The Geneva Initiative recently completed a poll of Israeli public opinion which reveals how strongly Israelis have changed their views about outside involvement in the peace process. The stereotype is that of the cynical Israeli who distrusts outside meddling parties, believing they “have it in” for Israel. Typical is Israel’s deep mistrust of the UN especially since the Zionism is Racism resolution of a few decades ago. Many Israelis have an ingrained belief that international bodies are anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic.
The new poll reveals that such notions are a thing of the past:
…73% of Israelis support increasing American involvement and 58% of Israelis support increasing European involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian process.
What’s even more astonishing is that in August, 2005, when polling first began, those numbers were 47% and 40% respectively. So despite an innate Israeli distrust of outsiders, things have gotten so bad that Israelis have grudgingly come to appreciate the potential involvement of the U.S. and Europe in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It’s possible that Israel’s experience during the last Lebanon war may also played a role in this change. Despite misgivings, the Olmert government allowed the UN to negotiate a ceasefire and Security Council resolution which have worked reasonably well to this day. Perhaps this has allowed many Israelis to see that the UN is not the bogeyman and that it can serve a useful purpose in tamping down hostility in the Middle East.
This should be good news also for Barack Obama, who has staked his candidacy on an energetic involvement in the peace process in contrast to the current president. It should reassure him that Israelis too would welcome his constructive engagement.
Of course, these findings will be shrugged off by the likes of Bibi Netanyahu and Israel-First advocates whose careers are invested in seeing outside forces as betrayers of Israel’s interests. The poll results show these people as being completely out of touch with current Israeli opinion.