[The Israel Broadcasting Authority radio newsreel interpreted this poll as an ovewhelming endorsement of the Israeli public for a Palestinian State. Yet the question asked of the public did not clarify whether this was referring to a demilitarized Palestinian State,as suggested by PM Ariel Sharon or a sovereign Palestinian state, as envisioned by the Israeli Left. The poll also did not define the contrours of the “west bank”. Since the Road Map defines the west bank as inclusive of all areas of Jerusalem that were annexed by Israel in 1967, knowing such a definition is vital and relevant]

In comparison to last year, Israelis are today more optimistic and supportive of the measures required to move the peace process forward. For example, 59% now agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza in the framework of a peace agreement, up from 49 percent in 2002.

The number of those who thought that a Palestinian state will be established in the next five years increased from 54 percent in 2002 to 61 percent in 2003 (the figure in 2001 was 60 percent).

This data results from the 2003 annual survey conducted by the Jaffee Center’s project on Public Opinion and National Security. The survey was conducted through face to face interviews with 1103 individuals — a representative sample of Israel’s adult Jewish population.

Additional facets of the change in Israelis’ opinion are the following: Those who agreed to abandon all but the large settlement blocks increased from 50 percent in 2002 to 59 percent in 2003. The number of those supporting the idea of separation from the Palestinians by withdrawing unilaterally even if that meant abandoning settlements increased from 48 percent in 2002 to 56 percent in 2003.

The number of those supporting the conceding of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in the framework of a peace agreement increased from 40 percent in 2002 to 43 percent in 2003.

Also significant is the heightened sense of security in 2003, far surpassing the low points recorded in the 2002 survey. For example: in 2003, 34% of respondents thought the chances were high or very high that war would break out in the next 3 years. This represents more than a 50% reduction from the 79% of 2002. 43% in 2003 predicted that peace would be strengthened between Israel and its neighbors in the next 3 years, a dramatic increase of more than 100% from the 21% of 2002.

In 2003, 38% stated that the Israel Defense Forces had become stronger or much stronger in the last five years, 25% thought the army had essentially maintained its level of strength, and 37% said that the IDF had gotten weaker or much weaker. Comparable figures for 2002 were 11% stronger, 34% the same, and 55% weaker.

Against the backdrop of the recent decision to dismantle illegal outposts, it is interesting to note that 73% of the respondents answered that a soldier may not refuse an order to evacuate settlers, and 27% said that such an order could be disobeyed. To the question whether a soldier might refuse to serve in the territories, 75% answered that a soldier cannot legitimately refuse, and 25% affirmed the soldier’s right to refuse the order. Two thirds of the sample answered that a soldier must obey orders in both situations. Another 20% said that they supported the right of the soldier not to obey the command in either of the situations.

A slight majority – 52% – thought that the end of the conflict would not be reached through the intervention of a third party and that the parties themselves must work out the details. 68% of the respondents opposed the idea of the United States imposing a solution on the parties (80% in 2002). This might be the reason why only 40% of Israeli Jews felt that the roadmap would end the Arab-Israeli conflict. Notwithstanding these positions, two-thirds thought that American security guarantees could be relied upon.

The reasons for the changes in attitude of Israeli Jews to more optimistic positions and their greater willingness to compromise over points of contention are to be sought in the end of the war in Iraq and the apparent winding down of the present Intifada.

The survey was directed by Professor Asher Arian, Director of the Project on Public Opinion and National Security at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The survey was carried out between April 27 and May 23, 2003, and has a 3.1% margin of error. Fieldwork was done by the B. I. and Lucille Cohen Institute of Public Opinion Research at Tel Aviv.