Thursday, November 17, 2011

CAMERA - Burston, What are Your Numbers?

17 November '11

In two recent blog posts, Ha'aretz's Bradley Burston claims that the majority of Israelis oppose Israel's ongoing presence over the Green Line. In shorthand, Burston referred on Friday ("Iran Wins") to "the pro-occupation minority."

Similarly, this week, he writes ("Come Visit Israel. Before it's Gone"):

I want my nephew to know that most Israelis believe that settlements do little other than ruin their lives, stain their country, and block the way to peace.

Granted Israelis have never been polled about their views on settlements using the terminology that Burston provides, that they "ruin their lives, stain their country, and block the way to peace." And the language and framing of a poll question can have a significant impact on the answers. Nevertheless, an in-depth study about Israeli public opinion on territorial withdrawals and the settlements by Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies does not support Burston's assertions.

For instance, the study found that in 2009, only 13 percent of Israelis supported "major territorial concessions." Another 13 percent supported "unilateral disengagement with fewer territorial concessions." On the other hand, 29 supported a "partial agreement with fewer territorial concessions," while 45 percent supported "neither," meaning they opposed any territorial concessions.

In addition, when asked in 2009 "whether in the context of a permanent settlement that would terminate the conflict, Israel should be ready to return any of a list of specific areas, or continue to retain them even at the cost of avoiding a permanent settlement," only 46 percent supported the relinquishing of isolated settlements on the mountain ridge of east Samaria, 40.9 percent favored withdrawing from Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, 26.1 percent support withdrawal from western Samaria, 28.8 support withdrawal from Hebron, and the numbers are even less for the Jordan Valley (13.9 percent), the Temple Mount without the Western Wall (17.5 percent), and Gush Etzion (14.8 percent).

Also, in 2009, 42 percent of Israelis polled opposed the removal of settlements under any circumstances as part of a permanent agreement; 43 percent supported the removal of small and isolated settlements, and just 15 percent supported the removal of all settlements, including large blocs.

INSS posited that the Israeli public positions were influenced by a number of recent events:

The drop in support for the principle of land for peace in 2006 probably reflects the initial disappointment with the results of the withdrawal from Gaza. The further decline recorded in 2007 was probably caused by the overall disillusionment with the withdrawal from Gaza as well as the Second Lebanon War, the Hamas takeover of power in Gaza, and other events.

Hat tip: Matthew Mainen

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