80% of Israelis: Closure of Gaza is Not Effective – Hamas is Getting Stronger

New Public Opinion Poll, One Year After the Closure of Gaza

80% of Israelis: Closure of Gaza is Not Effective – Hamas is Getting Stronger

The decisive majority of Israelis believes that the closure is primarily harming civilians in Gaza and is driving them to extremism. The closure is harming Israel’s standing in the world – and it will not cause Gaza residents to change the Hamas regime.

Wed., June 18, 2008 – A new survey released today finds that the Jewish Israeli public does not believe Israel’s policy in Gaza is achieving its goals, and that most of the public even believes this policy is likely to harm Israeli interests. The survey was conducted upon the one-year anniversary of the closure Israel imposed following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007. The survey was written and analyzed by independent pollster Dahlia Scheindlin, and commissioned by the human rights groups Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel; the fieldwork was conducted between 1-11 June, by Ma’agar Mohot. The sample was 600 Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis (margin of error +/- 4.5%).

The survey shows that 83% of Israelis believe that Hamas has gotten stronger since the closure was imposed on Gaza in June 2007, and 68% say Israel’s security has deteriorated since then. Sixty-two percent say Hamas has gotten much stronger over the last year.

Fifty-three percent of the respondents believe that the goals of the closure are political and not security-oriented. Just one-third (32%) believe that the goal of the closure is to prevent the movement of goods and people that would threaten Israeli security. Ten percent believe the goal of the closure is to punish residents of Gaza because of the Qassam rocket fire. Twenty-six percent responded that the goal is to cause Gaza residents to change the Hamas regime, and 27% responded that the goal is to influence Hamas directly and cause it to change its policies (these latter two "political" goals combined amount to 53% of respondents).

A near consensus of Israeli Jews says that the political goals of the closure will not be achieved: 78% say there is little or no chance that Israel’s policy in Gaza will cause the Palestinian population to bring down Hamas. In addition:

· Seventy-nine percent of respondents believe that the closure primarily affects the civilian population in Gaza and causes hardships in the daily lives of the residents.

· Israel’s security has deteriorated since the closure: a strong majority of over two-thirds (68%) believes that Israel’s security has deteriorated over the last year; more than twice those who believe security has improved in Israel (28%). A near consensus of 85% says that the security situation of Sderot and the southern towns has gotten worse. Just 7% say security has improved in southern Israel.

· The closure is pushing Gaza residents towards extremism: Sixty percent of respondents think the closure is making life so hard for Gaza residents that it is likely to push them towards Islamic extremism. Thirty-seven percent do not agree.

· The closure damages Israel’s standing in the world: Two-thirds (67%) say that the closure is making Israel’s standing in the world worse; one-quarter (24%) of the participants say that the closure policy is making Israel’s standing much worse.

· Support for Palestinian human rights: Israelis believe that Palestinians deserve human rights, and a majority does not believe that support for Palestinian human rights is anti-Israel. Seventy-six percent believe that Gaza residents deserve human rights. Fifty-seven percent disagree with a statement that those who advocate for human rights on behalf of Palestinians are anti-Israel; 39% think these advocates are anti-Israel.

Forty-four percent of survey respondents describe themselves as right-wing or moderate right in their political ideology, 20% say they were centrist, and 21% describe themselves as left or moderate left.

"The survey clearly shows that Israelis do not believe that the policy of pressuring Gaza residents is effective," explained independent pollster Dahlia Scheindlin. "There is a striking agreement across political and ideological lines, that the closure is likely to drive people towards extremism, and there is a strong consensus that the closure primarily affects civilians but is completely ineffective at causing them to change the Hamas regime."

"It turns out that the Israeli public is more realistic than the politicians acting in its name, who are trying to justify a gross violation of the rights of Palestinian civilians, using a "security" justification that most Israelis think has no basis," said Gisha Director, Sari Bashi. "Israeli decision-makers would do well to listen to the people, who are warning them that Israel’s policy in Gaza is primarily harming Palestinian civilians – against Israel’s own interests."

Hadas Ziv, Director of Physicians for Human Rights -Israel, said that "The survey proves that the Israeli leadership is afflicted by populism, despite the fact that the Israeli public knows quite well that pressuring the civilian population and harming innocent people cannot benefit the security of Israel. It appears that Israelis are more humane than their government, which is consistently facilitating the violation of Palestinian human rights including by preventing medical care for patients fighting for their lives."