TEL AVIV // Most Israelis are unconvinced by right-wing claims that expansion of West Bank settlements bolsters the Jewish state’s security, according to a survey by a US institute published on Tuesday.
The Washington-based Pew research centre said its research showed 30 per cent of Jewish Israeli respondents to its latest study believe “the settlements hurt Israel’s security”.
At the same time, “a quarter of Israeli Jews [25 per cent] say the settlements do not make a difference one way or another with respect to Israel’s security”.
But it said a large minority of 42 per cent fully back the claim.
Israel’s powerful settlement lobby, from which prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition draws much of its support, argues that the ring of settlements south and east of Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank are a vital security asset.
Palestinians and the international community say that the settlements, built on territory occupied by Israel in during the 1967 war, are major stumbling blocks to peace efforts, standing on land which Palestinians see as part of their future state.
The survey comes at a time that Israel is under increased international pressure to scale back its settlement enterprise.
Pew surveyed more than 5,600 Israeli adults in face-to-face interviews from October 2014 through May 2015 in what it described as a first-of-its-kind poll of Israelis on a wide range of religious, social and political issues. The poll revealed deep divisions in Israel between Arabs and Jews and between Jews themselves. They questioned Israelis from all backgrounds, religions and walks of life.
The survey said that Arab Israelis – who make up 20 per cent of the country’s population of 8.4 million population – overwhelmingly said that Muslims were discriminated against by the Jewish majority.
“Roughly eight in 10 Israeli Arabs [79 per cent] say there is a lot of discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims, who are by far the biggest of the religious minorities,” it said.
Among those Israeli Arabs polled, half said an independent Palestinian state could coexist peacefully with Israel – a steep drop from previous surveys.
Israeli Arabs were also highly skeptical about the sincerity of the Israeli government’s seeking a peace agreement, while Israeli Jews were equally skeptical about the sincerity of Palestinian leaders. However, 40 per cent of Israeli Jews also said their own government was not making a genuine effort toward peace, with an equal share of Israeli Arabs saying the same about Palestinian leaders.
* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press