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The education minister's decision to have the Green Line marked on maps in geography schoolbooks, and the controversy it sparked, led us to reexplore this month the Israeli Jewish public's views on the future of the settlements and relations with the Palestinians.
Even though a majority of the Jewish public realizes that it is impossible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians without evacuating settlements, only a minority supports such an evacuation.
Opinions are divided on the government's recent decision to expand some settlements so that they can absorb evacuees from the Gaza Strip.
In contrast, we found sweeping support in the Jewish public for holding contacts like the recent meeting between Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Indeed, a clear albeit smaller majority says that if Hamas were to free kidnapped soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Israel should agree to talk with its leaders as well.
The execution of Saddam Hussein was a source of satisfaction for the majority of those polled.
Exactly half of the Jewish public opposes Education Minister Yuli Tamir's decision to have the Green Line marked on maps in schoolbooks, while 38% support it.
As expected, the support runs very high among Meretz voters - 78%, and Labor voters - 69%. Kadima voters are divided on the question.
It turns out that a clear majority of 59.5% think or are sure that it is now impossible to reach peace with the Palestinians without evacuating a majority of the Jewish settlements in the territories; 16% are not sure or have no opinion on the issue; and only about one-quarter think or are sure that peace can be reached even without dismantling most of the settlements. Nevertheless, 53% oppose evacuating most of the settlements in the territories for a full peace agreement and only 34% favor it.
This opposition could be rooted in the widespread view that even dismantling most of the settlements would not suffice for the Palestinians to sign a full peace agreement with Israel. A cross-section of the two questions - readiness for a mass evacuation and assessment of the chances that the Palestinians would be satisfied - shows that both among supporters and opponents of an evacuation, a majority thinks it would not be enough to bring the Palestinians to sign a full peace agreement.
This majority is slightly smaller among the supporters of an evacuation. Despite the reservations about an evacuation, a majority of the public does not back the government's decision to expand certain settlements so that they can absorb evacuees from the Gaza Strip. On this question the opinions are split with, in fact, a slight advantage for the opponents: 41% favor an expansion and 45% oppose it, apparently out of concern about aggravating relations with the Palestinians.
A segmentation of the responses by voting for the Knesset shows a clear distinction between Left and Right. Eighty-nine percent of Meretz voters and 84% of Labor voters oppose an expansion. A majority of Kadima voters are against it while 36% support it.
This month we returned to the question we asked many times in the past about the basic intentions of the Palestinians. This time, too, a clear majority said that if they could, the Palestinians would destroy the State of Israel. Here we should note that since 1994 there have been only small fluctuations on this question, between two-thirds and three-quarters, compared to the volatility of events.
Indeed, a majority of members of all parties except Meretz see this as the Palestinians' intention. Among Meretz voters, 33% currently think the Palestinians would destroy Israel if they could, 23% oppose this view, and 44% do not know.
Not surprisingly, then, when asked what has caused the decrease in terror attacks in recent times, the majority ascribe it to the preventive measures by the Israeli security forces and only 29% to an intentional avoidance by the Palestinians for their own reasons. Ten percent attribute equal importance to both factors, 3% to neither of them, and the rest have no clear opinion.
Yet, at the same time, 70% favor having contacts with the Palestinians such as the meeting Olmert recently held with Abbas. Moreover, a clear majority also favor contacts with Hamas leaders if the organization frees Shalit. Not surprisingly, there is congruence though not identity between support for contacts with the PA and support for contacts with Hamas. Among those who support meetings like the one between Olmert and Abbas, 66% also favor negotiations with Hamas and 33% oppose them. Among those who oppose such meetings, however, only 37% support contacts with Hamas and 58.5% are against them.
Although those who were satisfied with the hanging of Saddam Hussein have the edge, it is not a matter of happiness across the board. Some 19% reported that they were very happy, 27% that they were moderately happy, 13.5% moderately unhappy, and 13% were not happy at all.
About one-fourth responded that the event did not affect them emotionally. As for how this measure will influence the future of the region, 53% see it is a positive step and 30% think it will harm regional stability.
The peace indexes for this month were: Oslo Index: 31 Negotiation Index: 47 Syria Index: 29 Note that this month only a Jewish sample was included in the survey because of the difficulty in conducting interviews with the Arab public during the Id al-Adha holiday.
The Peace Index project is conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Events Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at Tel Aviv University, headed by Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann. The telephone interviews were conducted by the B.I.Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv University on 1-2 January 2007 and included 488 interviewees who represent the adult Jewish population in Israel (including the territories and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4.5%.