Poll Pessimism
Fri, 12/14/2007

Dovish groups repeat like a mantra the claim that a majority of Jews here, as well as in Israel, still support some kind of peace process and the “painful concessions” Israeli leaders say are necessary to make that happen.

But clearly, that patience is wearing thin as the bitter fruit of the Gaza pullout and last year’s wars continue to affect the citizens of Israel — and undermine hopes among Jews everywhere for a genuine and sustainable peace in the region.

This week’s American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish public opinion, while containing no blockbuster statistics, points to a continuing decline in optimism. The proportion of Jews here who believe there will ever be a time when Israel and its Arab neighbors can live in peace remained a dismal 37 percent; an overwhelming 82 percent say the goal of the Arabs is “not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel.”

That gloom, no doubt amplified by the Hamas coup in Gaza and its continuing determination to destroy the Jewish state, has contributed to a modest but statistically significant drop in Jewish support for creation of a Palestinian state “in the current situation.”  The trend is obvious: American Jews are both more pessimistic about peace and less supportive of difficult compromises.

Some of this is situational; even some peaceniks would look askance at creation of a Palestinian state while the terror group Hamas controls a big chunk of the Palestinian population. But it also reflects frustration with the ineffectiveness of Palestinian moderates, the continuing shelling of Sderot inside Israel, anger at the ascendance of extremist groups and a growing sense that peace “processing” doesn’t work very well in the absence of genuine changes in attitudes.

Peace process fatigue and the erosion of hope could be factors in several other disturbing statistics in the AJC poll: the significant drop in the number of Jews who feel “very close” to Israel — down to 30 percent from 37 percent the year before — and in those who say “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” The causes of that growing distance are many, but one factor may well be growing skepticism about peace efforts that start with such hopefulness but bog down in broken Palestinian promises, and a range of excuses and delays on both sides.

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