Daily Israel Report

Poll: Majority of Israelis Oppose Concessions

Survey by Israel Democracy Institute reveals wide public support for referendum on any peace deal, opposition to more Israeli concessions.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 8/6/2013, 12:32 PM

Jewish community of Karnei Shomron
Jewish community of Karnei Shomron
Flash90

A poll released by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) has shed significant light on attitudes among Israeli Jews and Arabs regarding peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, among other issues.

The survey, which was conducted between 28th - 30th July 2013, includes 602 respondents constituting a representative sample of the adult population of Israel, according to IDI.

It reveals - perhaps unsurprisingly - significant differences of opinion between Jewish and Arab Israelis over the prospect of Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Below are some of the key findings (with a 4.5% margin of error):

"Right of return"

Among Jewish Israelis, 77% oppose even a recognition in principle by Israel of the so-called "right of return" for the descendants of Arabs who fled during the Israeli War of Independence. Under such a limited recognition, put forward in past negotiations, a small number of the descendants of Arab refugees would be allowed to settle in Israel, with the government providing compensation for the remainder.

In contrast, 82% of Israeli Arabs supported such a move.

Approximately 700,000 Arabs fled fighting during the 1948 War of Independence, many of them encouraged by Arab leaders who urged them to leave their homes temporarily to enable invading Arab armies to "cleanse" the land of Jews, after which they would be able to return. Today, unlike any other refugees, "Palestinian refugee status" includes all descendants of those who fled, which means that nearly 5 million Arabs - most of whom were born outside of Israel - would qualify for compensation.

No mention was made in the poll of the roughly one million Jews from Arab countries who were forced from their homes - both during the same period and in the years that followed - in a concerted act of ethnic-cleansing by Arab governments.

Territorial concessions

The poll also showed that a significant majority of Jewish Israelis are opposed to further territorial concessions. 62.5% opposed a comprehensive withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and much of Jerusalem with land swaps, while 58% opposed evacuating all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria apart from Maaleh Adumim and the city of Ariel, as well as large "settlement blocs." 50% oppose transferring control over Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, with a special arrangement for holy places.

Interestingly, while Israeli Arabs largely supported Israeli concessions in this area, only a slim majority (55%) wanted to see Arab neighbourhood in Jerusalem transferred to the Palestinian Authority. This may reflect previous findings which indicated that most Arab Jerusalemites prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty rather than under PA control.

Israel has previously made territorial concessions to the PA, including control over large areas of Judea and Samaria, and a full withdrawal from Gaza - along with the expulsion of around 9,000 Jewish residents. Far from achieving peace, however, the regions from which Israel withdrew were used by Arab terrorist groups to launch further attacks on the Jewish State, leading many Israelis to harden their stance against further concessions.

Referendum

As in previous surveys, a clear majority of Jewish Israelis (62%) believe that any decision to deport Jews from Judea and Samaria should be brought to a national referendum. Interestingly, an even larger majority (72%) of Israeli Arabs felt the same way.

Another question posed was whether all Israelis - Arab and Jewish alike - should be eligible to vote in such a referendum over the future of Jewish life in Judea and Samaria. Among Jewish respondents there was a fairly even split -  with 49% believing that only Jews should be eligible and 46% believing that Israeli Arabs should be included. An overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs (88%) felt that the right should be granted to all Israeli citizens.

Other findings

The poll also revealed that the recent hotly-contested Chief Rabbinate elections had a largely negative impact on the reputation of the institution in the eyes of most Israelis. 

Only 12% of the Jewish public think that the elections were "clean," and only 23% placed them halfway between "clean" and "corrupt." The majority of Jewish respondents (42%) believed that the elections were corrupt. Perhaps even more notably, 25% said they did not know - a particularly high rate for IDI polls, and likely a reflection of the growing alienation towards the Chief Rabbinate felt by many Israelis.

Other issues polled included whether the national-religious Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party should remain in the current coalition, given its willingness to negotiate concessions on key issues opposed by the party. Among Bayit Yehudi voters, there is a fairly even split: 49% are against quitting whilst 46% are in favour.

A full report on the findings of the survey can be found here.