Poll: Blockade is making Hamas stronger

Survey shows majority of Jewish Israelis believe closure of Gaza Strip isn't achieving political goals.

Erez Crossing Waiting 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Erez Crossing Waiting 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
An overwhelming majority of Israelis believe that the current closure on the Gaza Strip is not effective, and that Hamas is getting stronger, according to a poll released Wednesday by Gisha-The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel. "The decisive majority of Israelis believe that the closure is primarily harming civilians in Gaza and is driving them to extremism," the two groups said in a press release. "The closure is harming Israel's standing in the world and it will not cause Gaza residents to change the Hamas regime." The survey was conducted on the one-year anniversary of the Israel's blockade of Gaza, which was imposed following the Hamas's takeover of the territory in June 2007. According to its findings, 83 percent of Israelis believed that Hamas had gotten stronger since the closure was imposed. Sixty-eight percent said Israel's security had deteriorated since then. Sixty-two percent said Hamas had gotten much stronger over the last year. Additionally, 53% of respondents said the closure's goals were political and not security-oriented. Just 32% said they believed the closure was intended to prevent the movement of goods and people that would threaten Israeli security. Ten percent believed the goal of the closure was to punish Gazans because of the Kassam rocket fire. Twenty-six percent said that the goal was to cause Gaza residents to change the Hamas regime, and 27% said the goal was to influence Hamas directly and cause it to change its policies. "The survey clearly shows that Israelis do not believe that the policy of pressuring Gaza residents is effective," said independent pollster Dahlia Scheindlin. "There is a striking agreement across political and ideological lines, that the closure is likely to drive people towards extremism, and there is a strong consensus that the closure primarily affects civilians but is completely ineffective at causing them to change the Hamas regime." According to the survey, the vast majority of Israeli Jews said the political goals of the closure will not be achieved. Seventy-eight percent said there was little or no chance that Israel's policy in Gaza would cause the Palestinian population to bring down Hamas and 79% said the closure primarily affects the civilian population. A majority of those polled said they did not believe support for Palestinian human rights was anti-Israel. Seventy-six percent said Gazans deserved human rights, while 57% disagreed with a statement that those who advocated for human rights on behalf of Palestinians were anti-Israel. Thirty-nine percent said such advocates were anti-Israel. "It turns out that the Israeli public is more realistic than the politicians acting in its name, who are trying to justify a gross violation of the rights of Palestinian civilians, using a 'security' justification that most Israelis think has no basis," said Gisha's director, Sari Bashi. "Israeli decision-makers would do well to listen to the people, who are warning them that Israel's policy in Gaza is primarily harming Palestinian civilians - against Israel's own interests." Forty-four percent of respondents were right wing or moderate right, while 20% said they were centrist. Twenty-one percent described themselves as left or moderate left.