leaders of the clearly right-wing parties—Likud and Bayit Yehudi—are preferred by 45% of the Jewish public while the two prominent leaders of the center-left bloc receive a joint preference rate of only 24% (the other leaders who were presented to the interviewees—Lieberman, Kahlon, and Lapid—each won a few percentage points from those who prefer that they head the government, not changing the overall picture). There is, then, a leader who is definitely preferred, but he too does not enjoy the preference of more than one-third of the public, a low rate considering that he is an incumbent candidate.

The clear preference that the right-wing bloc enjoys among the Jewish public seems to raise a question about the fact that a much larger number (41%) said that the issue determining which party they will vote for is the socioeconomic one (only 33% chose the political-security issue as electorally decisive for them). For this seeming contradiction there are at least two explanations that do not preclude each other. First, it may be that many still believe that the right is better suited than the center-left to deal with the national problems in the socioeconomic area as well. Second, it is possible that the preference for the socioeconomic issue is merely a “declarative statement” that is influenced by the prominence given this issue in the media discourse, while on the emotional level the public is closer to the political-security domain and will vote accordingly.

Among the Arab respondents the highest rate chose the socioeconomic issue as deciding which party they will vote for (36%, compared to 29% who chose the political-security issue). However, a high percentage (24%) either said that another issue will influence their electoral preference or that they do not know what will influence them one way or the other. As for the candidate best suited to serve as prime minister, a majority (57%) of the Arab interviewees declined to respond or did not know; this is consistent with their difficulty in locating the Jewish parties on the political-security right-center-left spectrum, as we reported above. Among those who did have a preference regarding the identity of the candidate for prime minister, Livni and Herzog received the highest rates (10% for each) while the rest of the candidates received smaller rates.

Was there a need to hold new elections and do you intend to vote? A majority of the Jewish public (55%) thinks the political situation in Israel did not justify holding new elections. The tendency to deny the need for elections is consistent with the prevailing assessment that the new government, too, will likely be formed by the right-wing bloc. As for taking part in the elections, a very large majority (89.5%) declared an intention to vote, of whom 75.4% reported that they are sure they will vote. On the question of whether the voters have already decided which party to vote for, it turns out that 59% have already decided while 40% have not yet done so. The various parties, then, can still try to convince a considerable percentage of the “floating” voters to give them their vote. At the same time, taking into account the perception of bloc affiliation of the parties we have reported on, it appears that, for the undecided, the choice of whom to vote for will mainly be between the parties perceived as belonging to the same bloc and not between parties belonging to different blocs. That is, if there are changes in the voters’ preferences, it appears that they will be mainly within blocs and not between blocs.

Among the Arabs, whose level of support for the current government has been low throughout its tenure, a clear majority (70%) sees the holding of new elections as justified. In our survey 62% of the Arab respondents said that they were sure or that they thought they would go to vote, and of these about two-thirds had already decided which party to vote for.

What is the preferred solution to the problem with the Palestinians? In the Jewish public we found a balance between, on the one hand, the rate who think that even for a peace agreement worked out under U.S. sponsorship that would include appropriate security arrangements, not even part of the settlements in Judea and Samaria should be evacuated (48%), and on the other, the rate of those who disagree with that position (46.5%). A balance also emerges in the responses to the question of which possibility would better ensure the future of the country: annexation of the territories and the establishment of a single state under Israeli rule (41%) or a division of the land and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state beside Israel (43%). However, a majority of the Jewish public (56%) now opposes the idea that in the framework of a permanent peace settlement under U.S. sponsorship that would include appropriate security arrangements, rule over the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem could be transferred to the Palestinians.

We wanted to know to what extent, in the Israeli public’s opinion, Israel should take into account the U.S. position on questions concerning a solution of the conflict with the Palestinians. About half of the Jewish public (50.5%) thinks Israel should not take it into account or should do so only a little. Conversely, 46% believe that the U.S. position should be taken into account to a great or a very great extent. In the Arab public, which apparently regards the United States as an actor that does not promote its interests, a majority (59%) thinks Israel should not take the Americans into account regarding its policy on the conflict. Given that most of the Jewish public prefers the right-wing bloc, the numerical balance between the supporters and opponents of a territorial compromise apparently indicates that some of the right’s supporters in fact prefer the two-state solution, but think the right can better represent Israel’s interests in permanent-status negotiations. In any case, a majority of the Jewish public (61%) thinks that no matter who sets up the next government and whatever policy it adopts, the peace process with the Palestinians is stalled and there is no chance of it progressing in the foreseeable future. In the Arab public the rate of those who think the situation is at a standstill is in fact somewhat smaller than among the Jews (51%), but it is higher than the rate of those who think there is a chance of progress in the negotiations in the foreseeable future (39%).

The involvement of international actors: A large majority of the Jewish public (70%) thinks the growing trend among European parliaments to call on their governments to officially recognize a Palestinian state before a peace agreement is reached damages Israel’s national interests. This figure indicates that even among supporters of a two-state solution, the majority does not think the initiative of these Europe parliaments is beneficial to Israel. This position is more widespread, as one would expect, among those identifying themselves as right-wing or in the center (74% in both camps), but even on the left the rate of those who think the European initiative harms Israel’s national interests (53%) is considerably higher than the rate of those who believe it contributes to those interests (28%).

Negotiations indexes: General 50.7 (Jews 44.4)

Graph of the month: In your assessment, which bloc of parties has a greater chance to set up the government after the upcoming elections, and which bloc would you want to establish the government after the upcoming elections? (%, Jews)

Graph of the month: In your assessment, which bloc of parties has a greater chance to set up the government after the upcoming elections, and which bloc would you want to establish the government after the upcoming elections? (%, Jews)

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 29-31, 2014, by the Midgam Research Institute. The survey included 600 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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