The Israeli Constituent – Realism over Wishful Thinking

“Israel Hayom” , http://bit.ly/RW0S8c, December 28, 2012

On the eve of the January 22, 2013 Israeli election, the Israeli constituent demonstrates more realism than Israeli politicians.  Israelis highlight security imperatives when responding to reality-driven polls, which pose questions based on the stormy Arab Winter and not on the mirage of the Arab Spring.

Increasingly, Israelis recognize that – in the Middle East - bolstered security constitutes a solid base for survival and for the pursuit of peace.  They realize that the pursuit of peace, by lowering the threshold of security, could jeopardize survival, as well as the slim chance for peace.

Notwithstanding the overwhelmingly dovish Israeli media and academia, most Israelis – Right, Center and Left - have concluded that security-driven peace supersedes peace-driven security.

A December, 2012 most thorough and detailed poll was conducted by one of the deans of Israeli pollster, Mina Tzemach, on behalf of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.  The poll demonstrates that Israelis respond to real local and regional developments – more than to wishful thinking - when shaping positions on the peace process, security requirements, land for peace, the two-state-solution and Iran.  Such positions are directly impacted by the 20-year track record of the 1993 Oslo accord: an unprecedented Israeli gesture met by unprecedented Palestinian hate-education, terrorism and non-compliance. Israeli opinions are also influenced by the current turbulence, unpredictability, unreliability, treachery and instability on the Arab Street. The Israeli state of mind is also shaped by the violent Palestinian response (thousands of missiles launched at Israel) to the 2005 Israeli “Disengagement” – a tormenting, painful concession of uprooting 25 thriving Jewish communities. 

According to the December Mina Tzemach (Dahaf Polling Institute) poll, most Israelis assume that Palestinians are concerned about the existence – and not the size - of Israel, and therefore are very skeptical about the Land-for-Peace formula.  Most Israelis do not trust Palestinian compliance with agreements, and therefore are dubious about the Two State Solution, which they increasingly consider a Two State Delusion.

For instance, 76% (83% among Israeli Jews) believe that an Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 sliver along the Mediterranean would not satisfy the Palestinians/Arabs. Only 22% (15% among Israeli Jews) assume that such a concession would produce an end to the conflict. 74% of Israelis are convinced that strategic depth - a code word for Judea and Samaria- is pertinent to Israel’s national security.  21% discount the importance of strategic depth.  66% disapprove (and 29% approve) a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines in return for a peace accord with the Palestinians and all Arab countries. 63% are against a withdrawal to the 1967 lines with minor modifications.

A ratio of 65%:33% opposes the repartitioning of Jerusalem in the context of a peace accord; 65%: 31% reject a withdrawal from the Jordan Valley; 68%:28% refuse evacuation of Ariel and western Samaria; 72%:22% insist on retaining control over the blocs of Jewish settlements; 73%:18% disapprove relinquishing control over the Judea and Samaria mountains which dominate Ben Gurion Airport; 67%:22% insist that Israel retains control of the Judea and Samaria Highway 443 connecting Jerusalem to the coastal plain.

Only 20% of the Israeli public assumes that the recent developments on the Arab Street are irrelevant to the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Only 21% maintains that these events warrant an acceleration of the peace process.

52% - compared with 49% in 2005 - consider secure boundaries superior to peace, compared with 36% who view peace as the prerequisite to security.

Most Israelis trust only the Israel Defense Forces to protect the country. For example, only 39% assume that Israel can rely on the US military during an emergency. 68% oppose the stationing of foreign troops – including US troops - in the Jordan Valley.  Only 26% would support such a deployment.

68% do not believe that sanctions constitute an effective option against Iran; 53% presume that the US will not resort to the military option in order to prevent Iran’s nuclearization; 53% support an Israeli military preemption against Iran, if the US fails to preempt.

This most comprehensive Mina Tzemach poll highlights the Israeli public as top heavy on realism and low on wishful-thinking.  Most Israelis do not indulge in the New Middle East Delusion, March of Democracy or the Facebook and Youth Revolution; they brace themselves for the Real Middle East and its clear and present threats.  It is a rare state of mind among Western democracies, enhancing Israel’s power-projection and Israel’s role as the beachhead of the Free World in the economically and militarily critical Middle East. It is a source of optimism.