It’s the million shekel question in the Middle East at the moment — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will quit politics, but is he serious or bluffing? A 60% majority of Israel’s Jewish public thinks the declaration came from tactical considerations while only 24% believe in its sincerity, according to the latest War and Peace Index, a monthly Tel Aviv University poll.
As for whether Abbas is capable of reaching a settlement with Israel that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side and durable, 28% of Jewish Israelis think he can and 68% think or are sure that he cannot.
It seems that suspicion towards Abbas’ declaration, and doubts about his ability to make peace, are also strong among Arab citizens of Israel, with a majority of them also saying he is bluffing about quitting and unlikely to make peace.
What’s really fascinating about this latest poll is that it shows that while Jewish Israelis are skeptical about what Abbas can achieve, they are highly enthusiastic about giving him a chance. Three in four currently supports holding negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians — the highest level of support registered in recent years on the War and Peace Index.
The pollsters also asked the public to react to the arrest of US-born settler Yaakov Teitel in connection with a string of terrorist-style attacks. As discussed by the Forward’s JJ Goldberg, there’s a debate about to what extent the entire religious-settler community bears responsibility. Remarkably, one-third of Israelis surveyed believe that half or more of the right-wing/settler sector shares Teitel’s positions. Broken down, while 39% of respondents believe only scattered individuals hold such views, 22% think a “considerable minority” shares them, 20% summarized their view by saying that more than half do.