Poll numbers show understanding of Israel’s position

There are lies, damn lies, and there are statistics (and various opinions about who originally said this).

Poll results can have multiple interpretations, even if the questions used to get them are honest — something that is often not the case.

For example, here are some probably reasonable numbers from a poll sponsored by The Israel Project (TIP) and reported in Ha’aretz:

TIP, an organization that strives to improve Israel’s image in America and the rest of the world, polled 500 representatives of the “opinion elite”: college graduates with annual incomes above $75,000, who vote in elections, and read newspapers and magazines…

They were asked, among other things, to rank their attitude toward Israel and Hamas, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah, on a scale of 1 to 100, with below 50 indicating a “cold” attitude and above it a “warm” attitude. Israel received a 66, while the others scored between 19 (Hezbollah) and 30 (Syria).

“Who is to blame for the instability in the Middle East?” the poll asked. Seventy-three percent blamed “Islamic extremism” and only 12 percent named “Israel and its policies.”

The poll contains some rather sad working assumptions: 57 percent “strongly agree” that “the Arab countries around Israel are hostile to its existence,” and 85 percent overall said they “agree” with that statement. Some 75 percent said they agreed that “the Arabs don’t really accept Israel’s right to exist.”

But there are also findings that suggest a possible course of action. For example, 70 percent cited the need to be “a leader in working for peace” as heading the list of 13 qualities required of an American “ally.” But only 16 percent saw this among Israel’s traits.

The implication in the last paragraph seems to be that Israel could improve its standing among the “opinion elite” by becoming, or appearing to become, a “leader in working for peace”.

There is, however, another interpretation which I like better.

To me, Israel’s high standing despite not being “a leader working for peace” indicates that the respondents understand that given the situation in Israel’s neighborhood today, it is not possible for Israel to be at the forefront of peace initiatives. And this is supported by their opinions about Arab attitudes and about the causes of instability.

The “opinion elite” is not so dumb after all.

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