Most Israelis distrust Palestinian intentions and international security guarantees, survey finds

Most Israelis distrust P

A majority of Israeli Jews distrust Palestinian and general Arab willingness to make peace, and have a similar distrust for the efficacy of multinational forces as guarantors of a future agreement, according to a survey published this week. The survey tried to gauge Israeli Jewish responses to a series of assertions expressing skepticism over issues that included the possibility for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in light of its support for the report, and the effectiveness of international, Egyptian or Jordanian forces as guarantors of future agreements. In their responses to these assertions, Israelis tended to agree - sometimes strongly - with the skepticism expressed. The survey, commissioned by Independent Media Review and Analysis, was conducted last week by the respected Maagar Mohot polling company among 510 adult Jewish Israelis who constituted a representative sample of the Israeli Jewish demographic: 51% male to 49% female, 11% haredi, 18% new immigrant, with an average age of 42. The survey dealt with general issues related to the peace process. Asked whether the assertion that a complete withdrawal to the pre-1967 border would bring peace - the central plank of the Arab peace initiative - was "simplistic and naive" or "logical and correct," Israeli Jews responded 80% to 10% that this claim was simplistic and naive. This opinion was shared across much of the Israeli political spectrum, with a majority of Labor voters (60%) and overwhelming majorities of Kadima (85%), Likud (93%), haredi (80%) and right-wing (96%) party voters expressing this view. The survey also brought to the fore what seems to be a deep Israeli distrust of multinational military forces as guarantors of a future peace agreement. The poll asked respondents to comment on the following statement: "The failure of the multinational forces in Lebanon to prevent Hizbullah from importing rockets to South Lebanon... [should be a lesson for Israel] that it would be a mistake to agree to an Israeli-Palestinian peace [agreement] that looks to multinational forces to maintain security." A significant majority (56% to 28%, with the rest undecided) agreed with this statement, expressing distrust of multinational forces. Asked their opinion on the possibility of Jordan and Egypt assuming security responsibility in the West Bank and Gaza, which were previously controlled by these countries before 1967, respondents were divided. According to 38% of those polled, the "security risks" outweighed the "benefits" of such an arrangement, though 29% disagreed and fully 33% either didn't know or were undecided. "This survey raises questions about some policies that policymakers have been throwing into the air," said Dr. Aaron Lerner, cofounder of Independent Media Review and Analysis. "Serious people, both on the Left and Right, are making policy recommendations about, for example, handing over security in Gaza or the West Bank to Egypt and Jordan," he said. "So it's important for us to actually think and talk about whether it makes sense to have Jordanian troops deployed in Kalkilya." Whatever the merits of the case, "nobody is talking about this," believes Lerner. Israel's policy debate is "shallow," and allows for "a whole slew of concepts [to be raised] that aren't getting any serious discussion." The survey also gauged the effect of the Goldstone Report on public opinion, asking whether the Palestinians were "a real partner" to negotiations in light of the Palestinian Authority's efforts to bring international condemnation on Israel over the Goldstone Report. Fully 54% of Israeli Jews said they were not, while just 34% said the PA was a partner. The skeptical majority included large majorities of Likud voters (70% expressed distrust), haredi voters (85%) and voters for right-wing parties (77%). Even voters for the center-left Kadima Party reported 50% to 25% that they distrusted Palestinian intentions in light of the PA's efforts. Only among Labor voters did trust slightly overtake distrust (40% to 37%). The skepticism was highest among new immigrants, with 73% agreeing with the statement of distrust, versus just 13% disagreeing. By comparison, there was a much lower 45% agreement to 32% disagreement among native-born Israeli Jews and veteran immigrants. Despite the majority who distrusted Palestinian intentions, there was no clear majority when it came to the assertion that "in light of the Palestinian efforts to [advance] the Goldstone Report... Israel does not need to negotiate" with the Palestinians. The gap was slim - 39% said Israel did need to negotiate, while 37% said it did not - and seemed to reflect a distinction being made by many respondents between distrust of the PA and the need for negotiations. Fully 24% either did not know or could not decide on this question. The margin of error was 4.5%.