PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY: Israeli Attitudes Toward the Closure of the Gaza Strip

June 2008

Commissioned by: Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel 
• Survey Developed and Analyzed by Dahlia Scheindlin, "Research and Strategy International"
• Data collection by Ma’agar Mohot, 1-11 June 2008
• N=600 (representative sample, Jewish Hebrew-speaking Israelis); margin of error: +/- 4.5%

Summary of Findings:

1. After a year of near-total closure of Gaza, Israelis feel the security situation has gotten worse for Israel and that Hamas has consolidated its power.

· An overwhelming consensus – 83% – says that Hamas has gotten stronger; an absolute majority of 62% says Hamas has gotten much stronger over the last year.

· There is a consensus that Israel’s security has declined over the last year. Over two-thirds (68%) say security has gotten worse (more than twice as many as the 23% who say it has improved); fully 85% say the security situation of Sderot and the southern towns has gotten worse; only 7% say it has gotten better

2. The closure policy fails politically; has a negative effect on the Palestinian people and is pushing them to radicalism; is harming Israel’s standing abroad.

· 63% of the public said the closure is imposed to achieve political goals, (only 32% cite security goals). Yet after one year, 78% of the public sees almost no chance that the policy will cause Gaza residents to overthrow the Hamas regime.

· 79% – a consensus – believes that the main effect of the closure has been to make life difficult for the civilian population, rather than Hamas. 60% believe that the resulting anger will push ordinary people towards Islamic extremism.

· Finally, Israelis feel the closure policy is doing damage to Israel’s standing in the world. Over two-thirds (67%) say it has made Israel’s standing worse (fully one-quarter say it has made Israel’s standing in the world much worse).

3. Israelis support human rights for Palestinians; for a clear majority of Israelis, advocates of human rights for Palestinians are not seen as anti-Israel.

· More than three-quarters (76%) say residents of Gaza deserve human rights.

· 57% disagree that supporting human rights for ordinary Palestinians is anti-Israel (39% say it is).

4. But Israelis are terrified. Desperate to utilize any attempt to improve security, their security fears override their concern for Palestinian rights.

· Israeli security overrides their concern for Palestinian rights: when given details of the desperate situation in Gaza, including preventing medical treatment for seriously ill patients, 63% of Israelis say that the harm is justified – if the result is greater security for Israel. One-third (32%) disagree.

· When asked whether or not it is legitimate to exert this pressure on the civilian population of Gaza, including preventing medical care for seriously ill patients, if it weakens Hamas – Israelis are split. 48% agreed that such a policy is justified if it weakens Hamas, but 49% disagreed. This 48% support is much lower than the 63% (above) who justify Palestinian hardship in exchange for Israeli security – probably because of the consensus that believes that the closure has completely failed in the overall goal of weakening Hamas.

· Further, Israelis see no alternative to the closure. Even when told that the closure may lead to increased violence against Israel, 63% disagreed that the closure should be eased, while 34% thought it should be eased.

List of Questions and Responses

1. Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, there has been a full closure placed on the Gaza Strip, preventing the free entrance and exit of supplies such as food, clothing, fuel, raw materials and medicine, and preventing residents from leaving or entering Gaza. In your opinion, what is the goal of the closure?

(responses prompted)
-Prevent the movement of goods or people who could endanger the security of Israelis: 32%
-Place direct pressure on Hamas to change its policies: 27%
-Cause the residents of Gaza to bring down the Hamas regime: 26%
-Punish the residents of Gaza for the firing of Qassam rockets: 10%
(not read: Don’t know/none of them): 5%

2. What are the chances that because of the pressure Israel is placing on Gaza, the Palestinian residents will overthrow the regime and bring down Hamas?

Very strong chance: 8%
Strong chance: 12%
Slim chance: 56%
No chance at all: 22%
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Total Chance: 20%
Total No Chance: 78%

3. In your opinion, is the following statement true or not true: "The closure of the Gaza Strip primarily affects the civilian population – the residents of Gaza – and creates hardship in their daily lives."

True: 79%
Not True: 18%

4. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The hardship that the closure causes in the lives of Gaza residents is likely to cause them to turn toward Islamic extremism."

Strongly agree: 28%
Somewhat agree: 32%
Somewhat disagree: 18%
Strongly disagree: 19%
———————————
Total agree: 60%
Total disagree: 37%

5. In your opinion, has Israel’s policy of closure in Gaza had a positive or negative effect on Israel’s standing in the world?

Israel’s standing – much more positive because of the closure: 8%
Israel’s standing – somewhat more positive: 13%
Israel’s standing – somewhat more negative: 43%
Israel’s standing – much more negative because of the closure: 24%
———————————
More positive: 21%
More negative: 67%

6. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Pressure on the civilian population of Gaza, including, for example, preventing medical care for seriously ill patients who need to leave to receive medical treatment, is justified if it weakens Hamas."

Strongly agree: 27%
Somewhat agree: 21%
Somewhat disagree: 25%
Strongly disagree: 24%
———————————
Total agree: 48%
Total disagree: 49%

7. Over the last year, do you think Hamas has gotten stronger or weaker?

Much stronger: 62%
Somewhat stronger: 21%
Somewhat weaker: 9%
Much weaker: 1%
———————————
Total Stronger: 83%
Total Weaker: 10%

8. Do you think that the residents of the Gaza Strip deserve human rights?

Yes: 76%
No: 23%

9. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Those who support human rights for Palestinian residents, including people who aren’t combatants, are against Israel.

Strongly agree: 24%
Somewhat agree: 14%
Somewhat disagree: 24%
Strongly disagree: 33%
———————————
Total agree: 38%
Total disagree: 57%

10. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Because of the closure on Gaza, the price of bread and basic goods there has risen drastically, 95% of industry in Gaza is paralyzed, the middle class has collapsed and patients are unable to leave for medical treatment. These side-effects are justified, if the security of Israeli citizens improves."

Strongly agree: 39%
Somewhat agree: 24%
Somewhat disagree: 17%
Strongly disagree: 15%
———————————
Total agree: 63%
Total disagree: 32%

11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The closure creates hardships for the residents and drives them to desperation, which is likely to cause increased violence against Israel. Therefore, Israel should ease the closure of Gaza."

Strongly agree: 16%
Somewhat agree: 18%
Somewhat disagree: 22%
Strongly disagree: 41%
———————————
Total agree: 34%
Total disagree: 63%

12. Over the last year, do you think the security of the state has gotten better or has it gotten worse?

Much better: 5%
Somewhat better: 18%
Somewhat worse: 32%
Much worse: 36%
——————————–
Total Better: 23%
Total Worse: 68%

13. Over the last year, do you think the security of Sderot and the Israeli towns surrounding Gaza has gotten better or has it gotten worse?

Much better: 2%
Somewhat better: 5%
Somewhat worse: 17%
Much worse: 68%
——————————-
Total Better: 7%
Total Worse: 85%