A survey conducted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz has shown that more than 80 per cent of Israelis do not believe in the possibility of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Nevertheless, two-thirds of respondents support a two-state solution, despite their belief that there is no Palestinian partner in the peace process.
The results of the poll, in which 3,800 Israelis participated, including a number of settlers, showed that 87 per cent of secular Israelis believe in the importance of peace with the Palestinians, compared with only half of religious Jews.
The so-called “demographic problem” is seen by 20 per cent of secular Israelis as a threat to Israel, whilst a third of them believe that the occupation and the settlements constitute a security threat to the state. According to of one of the researchers, the results show that the occupation and the continued policy of settlement indicate a change in public attitudes in Israel, but such change is slow.
The poll is part of a series conducted by four specialists at the University of Tel Aviv over 12 years. Interestingly, 60 per cent of the respondents living in the settlements are in favour of a democratic solution for the Palestine-Israel conflict. While a majority of Israelis support the decisions of the Jewish-majority Knesset on state matters, 14 per cent of settlers support the use of violence to prevent withdrawal from parts of the occupied West Bank.
The Haaretz poll noted that the founders of the settlements movements have not succeeded in persuading the public to move to settlements, which are illegal under international law. According to Haaretz, they have also failed with their extremist religious ideology, as the vast majority of the settlers, including a high percentage of religious settlers, have moved to live in the West Bank for material benefits, not religious or political reasons. The researchers concluded that half of the settlers could be evacuated as long as they are compensated for the loss of their homes in the settlements.
Israel is comfortable with its move to the political far-right, suggests the poll, not least due to the confusion in the centre parties, which have lost the public’s confidence over reaching a peace agreement.
Israel’s occupation has remained outside the political discourse in Israel, the poll demonstrates. In the run-up to the general election in January, estimates are that the party leaders who take into consideration the need to find a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians are likely to gain the support of the majority of the voters; most say that they supported Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip despite the criticism directed at that move.