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Poll: Israelis say 'victory' necessary for peace with Palestinians

Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on June 8, 2018
Jaafar ASHTIYEH (AFP/File)

A majority of Israeli Jews believe that Israeli-Palestinian peace will only be possible when the Palestinians concede defeat in their struggle to destroy Israel, a new poll shows.

Twenty five years after the Oslo Accords, the poll points to a broad consensus in Israeli society for a more aggressive stance against the Palestinian leadership -- and against the conventional paradigm for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The study was commissioned by the Middle East Forum, the conservative Philadelphia-based think tank that runs the Israel Victory Project.

The project, which has caucuses in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset and the US Congress, argues that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has failed and that peace can only be achieved when the Palestinians are compelled to concede defeat in their purported effort to destroy the Jewish state.

“Wars usually end when failure causes one side to despair,” Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes wrote in Commentary in January 2017, “when that side has abandoned its war aims and accepted defeat, and when that defeat has exhausted its will to fight.”

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According to the poll, there is consensus among Israeli Jews (58 percent) that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will only become possible when the Palestinian leadership recognizes that it has lost its fight against Israel. An identical figure, with majorities on both the right and left of the political map, concurs that “most” Palestinians believe that they will ultimately “eliminate” the State of Israel.

The poll shows that fewer than a quarter of Israeli Jews believe that Israel's military control over the West Bank or Israeli settlements are the “main reason” for Palestinian hostility to Israel, with a majority citing instead “perceptions in the Muslim world” and support from Muslim and Arab countries.

From a list of core issues, a plurality (25 percent) believe the biggest obstacle in the conflict is the Palestinian refugee problem and the “right of return", the demand for the millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees from 1948 to return to their original homes in Israel.

Nearly two thirds -- 65 percent -- of Israeli Jews believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict endures because “none of the military conflicts to date with the Palestinians have produced an Israeli victory or a decisive result”.

A similar figure, 68 percent, believe that the Oslo peace process, which began with a declaration of principles between Israel and the PLO in 1993 and led to Palestinian autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has failed.

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Only a minority of Israeli Jews, 33 percent, agree that the principle of “land for peace”, the internationally accepted formula for the peace talks, can be the basis for a solution. Only voters of the left-wing Zionist Union and Meretz parties think this is a workable basis.

The poll indicates support among Israeli Jews for the government to take a more aggressive stance against the Palestinian leadership.

Half would prefer to treat the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership as an “enemy” and scrap the principles of the Oslo Accords, with the rest evenly divided between opposing the suggestion and expressing no opinion.

The results here showed a clear party split, with 67 percent of voters for Netanyahu’s Likud party preferring to treat the Palestinian leadership as an enemy, and 57 percent of voters for the opposition Zionist Union rejecting such a dramatic reversal of Israeli policy.

A large majority of 70 percent believe that Israel should not agree to continue negotiating with the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel “as the state of the Jewish people” -- a position held by a majority of voters for all Jewish parties except for left-wing Meretz.

Confusingly, however, 39 percent of Israeli Jews believe negotiations and diplomacy are the best way to get the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Right-wing and religious voters lean towards exhausting the Palestinians’ will to fight.

Alex Brandon (AFP/File)

Seventy-seven percent of Israeli Jews, a majority across the political spectrum (with only Meretz voters dissenting) believe that the Israeli military should be allowed to “win” the next time Israel is attacked by Hamas or Hezbollah -- even if these groups request a ceasefire.

The poll was conducted by the Israel-based firm Smith Consulting in mid-June among a sample of 800 people representing the adult Jewish population in Israel, broken down by sex, age, levels of religious observance, political worldview, and parties voted for in the 2015 election. It cites a sampling error of 3.5 percent has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Eylon Levy is the i24NEWS investigative reporter. Twitter: @EylonALevy

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