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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dumbo questions

Al-Reuters has now picked up the results of a Left-leaning Israeli poll that claims that 80% of Israelis don't regard Iran as an existential threat (Hat Tip: Hot Air).
Asked how a nuclear-armed Iran would affect their lives, 80 percent of respondents said they expected no change. Eleven percent said they would consider emigrating and 9 percent said they would consider relocating inside Israel.

Twenty-one percent of Israelis believe Iran "would attack Israel with nuclear weapons with the objective of destroying it," the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), which commissioned the poll, said in a statement.
Some of you may recall that this result conflicts with a poll I blogged just three weeks ago that said that 23% of Israelis would consider leaving the country if Iran obtains nuclear weapons.

Other results of the INSS poll, which relate to our relations with the 'Palestinians,' show a similar dovish slant.
Seventy five percent of Israeli Jews support the evacuation of unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, with 57% saying that they would even support the use of force in such evacuations and 18% saying that they would support the government on the issue if the evacuations come following an agreement with the settlers. Only 25% said that they opposed any removal of outposts, according to a study conducted by the Institute for National Security Studies and released for publication Sunday.

The Public Opinion Survey on National Security Issues also found that 58% of Israeli Jews supported the continued expansion of West Bank settlements. However, only 17% supported further growth over the green line if such activity "will result in a confrontation with the United States." 42% of the public opposed all construction in settlements.

The survey found that Jewish backing for a Palestinian state has been steadily declining since it peaked at 60% in 2006. This year's survey found that 53% of Jewish Israelis accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Still, the survey drew a distinction between a solution based on a "Palestinian state" and a solution based on the formula "two states for two peoples."

The survey also found that support for the "two states for two peoples" formula has been consistently above 60% in the past few years, with 64% voicing support for such a solution to the conflict in 2009.

According to the survey, Israelis were reluctant to accept a return to the 1967 borders and the evacuation of all West Bank settlements. The study found that only 15% were willing to entertain the possibility of a full pullout, up from 14% in 2007. Some 43% were willing to accept the evacuation of "small and isolated settlements" in return for peace, as opposed to 45% in 2007.

The survey, which was conducted during the first three weeks of May 2009, also gauged the public's stance regarding engagement with Hamas. Only 18% of the respondents expressed support for dialogue - direct and indirect - with the Islamic rulers of the Gaza Strip. All in all, 72% supported continued military pressure on Hamas, including 33% who were in favor of toppling the Hamas government "even by occupying the entire Gaza Strip." The remaining 10% supported the continuation of the Gaza blockade.
Only with respect to the Golan Heights, where there is a national consensus against ceding the territory to Syria, did the survey go as the Israeli right would expect.
The study also found that the Israel public is broadly opposed to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria, with only 3% of respondents coming out in favor of ceding the entire territory. A vast majority, 60%, opposes any withdrawal from the plateau, and 20% stated that they were "willing to return the Golan to Syrian sovereignty but leave the Israeli settlements on the Golan."
What's going on here is that, as usual, the most important part of a survey is how you ask the question. Aaron Lerner explains:
No one would accuse Yehuda Ben Meir of failing to do whatever in his power to promote his pro-withdrawal views over the course of his career.

In this case, the poll uses the device of asking about "settlement expansion" without specifically mentioning expansion for "natural growth". All polls carried out in the last two weeks (after this poll) - including the much touted Dahaf poll - have consistently shown that once mention was made of "natural growth" that the majority of Israelis oppose a settlement freeze.

So much for Ben Meir's policy recommendation for a settlement freeze based on a slanted poll question.

As for the result finding support for a "two state solution", this is what might be termed the result for the "Dumbo question". That is to say - if elephants could fly we would climb on the back of Dumbo and enjoy the ride and by the very same degree of likelihood if it was possible to establish a Palestinian state that would permanently honor a series of restrictions and conditions Israelis would support the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.

But Dumbo only flies in the movies and the Israeli public, when asked by pollsters, consistently recognizes that it is unrealistic to expect that security restrictions on a Palestinian state can be enforced.

So Ben Meir asks the "Dumbo question" to yield the result he wants and declines to follow up with the other questions that demonstrate Israelis ultimately roundly reject the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.

That's ok for polemics, but the Institute for National Security Studies purports to offer policy recommendations based on serious work - not just ideology.
Hmmm. The full survey results are here.


At 11:19 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The poll results don't really matter. One can talk about hypotheticals all one wants but that doesn't mean they will be translated into reality. Are the two sides ready to make a deal?

No.The gap between wishful thinking and reality is a wide one and nowhere is that axiom more true than in the Middle East.


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