Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Troubling Poll Comes Out Of Israel

Posted in Israel, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dan on June 15, 2010

I have some bad news.  David Pollock (a senior pollster and researcher for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) just wrapped up his latest polling project in the Middle East about what Israelis think of their prime minister, peace with the Palestinians, the Gaza blockade, and U.S. President Barack Obama.  And on all accounts, the numbers show a disheartening trend towards further conflict.

From the information that is frequently provided by the international community and Israel’s very own media, you wouldn’t think that a majority of Israeli Jews held hawkish positions on the Mideast peace process.  Similarly, you would also find it hard to believe that most Israeli voters were (and continue to be) supportive of Benjamin Netanyahu, the right leaning politician who has done more to alienate Israel in the court of world opinion than any other Israeli leader in recent memory.  But the new study by Pechter Polls confirm these trends: 53 percent hold favorable views of Netanyahu, 71 percent are unhappy about President Barack Obama’s handling of the conflict, and nearly 75 percent surveyed stated that Israel should do whatever it took to enforce the Gaza embargo (lingo for military force).

If there is anything that can be concluded from these figures, it is this: the Israeli public, for whatever reason, is deeply confused as to how to proceed with the Palestinians.

Generally speaking, Israelis understand what is required for a comprehensive peace agreement.  They recognize that Tel Aviv needs to make dramatic concessions if they want to end the conflict once and for all.  Close to two-thirds of Israelis are emphatic about the very idea of a two state solution, which has the potential of finally establishing a viable and independent Palestinian state peacefully living side by side with the state of Israel.

Yet on the other hand, this same majority is opposed to taking the step that would make the two state solution a sustainable strategy:  engaging Hamas in even the slightest form.  Unfortunately, it may be Israel’s disdain for Hamas (or vice-versa) that is quickly destroying the very prospect of the two state concept.

Over the last four years, Israel has used every tool at its disposal to weaken Hamas.  Successive Israeli Governments have enforced a blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, prohibiting arms and certain humanitarian goods (like construction materials) from crossing into the coastal territory.  It has performed covert security missions inside the Gaza Strip against Hamas instillations, often stoking violence from Palestinian militants in the process.  And it launched a two-month air and ground assault against the movement in 2008-2009, hitting Hamas military facilities and diminishing its ability to carry out rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

Yet even despite all of these operations, Israel is still hanging in a state of limbo.

As the last half-decade has demonstrated, Israel cannot- and will not- establish peace in the region by marginalizing Hamas in the hopes that it will simply go away.  In fact, this type of “divide and conquer” strategy only emboldens the Movement by giving it an excuse to operate.  Oh, and did I mention that it places an unwanted strain on the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza?

Five years later, what has Israel’s Gaza policy accomplished?  Is the blockade driving a wedge between Hamas and its constituents?  Is it pressuring Hamas to change its ways towards Israel?  Is it even encouraging them to put aside their differences with Mahmoud Abbas for the sake of Palestinian unity?

The answers, respectively, are no, no and no.  Apart from the relative decrease in rocket fire in Israeli towns close to the Gaza border, marginalizing Hamas (and the broader Gazan population) has been a dismal failure.  Hamas is not receding, but becoming stronger in both image and morale.  Palestinians living in the strip are doing so in conditions that dogs in the United States would refuse to accept.  And from a P.R. perspective, states that were previously ambivalent to the entire situation in Gaza are now starting to take notice.

More importantly, Israel’s Gaza blockade is only reinforcing Hamas unhelpful behavior.

The status-quo is obviously not working, yet the polls that were conducted by Dr. Pollock still seem to support Israel’s status-quo mentality towards the conflict: open up to Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This should be troubling to anyone who possesses the slightest desire to find a solution to this lingering stalemate.

More of the same is not what the region needs.  Yet more of the same is probably what we are going to get.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of David Pollock at FP.com**


5 Responses

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  1. Aurangzeb Khan said, on June 15, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Social engineering always fails even for the self-aggrandising chosen people of Israel.

    Hamas is the democratically elected goverment in Gaza and the so-called democracies of Israel and America are unable to handle the truth.

    So, Israel has turned Gaza into an open air prison with a wall all around and starving the people to death; Israel is some democracy. I say Israel does not even belong in the 21st century.

    And then Israel shoots and kills people at will from the air by American jets, American helicopters, American guns; kills families at the beach, kills divers in the ocean, attacks boats trying to bring in foodstuff and cement, or just plain farmers trying to till the land; Israel is some country, some democracy, an idiotcracy of a bygone era; but it must be supported by the American simpletons and must be payed for by the American taxpayers without jobs, without health insurance, without affordable education, and without any pensions.

    I say, Israel and America are doing an excellent job. The must continue on the present course as it has been so fruitful to all mankind; hence the need of the moment: No-Change Obama.

    • TTraub said, on June 15, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      khan seems to believe there is a contradiction between Israel’s support for the relatively peaceful and economically developing West Bank region and the backward, fiercely anti-Zionist thugocracy of Gaza.

      Hamas may have been elected democratically, but it is not a democratic government. Hamas won largely because of a protest vote against Fatah corruption. Once in power, however, Hamas proceeded to arrest and even kill opposition Fatah figures. Amidst the chaos of the Israeli incursion in 2009, Hamas operatives actually went into hospital rooms and shot Fatah patients. Hamas has muzzled or killed writers and journalists who criticize it and generally acted like a fascist regime. One wonders what kind of gluttons for punishment the Gazans must be, to have chosen such miscreants to rule over them. And they hate Israel on top of all that–the word “masochism” comes to mind here.

      Hamas’ entire history has been one of violent confrontation with the Jewish state. It was a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and Israel regularly targeted its leadership for assassination. Elevated by the hapless Gaza voters into high office, they have not changed their charter or their rhetoric at all.

      Under these circumstances, it’s ridiculous to assume Israel should relax its own standards and begin negotiating with Hamas. Why can’t Hamas at least recognize that Israel exists, is a legitimate and permanent entity in the region, and offer to talk? Could it be that Hamas’ power stems from its stance of violent opposition, and were it to compromise and talk to the enemy, it would dissolve from within?

  2. Sawadee said, on June 15, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    “A large majority of Israelis understand that Tel Aviv needs to make dramatic concessions if the government truly wants to end the conflict with the Palestinians. Yet on the other hand, this same majority is opposed to making the same concessions to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. So the mantra goes, “we want peace in the West Bank, but we are unwilling to engage constructively with the 1.5 million Palestinians living under a Hamas-run authority.”‘

    This makes perfect sense to me. Yes, it is not surprising that ‘A large majority” wants to end the conflict, but ti’s not surprising that they do not want to work with Hamas – a group that is doing all that it can to kill as many innocent Israelis as possible.

    What you do not understand is that it’s not that the Israelis do not want to make peace with the ‘1.5 million Palestinians living’ in Gaza, they just know that Hamas ain’t a’gonna make peace with THEM. It takes a partner in peace to MAKE peace, and Hamas is not going to do that anytime soon – by their OWN statements.

    ‘This would surely be a recipe for disaster, because even if the current Israeli Government were to somehow strike a deal with the Palestinian Authority, the fate of over 1 million Palestinian civilians living in Gaza is still left in the air.’

    Yep, but what do YOU suggest otherwise? Israel has been said to not be a partner in peace, yet they have asked three times in as many months for peace talks, right? If they can make peace with Abbas, then at least the ol’ canard that Israel does not want peace can be put to rest.

    ‘Unfortunately, this policy is nothing but a dismal failure.’

    Nope, because this is the best that they can do. What – you want them to HELP Hamas be successful in Gaza? You want Israel to in-effect HELP Hamas kill Israeli citizens? That would sure be an enlightened thing to do, but the Israeli electorate worries more about their lives than being enlightened and Buddha-like.

    ‘More importantly, Israel’s current actions (notwithstanding the flotilla incident last week) are pushing Hamas further from the negotiating table.’

    A laughable opinion. Yes, as if your reality that if Israel did not treat Hamas so harshly this means that they would be closer to making peace!? HA!!!! Are you opining or is this a comedy schtick!?

    Hamas CONSTANTLY states how they plan to destroy all of Israel and kill all Israelis. It’s no secret. They’ve not moderated their tone, at best they have stated that they would be for a 10 year truce, which then they would use as a “tactic” for acting out their goals.

    Stick to blogging – leave the actual decision-making to those that have a horse in this race and who care to be aware of the facts.

  3. Danny Black said, on June 15, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Hamas has no incentive to deal with Israel. Firstly, it gets paid by Iran and others to “resist”, no “resistence”=no money=no weapons and baksheesh to spread around=no Hamas. Secondly, there is no reason to deal with Israel, it can stay intransigent whilst the world makes excuses for it.

    Finally as you point out, where there is no Hamas there is economic growth, stability and peace. Is it that hard to work out where the problem lies?

  4. Commentator said, on June 15, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    If Gaza is an open air prison:

    1. It is Hamas that has made it so by rocketing Israeli civilians and threatening Egypt’s stability.

    2. It is maintained by Arab Egypt as well as Jewish Israel.

    You were saying….

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