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Poll finds an Israeli contradiction

Skeptical of peace; content with life

By Ethan Bronner
New York Times / September 29, 2011

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JERUSALEM - With the start of the Jewish New Year at sunset last night, a traditional time for taking stock in Israel, the public mood seemed paradoxical: a growing disillusionment with the prospect of Middle East peace yet a marked sense of satisfaction with life here.

That gap, reflected and discussed in media commentaries, was evident in a survey of Israeli Jews published yesterday in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot. Two thirds of the survey’s respondents said there was no chance - ever - of achieving peace with the Palestinians. But asked whether Israel was a good place to live, 88 percent said yes.

In an article accompanying the poll results, the survey’s director, Mina Zemach of the Dahaf Institute, was said she could not remember a time when skepticism about the possibility of peace ran so high.

She also said that in response to another question, 45 percent said they feared for the survival of Israel as a Jewish state. As Sima Kadmon, a political columnist at the newspaper, wrote, “In other words, nearly half of the Jewish public lives with a feeling of existential threat, doesn’t believe there will ever be peace, and despite that, is feeling good.’’

The poll, in which 500 adults were surveyed by phone, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The contradiction may partly reflect a momentary sense of relief. For months Israelis were told that September would be catastrophic: The Palestinians would achieve statehood recognition at the United Nations, leaving Israel isolated and under international and legal pressure. Some spoke of a “diplomatic tsunami,’’ others of a “train wreck.’’

Instead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from New York to a country that believed it had dodged a bullet. The Palestinians did request full UN membership through the 15-member Security Council. But not only has the United States promised to veto the bid, Israeli officials said that the Palestinians might not have the nine yes votes that would prompt the veto.

Moreover, the sense during the past two years that President Obama was steering US policy away from its interests subsided last week. The parts of Obama’s UN speech about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could have been written by any Israeli official.

Avigdor Lieberman, the hawkish foreign minister, said afterward that he would be happy to sign Obama’s speech “with both hands.’’

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