Last month, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s Israel adviser took to local television to reassure Israelis that, if elected, the GOP candidate would not seek to impose a two-state solution and would back the Jewish state in “any path it chooses.”
But according to a survey released on Sunday, the bid to drum up Israeli support for Trump with promises of eschewing a peace push has largely failed to make a dent.
The monthly Peace Index, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, shows that most Israelis — of all political persuasions — believe Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will apply greater pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians than her rival Trump. But they support her over the Republican candidate anyway.
What the Trump campaign may have failed to assess, as suggested by the findings of the poll, is that despite deep skepticism among Israelis that peace with the Palestinians will be achieved in the coming years (67 percent say no), the majority (62.7%) are strongly or moderately in favor of renewing peace talks nonetheless.
“This is a phenomenon that we’ve seen over the years,” said Prof. Tamar Hermann, one of the authors of the survey. “People don’t want to stop talking, because perhaps there is a small chance that something will happen. And stopping would be a declaration that the situation is a dead-end. But realistically, after seeing so many times that [the conflict] didn’t end, they don’t believe it will happen. If it happens, it will be a nice surprise, but if you give up then there is no chance it will happen.”
Israeli Arabs were far more inclined than Israeli Jews to favor negotiations (80.5%) and to predict that a peace deal would be reached in the coming years (48.6%).
Clinton vs. Trump
More than half of Israelis (55.6%) predict that Clinton will be the next US president, compared to 24.3% for Trump. While in last month’s poll, respondents were split on which candidate would be preferable from Israel’s perspective (34.3% of respondents said Trump and 34.5% said Clinton), the new data showed 41.8% of the Israeli public now says Clinton is the preferred candidate for the Jewish state, compared to 23.9% for Trump.
The poll was conducted before the release of the 2005 tape of Trump’s lewd comments and allegations of sexual assault.
At the same time, some 57.2% of respondents (62.7% of Jewish Israelis, 30.1% of Arab Israelis) fingered Clinton as the candidate “who will more heavily pressure the Israeli government to renew negotiations with the Palestinians if elected.” Just 7.6% of Jewish Israelis and 5.5% of Arab Israelis said Trump would.
According to Hermann, the finding was consistent across the political spectrum, though she noted that right-wing Israelis would likely view US pressure negatively, and left-wing Israelis would welcome it.
“Trump’s position on the matter isn’t altogether so clear to Israelis,” she said.
Views on Abbas, the Joint List
Among Jewish Israelis, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s participation at former Israeli president Shimon Peres’s funeral, despite internal Palestinian criticism, was not seen as a “sign of a Palestinian desire to return to negotiations with Israel,” with 64% saying they “think it wasn’t” or are “sure it wasn’t.” But most (49.3%) maintained that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have mentioned Abbas in his eulogy at the ceremony (46% said Netanyahu shouldn’t have).
The opposite was seen among Arab Israelis, among whom 56.5% said Abbas’s participation signaled his willingness to resume talks, and 50.7% said Netanyahu should have noted Abbas’s attendance in his eulogy.
As for the boycott of the funeral by the Joint (Arab) List, most Israeli Arabs (49%) said the move was not wise while 38.9% said it was. Arab respondents were more or less split on whether the move was justified (42.5% said no, 41.3% said yes).
Among Jews, the decision by Arab lawmakers to skip the funeral for the elder statesman was overwhelmingly seen as both unwise (81%) and unjustified (77.5%).
Arab Israelis more upbeat about future
In the survey, Israeli Arabs were more likely to rank Israel’s current situation as very good (40.3%) or moderately good (22.7%) compared to their Jewish counterparts (9.7% very good, 34% moderately good). Some 36.8% of Jewish Israelis and 15.8% of Arab Israelis classified it as “medium” and 18.9% of Jews and 16.5% of Arabs declared the situation “moderately” or “very poor.”
Arab Israelis were also much more confident the upcoming year would be “much better than last year” on everything from security to the socieconomic situation to politics and diplomacy. Israeli Jews, meanwhile, were more inclined to say the year would be “about the same” in all areas.
Overall, some 54.4% of Israeli Arabs said the upcoming year would be much better or a little better than last, compared to 22.5% of Jewish Israelis. Most Jewish Israelis (55.9%) and nearly one-third (30%) of Israeli Arabs predicted it would be “about like last year.”
After a year that saw a resurgence of Palestinian terror attacks, 39.9% of Israeli Arab respondents predicted the military-security situation would improve, compared to 27.4% of Israeli Jews. Among Jews, most believed the security situation would be similar to 2015-2016 (56.7%), along with 39% of Israeli Arabs.
Arab Israelis, who as a community are among the poorest residents of the Jewish state, were also surprisingly upbeat about the socioeconomic situation, with 42.6% predicting a better year than last, and 45.8% saying it would be about the same. Among Jewish Israelis, 46.7% said it would be similar to last year, but 29.5% also predicted it would worsen, while slightly less than one-fifth said it would likely improve (19.5%).
Moreover, while nearly one-third (32.4%) of Jewish Israelis predicted a deterioration in “disputes between different parts of the public,” and a majority said it would stay the same (53.9%), Arab Israelis also largely held the social situation would remain unchanged (43.7%), but another 31.6% predicted it would get better.
The survey of 600 Israelis was conducted by phone on October 5-9, with a margin of error of +-4.1%.