Despite the intense criticism of the government's functioning of late, the Jewish public appears to support its overall policy on foreign and security issues, according to the February 2003 Peace Index poll published by professors Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University. Similar to Israel's official position, a majority of the Jewish public thinks the establishment of a Palestinian unity government reduces the chances of reaching a political settlement, and does not believe an agreement based on a two-state solution can be reached with such a government. A large majority also supports the official policy of not negotiating with a Palestinian unity government until it recognizes Israel and fulfills the Quartet's other conditions, particularly fighting terror. At the same time, though, the prevailing opinion is that Israel cannot allow the present situation to continue and must make greater efforts than in the past to reach a political settlement with the Palestinians.
Diskin: Hamas members training in Iran
On the Syrian issue, as in the past the dominant position is against a peace agreement in return for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and a majority also supports not responding to the Syrian initiative to renew negotiations as long as it supports Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations.
The Syrian approach is seen as resulting from weakness and not from a genuine desire for peace.
As for Iran, the unanimous view is that its nuclear armament constitutes an existential danger, and a small majority also says Israel should attack the Iranian nuclear facilities even if it has to do so alone. Again similar to the official position, the majority favors adhering to Israel's traditional policy of ambiguity regarding its nuclear capacity.
In the domestic sphere, the Jewish public continues its overwhelming support for the efforts at rooting out corruption in the public sector, and only a small minority thinks these efforts are excessive and harm the government's ability to function.
Those are the main conclusions of the Peace Index survey that was carried out on February 26-27, 2007.
About 55 percent of the Jewish public now thinks the establishment of a Palestinian national unity government would reduce the chances of reaching a settlement and only 25% believe its establishment would increase those chances (the rest have no opinion on the matter). There is a majority for this view among supporters of all the parties.
Fifty-six percent of the Jewish public thinks it would be impossible to reach a settlement with a Hamas-Fatah government based on the principle of two states for two peoples, compared to 40% who think it would be possible.
An overwhelming majority - 83% - say Israel should not recognize a Palestinian unity government or talk with it as long as it has not recognized Israel and fulfilled the Quartet's conditions, especially in regard to fighting terror.
As expected, the views are different in the Arab sector. Here a small majority of 52% thinks the establishment of the Palestinian unity government increases the chances for a settlement, and 64% say a settlement can currently be reached based on the principle of two states for two peoples. Only about one-fourth think Israel should avoid contacts with the unity government as long as it has not recognized Israel and fulfilled the Quartet's conditions.
Nevertheless, the dominant view - 63% of the Jewish public and 86% of the Arab public -is that the present situation is dangerous for Israel, and it should make greater efforts than in the past to reach a political settlement.
A hawkish line also holds sway among Israeli Jews on the Syrian issue, similar to the government's position. Only about one-fifth are in favor of peace for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights and only 41% believe Israel should respond positively to Syria's call to return to negotiations even if it has not stopped supporting Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations. Conversely, 52% of Jews think Syria's call for talks stems from weakness and Israel should not respond positively.
In the Arab sector, 81% support the formula of full peace for a full withdrawal from the Golan, and 73% think the government should respond positively to Syria's call to return to the negotiating table without stipulating that it end its support for Hizbullah and the other terrorist organizations.
On the Iranian issue, too, the Israeli Jewish public sees eye-to-eye with the government. Eighty-two percent believe Teheran's nuclear armament constitutes an existential danger to Israel. And a majority - albeit smaller (48.5% vs. 39%) - say Israel should attack Iran's nuclear facilities and destroy them even if it has to do so by itself.
Interestingly, in the Arab sector as well a majority, albeit not large at 53%, view the Iranian armament as an existential danger to Israel, but only 8% favor Israel attacking the nuclear facilities in Iran even if it does so by itself.
The researchers also looked into the public's position on Israel's traditional policy of nuclear ambiguity. Jews show clear support for ambiguity among voters for all parties, with 62% in favor of maintaining this policy. In the Arab sector, however, 54% think Israel should openly declare that it has nuclear weapons.
As in recent months, a majority - both in the Jewish (64%) and the Arab (55%) public - support continuing the efforts to expose corruption in the public sector with only a minority seeing these efforts as excessive.
Telephone interviews for the poll included 590 interviewees who represent the adult Jewish and Arab population. The sampling error is 4.5%