Israelis Want Victory — Not Just Peace
What does the Jewish Israeli public think about convincing the Palestinians that they’ve lost their century-long war with Zionism — that the gig is up? In other words, what do Israelis think about winning?
To find out, the Middle East Forum commissioned the Smith Institute to survey 700 adult Israeli Jews. Carried out on June 27-28, the poll has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
It reveals a widespread Israeli belief that a Palestinian recognition of defeat will eventually lead to the acceptance of Israel as the Jewish state, thereby ending the conflict.
Palestinian defeat: “A peace agreement with the Palestinians will only be possible once the Palestinian leadership recognizes the fact that it has been defeated in its struggle against Israel.” Overall, 58 percent of respondents agreed, with opinion deeply polarized by political outlook: 69 percent on the Right concurred, but only 16 percent on the Left did so.
Israeli victory: “The reason that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still continues is that none of the military operations or diplomatic engagements with the Palestinian leadership have led to Israeli victory.” This resembles the first statement, but reverses it; doing so increases the positive responses to 65 percent of the Israeli public. More surprising, the results show that — across the entire political spectrum from Right to Left — an awareness exists that Israel needs to win. The results also show that a majority of every subgroup of voter — male and female, young and old, adherents of every kind of Judaism, supporters of every Jewish political party represented in the parliament — concur with this sentiment.
US embassy: “Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem will be seen by the majority of Palestinians as a defeat.” The same percentage of respondents, 65 percent, also agreed with this assertion, with the Right supporting it only slightly more than the Left (68 to 58 percent). That religious Jews heavily endorse this statement (89 percent of those who identify with the Haredi party HaTorah Yahadut) much more so than the secular (53 percent of the anti-Haredi party Kulanu) does not come as a surprise. That, again, a majority of every sub-group backs the idea does surprise, however.
Jewish state: “Israeli victory can only be achieved once the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish State.” According to our results, 67 percent agree with this statement — but the breakdown is, as with the first statement, acutely political: 76 percent of the Right agree and 26 percent of the Left do. On the other hand, party affiliation makes almost no difference (both HaTorah Yahadut and Kulanu members come in at 71 percent) with the single, spectacular exception of Meretz (which weighs in at 33 percent).
What to make of all these numbers? That the four parallel questions all win majority support points to the profound evolution of Israeli public opinion since the Oslo Accords were signed. No longer do Israelis have faith that good-will gestures will win reciprocity from the Palestinians. Israelis clearly also don’t put credence in Palestinian leaders, or believe in appeasement. The consistent support for these propositions confirms that most Israeli Jews want a different and tougher policy.
The surprise comes in the turmoil below the over-all numbers. That two of the questions (defeat and Jewish state) divide along Right-Left lines and two of them (victory and US embassy) do not, points to the fact that choosing which issue to promote has critical importance to who supports what. Backing the US embassy move to Jerusalem and Palestinian acceptance of Israel as the Jewish state look similar, but attitudes range widely. For example, twice as many supporters of the hard-Left Meretz party back the embassy issue as they do the Jewish state one (67 vs. 33 percent).
The fact that most Israeli Jewish adults want Palestinian defeat and Israeli victory confirms the utility of the July 11 launch of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus. Co-chaired by Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Ya’akov Perry (Yesh Atid), the caucus seeks to explore Israeli strategies and tactics once the US government gives a green light for an Israeli victory.
“Debating the peace process to most Israelis,” a former Israeli prime ministerial aide said back in 2013, “is the equivalent of debating the color of the shirt you will wear when landing on Mars.” It’s time for a shift in focus away from hopeless and counterproductive negotiations, to ending the conflict the time-proven way: through victory.
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.
This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post.