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JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF

Vol. 6, No. 3     23 July 2006


Survey: Israeli Public Opposed Further Disengagement
Even Before the War with Hizballah

Yechiel Leiter


  • For the past fifteen years, Middle East peace-making has been dominated by two consecutive, illusory, political paradigms. The first paradigm, encapsulated by the Oslo Accords of 1993, belonged to a vision in which it is believed that a solution exists to every problem.

  • The second paradigm – unilateral withdrawal – proposed that reality could be changed by withdrawing from it, by unilaterally disengaging from it. There was a hope that a fence would define a border and Israel would be left alone. But after the fact, the public no longer sees the Gaza disengagement as having brought Israel greater security.

  • In a poll conducted for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on 9-10 July 2006, just prior to the outbreak of the war with Hizballah on July 12, only 19% of respondents said that they felt a greater sense of security since the disengagement from Gaza, while 45% said they felt less secure. Only 33% said Israel was more secure as a result of the disengagement, while 65% felt that the disengagement did not improve Israel's security.

  • Some 59% of all respondents oppose disengagement from Judea and Samaria, while only 36% support it. In addition, 60% feel that convergence in the West Bank will expand the threat of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, and 68% thought that further disengagement will strengthen the extremist elements in the Palestinian Authority.

  • 53% believe that Palestinian rockets have not yet been fired from Judea and Samaria due to IDF control of the area. In addition, strategic depth is perceived as critical, to the degree that 65% of the Israeli public is opposed to giving up the Jordan Valley even in the context of a peace agreement.



The Oslo Paradigm

For the past fifteen years, Middle East peace-making has been dominated by two consecutive, illusory, political paradigms. The first paradigm, encapsulated by the Oslo Accords of 1993, belonged to a vision in which it is believed that a solution exists to every problem. The overwhelming evidence that Arafat remained the same terrorist he always had been was ignored by the believers in this vision. In 1996, after Oslo had failed a three-year test, the Israeli public elected Benjamin Netanyahu, who projected a more constrained vision which suggested that no perfect solution existed, and that Arafat and his cohorts must be seen for who they really are and not for what we wish them to be.

The public may have begun to shift against the Oslo view of Arafat as a peace-maker, but it still hoped that the peace process could be sustained by some alternative strategy. In 1999, after another Israeli election led to a shift in power, Ehud Barak made one last effort at the Camp David II negotiations to promote the Oslo hope that a final peace settlement was still possible. Here, Arafat rejected every proposal and chose terror over truly living at peace with an Israel that, barring a few square kilometers, was ready to go back to the 1967 lines. Arafat's rejection of peace was so blatant, so unequivocal, that it was no longer possible to see Arafat as Israel had wished to see him. This illusion was history.


The Unilateral Withdrawal Paradigm

Barak now drew from a different illusory paradigm - unilateral withdrawal - the one he had applied to Lebanon. In this paradigm, reality, seen for what it is, could be changed by withdrawing from it, by unilaterally disengaging from it. This provided the finality of the negotiated settlement that Oslo proposed, but offered the path of unilateralism instead. It appealed to a sentiment that just wanted to get Israel's conflicts over with along all its borders. But this paradigm was still rejected with regard to Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, when the Israeli public twice elected Ariel Sharon (in 2001 and 2003), who had initially negated unilateralism unambiguously (after having rejected the Oslo paradigm as well).

For reasons not yet apparent, Sharon had a change of heart and applied the Lebanon paradigm to Gaza, with the promise that it would engender more security for Israel and its citizens. According to the evolving Barak-Sharon approach, there was no New Middle East of intimate interactions with Israel's neighbors. Instead, there was a hope that a fence would define a border and Israel would be left alone. But after the fact, the public, which had been tepidly supportive of the disengagement, no longer sees the Gaza disengagement as having brought Israel greater security.


Survey Results

In a poll conducted for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on 9-10 July 2006, just prior to the outbreak of the war with Hizballah on July 12, only 19% of respondents said that they felt a greater sense of security since the disengagement, while 45% said they felt less secure. When asked if they thought Israel was more secure as a result of the disengagement, only 33% said Israel was more secure and 65% felt that the disengagement did not improve Israel's security. Some 65% thought the disengagement from Gaza had contributed to Hamas' rise to power in the Palestinian-administered territories (see entire poll results below).

The poll of 1,004 Jewish adults conducted by the Midgam research company compared a representative sample in the general population with a similar sample of residents in the communities that would be transformed into border towns if the proposed “convergence” plan is implemented. Surprisingly, the survey found no difference in attitudes between the two groups. Residents of the larger and more centrally located cities did not express opinions substantively different from the residents of the areas most directly affected by the implementation of a new version of the unilateral withdrawal paradigm in Judea and Samaria.

Some 59% of all respondents oppose disengagement from Judea and Samaria, while only 36% support it. In addition, 60% feel that convergence in the West Bank will expand the threat of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, and 68% thought that further disengagement will strengthen the extremist elements in the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli public trusts the IDF to secure the State of Israel and its citizens and opposes having its security subcontracted to any other force. 53% believe that Palestinian rockets have not yet been fired from Judea and Samaria due to IDF control of the area, while only 25% attribute this to operational impediments. 60% oppose the posting of UN troops in the area, 53% do not trust Jordan to prevent smuggling of weapons to the Palestinian Authority, and 62% prefer IDF control of the areas to prevent rocket fire instead of relying on diplomatic activity. In addition, strategic depth is perceived as critical, to the degree that 65% of the Israeli public is opposed to giving up the Jordan Valley even in the context of a peace agreement.

The Gaza disengagement plan was advanced with the argument that it worked in Lebanon. Half a year prior to the implementation of the Gaza disengagement, Maariv columnist Ben Dror Yemini wrote (on 25 February 2005): “Admittedly, there is a possibility that Katyushas will be fired from Beit Hanun (Gaza), but also Hizballah has endless amounts of Katyushas threatening Nahariya, maybe even Haifa, and behold when we were there [in Lebanon], there were Katyusha bombardments, and since we left it is quieter.”

The kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit on the Gaza border and the incessant Palestinian rocket bombardment of Sderot and Ashkelon in Israel from disengaged Gaza had already convinced the majority of the Israeli public, well before the outbreak of the violence in Israel's north, that unilateral withdrawal is as illusory a peace paradigm as the Oslo Accords.

With the heavy bombardment of Israel's north by Hizballah this month, additional public polling may not be necessary to conclude that the Israeli public now has few illusions about the success of the Lebanon disengagement as well. But as both paradigms have failed, a new political paradigm is sure to emerge, and as Israel now enters this transitional stage, the monitoring of public sentiment in the near future will be of paramount importance.

*     *     *

Survey of Israeli Jewish Adults, 9-10 July 2006

1. Did your sense of security increase or decline since the disengagement from Gaza?
      Increased - 19%
      Stayed the same - 35%
      Declined - 45%

2. It was argued that the disengagement from Gaza would improve Israel's security. In your opinion, did the disengagement improve or not improve Israel's security?
      Improve - 33%
      Did not improve - 65%

3. In your opinion, did the disengagement from Gaza contribute or not contribute to the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian-administered territories?
      Did contribute - 65%
      Did not contribute - 29%

4. To what extent did Egypt fulfill its obligation to prevent smuggling of weapons and terrorists into the Gaza Strip?
      Did fulfill - 18%
      Did not fulfill - 68%

5. Do you support or oppose disengagement from Judea and Samaria which is called the “convergence” plan?
      Support - 36%
      Oppose - 59%

6. Government officials argue that the situation in Gaza should not influence the convergence plan. Do you agree or disagree with that argument?
      Agree - 32%
      Disagree - 64%

7. (For those who disagreed with #6): You stated that the situation in Gaza should influence decisions regarding the convergence plan. How so?
      Expedite implementation - 4%
      Maintain planned date for implementation - 6%
      Postpone implementation - 32%
      Cancel implementation all together - 54%

8. There is a possibility that in the convergence plan, civilian settlements will be removed but the IDF will remain in place. In your opinion, is this a better or worse security paradigm in comparison to the situation in Gaza?
      Worse - 50%
      Better - 34%

9. Will the removal of settlers make it easier or harder on the IDF to protect civilians inside Israel's pre-1967 borders from Palestinian rockets?
      Easier to protect - 41%
      Harder to protect - 46%

10. In your opinion, do you think it's necessary to carry out a national referendum before an additional disengagement is carried out?
    Yes to referendum - 56%
      No to referendum - 42%

11. To what extent do you think that the convergence plan will expand or reduce the Palestinian rocket threat to additional cities in Israel?
      Expand the threat - 60%
      Reduce the threat - 20%

12. To what extent do you think that the convergence plan will strengthen or weaken extremist elements in the Palestinian Authority?
      Strengthen extremist elements - 68%
      Weaken extremist elements - 22%

13. In your opinion, what is the most effective way to prevent the firing of Palestinian rockets?
      Control by the IDF of the areas in depth - 62%
      Diplomatic activity with the Palestinians - 24%

14. In your opinion, what is the reason that Palestinian rockets are not yet being fired from Judea and Samaria?
      Control of the area by the IDF - 53%
      Operational impediments - 24%
      Both - 11%

15. Do you support or oppose concessions in the Jordan Valley in the context of a peace treaty with the Palestinians?
      Support concessions in Jordan Valley - 26%
      Oppose concessions in the Jordan Valley - 65%

16. To what extent do you rely on Jordan to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the Palestinian Authority?
      Rely on Jordan - 45%
      Don't rely on Jordan - 53%

17. There are areas beyond the security fence that place Ben-Gurion Airport in range of Palestinian rockets. Do you support or oppose concessions over these areas?
      Support - 14%
      Oppose - 80%

18. Do you support or oppose the posting of UN soldiers in the Jordan Valley and other potential conflict areas?
      Support - 35%
      Oppose - 60%

*     *     *

Yechiel M. Leiter is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has served as Benjamin Netanyahu's Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Finance and as Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Education.


Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaakov Amidror, ICA Program Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-5619281, Fax. 972-2-5619112, Email: jcpa@netvision.net.il. In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215 USA, Tel. (410) 664-5222; Fax. (410) 664-1228. Website: www.jcpa.org. © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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