Poll: Israeli Public Opinion on Settlement Evacuation

yosh-west-bankIt would be difficult for even a passive observer of Middle East politics to miss the recent flurry of diplomatic activity by the Palestinian Authority in Latin America. With Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay’s recent “recognition” of a Palestinian State in the entirety of the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem, many Israeli voices have been sounding the alarms.

Although Latin America is a marginal player in regional politics, there is a fear that broader recognition of a Palestinian state will generate a larger international diplomatic firestorm. Should these unilateral recognitions spread, some believe it will lead to a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly demanding a full Israeli withdrawal. These fears may be overblown in terms of their impact. Both recognition of Palestinian state and demands by the UN for Israeli withdrawals are far from new. Indeed, the PLO declared independence for a Palestinian state in 1988 and eventually garnered the “recognition” of over 100 states. While it may have increased momentum toward the Oslo Accords, it clearly did not force Israel to a complete territorial withdrawal.

Whatever the future will be, one element noticeably absent from this discussion is whether or not Israelis are even open to the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. With all the public opinion data I have collected of late, I have found some very interesting information. My intention is to begin regularly sharing some of this data here on the blog, and some basic thoughts about what this data might entail for conflict resolution.

In this first post, I am looking Israeli opinion on territorial withdrawal from the West Bank/Judea and Samaria as it relates to Jewish settlement drawn from the October 2010 survey conducted on behalf of the Peace Index, a project of the Evens Program for Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. All raw data cited here can be found on their website: http://www.peaceindex.org.

In this survey respondents were asked (among many others) the following two questions:

“If during peace talks, Israel succeeds in reaching a permanent peace with the Palestinians that is backed by the United States and includes the evacuation of all of the settlements in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, in your opinion, should Israel sign or not sign such an agreement?”

And “if it includes only the evacuation of the settlements and territories […] that are outside the large settlement blocs, since the large blocs would remain in Israeli hands, in your opinion should Israel sign or not sign the agreement?”

Below is a graph demonstrating the shift in expressed willingness or unwillingness to withdraw from Judea and Samaria if such a withdrawal were to require the complete evacuation of Jewish communities or only those areas which lay outside of the major settlement blocs by percentage. The results are divided between responses by the Jewish population and the general population as a whole.


  Def Agree Agree Oppose Def Opp dk
All (g) 19.4 16.6 16.7 40.8 5.7
Not blocs (g) 18.5 32.5 11 31.5 6.1
All (j) 10.9 17.2 18.5 46.2 6.6
Not blocs (j) 17.9 32.2 10.6 32.6 6.3

The stipulation that Israel would retain control over the major settlement blocs actually had a slightly negative impact on hard support (a drop of about 1% in support) in the general population, yet it increased hard Jewish support by 7%. This can be attributed to the Arab population which is largely opposed to a limited withdrawal. It also increased soft support in both the general and Jewish population by almost double from 16.6 to 32.5% and 17.2 to 32.2% respectively. Soft opposition decreased about 6% in the general population and about 8% in the Jewish population while hard opposition decreased by about 9% in the general population versus about 13.5% in the Jewish population.

Aggregating categories, when faced with a peace resolution which requires the complete evacuation of Jewish communities from Judea and Samaria, the general population remains opposed with only 32% in favor and 57.5% against. However, when major settlement blocs are retained, support in the general population grows to 51% with opposition at 42.5%. In the Jewish population, a similar shift is evident. With the first proposition, a mere 28.1% offer support while 64.7% are opposed. However, in the second proposition, support grows to 50.1% and opposition shrinks to 43.2%.

The data hardly offers a picture of Israeli society as greatly supportive of a territorial withdrawal at this time, especially if it involves the extensive evacuation of Jewish settlements. Even where such a withdrawal would exclude the major blocs, support never reaches more than a bare 50%. However, the significant increase in soft support and decreases in both soft and hard opposition suggest that Israelis are receptive to compromise. Were the international community to take such a picture into account and be open to compromise on the 1967 lines, they might find a much more receptive partner in the Israeli public.

The Peace Index is a project of the Evens Program for Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. The data presented here was collected by the Dahaf Institute by telephone from 18-20 October, 2010. It included 601 respondents, a representative sample of the Israeli adult population, with a measurement error of 4.5%.

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