In my last post, I offered some basic data on Israeli perceptions of Palestinian hostility toward Israel. With a substantial majority of Israelis believing that “most Palestinians do not accept the State of Israel and would destroy it if they could,” I suggested that this environment of mistrust is hardly conducive to meaningful peace negotiations. Today, I would like to explore this theme a bit deeper by examining the relationship between Israeli support for peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and their belief that these negotiations will actually result in peace.
In this post, I am analyzing two questions which have appeared consistently in almost every monthly survey of the Peace Index since the project began in mid-1994. The first is “What is your attitude toward peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority?” The second is “To what extent do you believe that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians in coming years?”
I have selected responses to these questions for every year between 2001 and 2010, each in the month of July, an arbitrary but obviously medial point in the annual surveys. Data between 1994 and 2000 was not selected because prior to 2001, the form of the questions focused almost entirely on Israeli attitudes toward the Oslo Accords rather than the peace process in general. Additionally, rather than use a 4-point scale of support to opposition and belief to disbelief in the prospects for peace, they utilized a 5-point scale with a medial “so-so” category (ככה ככה) which would have introduced further measurement problems.
Even without utilizing descriptive statistics, the basic patterns of public opinion are quite striking on these questions. Paradoxically, the overwhelming majority of Israelis consistently offer support for peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, even whilst the similarly large majorities consistently believe that these negotiations will not result in peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Some basic graphical and statistical data is offered below on responses to these two questions drawn from the general Israeli population.
“What is your attitude toward peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority?” (General)
To what extent do you believe that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians in coming years?
Tot Don’t Bel
Graphing aggregate percentages of the population in favor of and opposed to the peace process against those aggregate percentages of those who believe the peace process will result in peace versus those who do not reveals an interesting picture:
Aggregate Support and Opposition to the Peace Process and Belief and Disbelief in its Efficacy
Visually, there seems to be a clear relationship between changes in support for the peace process and belief in the efficacy of the peace process. Support in this limited sample always increases along with stronger beliefs in the efficacy of the peace process, while opposition always increases along with stronger beliefs in the inefficacy of the peace process. Examining nearly monthly responses over a period of 10 years would offer a sample size of approximately n=120 and offer a meaningfully more robust test of this relationship.
Moreover, although the basic pattern over time appears to be strong support for the peace process coupled with strong skepticism in its efficacy, whichever factors bolster positive responses in one category may similarly bolster positive responses in the next. If one begins with a hypothesis that increased belief in the efficacy of peace negotiations will lead to greater support for the process as a whole, discovering these antecedent conditions is clearly an important endeavor.
All data presented here comes from the Peace Index, a project of the Evens Program for Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute. The raw data cited here can be found on their website: http://www.peaceindex.org. Every monthly survey is includes between 500 and 600 respondents and exact calculations of measurement error for each survey can be found in their monthly reports.