Do Israeli Jews Still Believe In Peace?

Israeli_and_Palestinian_FlagsThe Brookings Institution released a study of Israeli public opinion in the wake of the most recent war in Gaza, and to the extent that it’s gotten any attention in the midst of subsequent  events, most outlets have trumpeted the fact that 55% of Israeli Jews “don’t believe [peace with the Palestinians] will ever happen.” And, while important, I would submit that that statistic isn’t the most telling one in the report.

Instead, the single most significant number released by Brookings can be found in response to the following question:

In 2002, Arab countries offered the Arab Peace Initiative, a comprehensive peace deal with Israel based on Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the 1967 war and full peace agreements between Israel and all Arab states. If this offer is renewed with support from Egypt’s new government, how should the Israeli government react?

Seven percent of Israeli Jews said “accept the offer as proposed,” and 43 percent said “accept the offer as a basis for negotiation,” but fully 46 percent of Israel’s Jews said that their government should “reject the offer.” Just to be clear: Nearly half of Israeli Jews would reject out of hand a comprehensive peace deal based on withdrawal from the occupied territories and full peace agreements with all Arab states—aka: That thing Israel has been saying it wants for the entire length of its existence.

And then there are the responses to the following question: “What do you believe is the likely outcome if the prospects of a two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict collapse?”

38 percent of Israeli Jews believe such a circumstance will lead to “a state of intense conflict for years to come” – but on the other hand, 42 percent feel that the status quo will continue “with little change,” while seven percent say that “Palestinians will eventually surrender to Israeli power,  give up and integrate into other societies.” Which is to say: half of Israel’s Jews believe that if they cannot achieve peace with the Palestinians, it won’t have much of an impact on their lives (other than perhaps to make the trouble go away).

Absent access to the raw data, there’s no way to know how (or if) any of these numbers correlate, but there’s something striking to the fact that nearly half of Israeli Jews would actively reject comprehensive peace, and half of Israeli Jews don’t think it’ll matter much if they do. The statement “I don’t think there will ever be peace” takes on an entirely different quality when seen less as a statement of despair, and more as a  shrugging of the shoulders.

On the other hand, four percent of Israeli Jews think a peace agreement will be achieved in the next five years, and 40% believe such an agreement to be inevitable, “but it will take more time.”

Given the near-constant cycle of violence over the last two decades, and the fact that half of their compatriots appear to have given up on the conflict ever being resolved, I can’t help but feel that the real news here is that so many of Israel’s Jews still think peace stands a chance.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.



  1. CitizenE

     /  December 6, 2012

    These numbers do not bode well for Jewish Israelis–if there ever were a self-fulfilling prophecy…. Were there any numbers of what will become of Israel as a democratic nation if there is no two state solution and Palestinians become a demographic majority? It all sounds to me as a nation becoming a suicide bomb.

  2. ScotB

     /  December 8, 2012

    This is why leadership is so important. I believe that in their hearts the vast majority of Israelis want peace; but they are too jaded, shell-shocked, paranoid – pick your adjective – to have confidence in a peaceful future. They need a leader who has the will to seek the peace and articulate the vision of life in a truly peaceful middle-east. I’m talking about a REAL leader, like Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi. We can’t wait for the Israeli people to see this vision on their own; they need to be led to the promised land.

    • Want2no

       /  December 10, 2012

      “I’m talking about a REAL leader, like Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi. We can’t wait for the Israeli people to see this vision on their own; they need to be led to the promised land.”

      I agree with ScotB that leadership is important. Where I disagree is in what kind of leader would be able to move Israel toward the direction of a withdrawl from most of the West Bank and an agreement. It is NOT a MLK, Ghandi or Mandela type, but rather a modern DeGaul–someone whose strength, determination and commmitment to Israel in war and peace is unquestioned and unequaled. Someone who will inspire confidence not only that they will do the right thing, but keep Israel strong and secure in the process. As with DeGaul, this leader would, initially, have to come in to figure in sight, but crisises have a way of eventually bringing the right person to the fore.

  3. Jeff Nguyen

     /  December 10, 2012

    These Jewish people do…

    • Want2Know

       /  December 11, 2012

      The positions advocated by Jewish Voice for Peace are way outside anything most Jews and certainly most Israelis will find acceptable. This is not a judgement on the merits of JVP’s positions, just a statement of basic fact.

  4. Jeff Nguyen

     /  December 11, 2012

    This is their mission statement.
    We seek:
    A U.S. foreign policy based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and respect for international law.
    An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
    A resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem consistent with international law and equity.
    An end to all violence against civilians.
    Peace among the peoples of the Middle East.

    If most Jews and Israelis can not find these terms acceptable then they never intended to bargain in good faith to begin with. Treaties and resolutions are legalistic means to hogtie the people, just ask the indigenous people of North America how it worked out for them. Actions speak louder than bombs.

    • Want2Know

       /  December 11, 2012

      “If most Jews and Israelis can not find these terms acceptable then they never intended to bargain in good faith to begin with.”

      Even the vast majority of Jews who disagree with currently Israeli policy, support withdrawl from most of the West Bank, a sharing of Jerusalem and recognition of a Palestinian State would find little attractive in what JVP advocates.

      JVP supports BDS and its demand for a Palestinian right of return to what is now Israel, something that, if it happened would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish State. JVP supports an end to all military aid to Israel until it ends the occupation, regardless of regional conditions. JVP demands a complete Israeli withdrawl from “East Jerusalem” making no exception for the Jewish Quarter of the Old City or the Western Wall. JVP demands the removal of all settlements from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

      These positions ignore a simple reality. Even if Israel were to withdraw, unconditionally, from almost all of the West Bank, the Jewish parts of the Old City and most of the neighborhoods in Jerusalem are not going anywhere. There is zero chance that the United States will cut off all military aid to Israel, and many would argue that such a move would not be at all helpful to Palestinians. The only possible path to a possible peace agreement are the Clinton parameters. In that context, JVP’s positions are basically the offical Palestinian positions. They leave nothing to bargain or negotiate over.

      “Treaties and resolutions are legalistic means to hogtie the people…”

      If so, then what is the point of attempting to reach a workable and enforcable agreement that both parties ahere to?