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Are Israelis Happy with Kerry’s Commitment to Israel’s Security?

by Shmuel Rosner

January 7, 2014 | 6:32 am

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pauses while speaking
before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem
January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool

The new monthly "Peace Index" – a survey of public opinion – was released yesterday. The headlines:

The Israeli public – both Jews and Arabs – supports negotiations.

Jews don't believe that negotiations will lead to peace, Arabs are more hopeful (Israeli Arabs, that is).

Even Jews agree (more than 60%) that there is some connection between settlements and terror attacks.

The authors of the survey put two of the questions at the top of their press release:

A considerable majority (59%) of the Jewish public believes that the United States is committed to bringing about the signing of a peace agreement…

An even larger majority of the Jewish public (63.5%) believes that the United States, and first and foremost Secretary of State John Kerry, is committed to ensuring Israel’s security in the context of the negotiations with the Palestinians… 

This means one of two things. 1. Since we know that the Israeli Jewish public doesn't really trust President Obama (as we've seen in recent polls), maybe Secretary Kerry is doing a very good job of reassuring the Israeli public that he has Israel's security at heart. 2. The poll doesn't tell us the truth.

Instead of looking at the brief description written by the poll's authors, let's look at the question and at the numbers.

The question (see question 10) is this: "And to what extent is the United States, and particularly its secretary of state John Kerry, committed to ensuring Israel's security in the context of the negotiations with the Palestinians?" Not a very good question, as the last part of it – "the context" – makes it a little fuzzy for the respondent. But let's assume most respondents did understand what they are asked and look at the numbers:

 

 

General public

Jews

Arabs

Not committed at all

11.1

11.1

8

Not so committed

18.7

20.4

10.2

Moderately committed

34.2

36

25.4

Very committed

31.7

27.5

52.3

Don't know\refuse

4.3

4.4

4.1

 

Reading the authors' description of these results, one gets the impression that the public is quite happy with America's commitment. This is because of an assumption that all those who admit to some level of US commitment – Israelis who responded with "very committed" and Israelis who said "moderately committed" are grouped into one camp (together they are the majority)- really believe in America's commitment. But really, making this assumption presumes that all levels of "commitment" are satisfactory enough to be included in that group. What if this assumption isn't quite true? What if Israelis who only attribute a "moderate" commitment to the Americans are basically expressing their lack of faith in the Obama administration's commitment to Israel's security concerns?

We've been down this road before with poll questions about Obama's tendencies in the Israel-Palestine conflict (pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, neutral). There, too, we could look at the Israeli public's answers in two ways: one is to say that all answers except "pro-Palestinian" mean that the public is satisfied with Obama (since "neutral" could mean positive impartiality); the other is to assume that all answers except "pro-Israel" project negatively on the President (as Israelis – rightly or wrongly – expect the President to favor Israel). If it's the latter, answering with "neutral" is just a polite way of saying "he isn't as good as we want him to be". In the current poll, "moderately committed" might play the same role.

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