We came across this startling headline in Haaretz:”Most Right-Wing Voters Support Establishment of Palestinian State and Division of Jerusalem.” But Haaretz, as dovish and radical as it is, surely wouldn’t lie straight out, would they? So how did they come up with such a headline?
The answer is a combination of what Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA (Independent Media Review Analysis) calls “if pigs could fly” surveys, and the concept that more people only read the first two paragraphs of an article than actually read all the way down. (Readers of this column are clearly an exception.)
In fact, it almost seems as if this particular Haaretz article was specifically designed to have readers stop reading before they would actually get to the meat of the matter. The first paragraph states categorically that most Likud and Jewish Home supporters would support a Palestinian state, demilitarized, based on the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem divided and the settlement blocs under Israeli control. The second and third paragraphs, however, give no further information on this startling finding, but rather provide some background on S. Daniel Abraham, who commissioned the surveys, and former congressman Robert Wexler, who runs Abraham’s research institute.
By this time, readers who might have been interested in finding out more about the surveys themselves has likely lost interest. They thus leave with the impression given by the headline and story leader – namely, that, contrary to all they have ever read or believed, even nationalist Israelis want a two-state solution and the division of Jerusalem. Coincidentally, this is also the position of both Haaretz and S. Daniel Abraham.
But those who continued reading learned much to offset their original impression. They read how the poll question was actually formulated, as follows:
“If the Government of Israel were to present for referendum a peace agreement that would:
1. put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,2. be implemented only after the Palestinians fulfill all their obligations, especially combating terrorism, and
3. be confirmed by the United States, would you support or oppose?”
Before answering, the respondents were also informed of some details of the proposed agreement:
4. Two states would be established, one for the Jewish Nation and one for the Palestinian nation,5. Arab refugees would be able to return only to the new Arab state,
6-7. the Arab state would be demilitarized and “based on” the 1967 borders,
8. the large Israeli settlement blocs would remain under Israeli sovereignty,
9. the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be under Palestinian sovereignty,
10. the Old City would be run jointly by the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians.
Over 57 percent of Likud Beiteinu voters said they would support such an agreement, while nearly 30 percent said they would oppose. Among respondents who said they’ll be voting for the Jewish Home party headed by Naftali Bennett, the margin was narrower: half said they would support it, and 44% said they would oppose.
It can be imagined that the following thoughts went quickly through the minds of many respondents: “End to the conflict; total peace; no risk because the Palestinians must first fulfill their obligations; no Arab refugees in Israel; settlement blocs under total Israeli control. Sounds fantastic!” Many of them – though not much more than half, actually – even went so far as to say they would indeed support such a plan.
Let’s review some of the conditions outlined in the poll question and see how they fulfill Dr. Lerner’s “if pigs could fly” definition.
1. “The agreement would ‘put an end’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Who could ever make such a guarantee? Whenever one Arab leader gets up to say he might consider recognizing Israel under such-and-such circumstances, others rise up to vow that they never will! In fact, almost every time “peace talks” get underway, the immediate result is a rash of terrorist attacks by Arabs who are not quite interested in an “end to the conflict.”
2. “It would be implemented only after the Palestinians fulfill all their obligations, especially combating terrorism.” Past experience, especially with the Wye Plantation Agreement, has shown that this type of clause is simply not enforced. In fact, Israel was deemed to have been in violation of Wye because it insisted on PA fulfillment before carrying out its side.