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Only One in Three Israelis Think Israel Benefited from Gaza Conflict

November 30, 2012

Three in Five Now View Obama Favorably

Full Report (PDF)
Questionnaire with Findings (PDF)

In the aftermath of November's round of fighting with Hamas and other groups in the Gaza Strip, only 36% of Israelis think that Israel is better off than it was before the escalation, while a majority feel Israel is either about the same (38%) or worse off (21%), finds a new University of Maryland poll.

(Photo Credit: Norwegian People's Aid)

Four in ten (40%) said Israel "won the combat in the Gaza Strip." A majority said either that no side won (45%) or that Hamas won (11%). "Clearly most Israelis are not feeling victorious," said Shibley Telhami one of the primary investigators of the poll.

"There are distinct warming trends toward the United States in Israeli opinion and, somewhat surprisingly, toward President Obama," said Steven Kull the other primary investigator. Sixty percent of Israelis now have a positive view of President Obama. Among Israeli Jews, positive views have risen over the past year from 54% to 62%. President Obama is identified as the most admired leaders by more Israeli Jews than any other leader.

More Israelis think that American public support for Israel's security needs is growing than think it is receding. Forty percent say such support has increased over the last few years, while only 21% say it has decreased (about the same: 36%).

On Iran, Israelis continue to believe that Iran is on its way to developing a nuclear weapon, but support for an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is only at 38%, with 50% opposed. Only one in five favor proceeding without US support. Among Israeli Jews, those ready to go ahead without US support has dropped from 22% a year ago to 18% now.

These are some of the findings of a new poll conducted by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). The polling project was directed by Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor at the University of Maryland and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and Steven Kull, Director of PIPA.

The poll of 600 Israelis has a margin of error of +/-4.0% and was fielded on November 21 and November 24-25 by the Dahaf Institute in Israel.

Of the 510 interviews with Israeli Jews, 156 were obtained on November 21 in the hours before the ceasefire took effect at 9 pm that evening, making possible a check for any effects from the ceasefire. While there were slight changes, with Israeli Jews becoming less positive about the escalation's outcome, these changes were not statistically significant.

Further on the subject of Iran, only a quarter of Israelis believe that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would delay Iran's nuclear capabilities by more than five years. However, there has been a drop over the last twelve months in the number who think Iran's capabilities would simply not be affected (from 19% down to 8%), and a rise in those who think Iran would be set back by one or two years (from 9% to 19%).

About half of Israelis (46%) support a possible UN deal whereby Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium at low levels, provided that it allows intrusive inspections to ensure that it is not developing nuclear weapons. Approximately the same number (47%) are opposed.

A substantial majority favors a Middle East Nuclear-Free Zone that would include Israel. Support for this plan, which was described in detail, is at 58%--both among Israelis overall and Israeli Jews, though in the latter group support is down slightly from 64% in 2011.

Regarding Syria, Israelis have mixed views about the possibility of the opposition taking power. Forty-two percent say this would be worse for Israel, while 30% say it would be better. Israelis do not see the Syrian situation as primarily a political Islamist struggle. Only 27% thought this, while 37% thought it was about ordinary Syrians seeking freedom from the regime, and another 28% saw it as primarily an ethnic conflict.

A majority of Israelis say the government should at least accept the Arab Peace Initiative as the basis for negotiations if it is offered again. Fifty-two percent either take this position (39%) or go farther and say the offer should be accepted outright (13%).

At the same time, Israeli Jews' readiness to accept the basic conditions of such a deal has declined since last year. In another question, just 33% of Israeli Jews say they "are prepared for...peace with the Arabs based on the 1967 borders with agreed modifications and the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state"--down 10 points from November 2011. Thirty percent chose a statement opposing this, while another 33% chose neither statement (up 9 points from last year).

In the Israeli debate about whether Jewish identity or democracy is more important to the country's identity, Israeli Jews are closely divided, with 33% saying democracy is more important, 31% saying Jewish identity is more important, and 35% saying both are equally important.


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