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U.S. Survey: Israel’s Planned Offensive in Rafah, Gaza, and the “Two-State Solution”

22.2.24

The Israel-Gaza War and Its Aftermath: Assessing the Issues

JCPA

Vol. 24, No. 6

  • Psychological-cognitive factors such as “context” influence individual perception and perspective, viz., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The notion of “cognitive set,” where first impressions create a temporary readiness to think or interpret information in a particular way, applies here.

  • On the one hand, we found that providing brief background information on the current war against Hamas did not change perceptions of how individuals viewed the war. However, providing specific, factual aspects related to Palestinian behavior did change attitudes regarding support for a Palestinian state.

  • Basic support for a Palestinian state among our American sample was about 43%. When introducing specific cognitive conditions, support was reduced to between 20-38%.

  • Results also show that support for an Israeli offensive in Rafah increases with the knowledge that Hamas refuses to surrender and release the kidnapped hostages.

  • The shift in attitude, when presented with realistic scenarios, is a crucial tool in the potential psychological and cognitive presentation of issues such as continued Israeli military action and consideration of support for a Palestinian state.

The Israel-Gaza War and Its Aftermath: Assessing the Issues


Israel’s current military offensive in Gaza against Hamas has reached a stage where a final maneuver is being planned for the Rafah area. Israel considers this to be necessary to exert more pressure on Hamas to facilitate a hostage release and to topple Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip. As Israel plans this advance, reports have been surfacing of U.S. opposition to the maneuver because the administration is considering moves to further the creation of a Palestinian state within the context of the policy of a “two-state” solution. We were interested in the attitude of the American public towards these issues.


In assessing the American public’s attitudes, we surveyed 875 subjects, randomly selected and balanced for gender, age, and geographical residence (margin of error +/- 3%). In conducting the survey, we split our sample into two sections: one larger sample of 574 and one smaller sample of 301. All ten questions in our survey were identical for both samples, but the larger sample was presented with an introduction presenting the background of the polling issues.


Psychological and cognitive factors play a role in how attitudes are formed. We presented a carefully worded introduction to see the effect of “context” on subjects in assessing their attitudes. The introduction is presented at the end of this report. Our results showed that the introduction (presenting “context”) had a negligible and insignificant effect on the results.


Our goals were to assess how the public felt about the planned Israeli maneuver into Rafah and how they felt about the prospect of an independent Palestinian state. In evaluating the attitude toward an independent Palestinian state, we intentionally presented different scenarios and tested how each would impact one’s decision to support or oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Again, psychological context plays a role in how one cognitively assesses a situation to form an attitude, and we were interested in testing the effect of several of these “contextual” factors in attitude formation.


Our previous surveys. as well as other independent researchers, have identified a consistent base of both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian (and anti-Israel) support. In previous surveys, we found that about a third of our samples expressed no opinion or were unsure of their positions. We also found anywhere from 15-35% of our samples consistently expressing pro-Palestinian (or anti-Israel) attitudes, varying according to the subject matter. We expected these findings to be present in our current research, which we found.


Israel’s Planned Rafah Offensive


Despite President Biden’s recent remarks regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza, we found broad support (40%) for a planned offensive in Rafah versus opposing it (31%). As in previous studies, about a third of the sample expressed no opinion (28%), but the rest of the sample was split, with slightly more supporting Israel’s plan than those opposing it. When we asked how their feelings would be affected if Hamas refused an Israeli offer to end hostilities if they surrendered and released all the hostages, support for the offensive increased to over 46%.


Support for an Independent Palestinian State


In general, our sample supported the recognition of a Palestinian state by the United States, but again, a solid 27-28% indicated no opinion or were unsure. For the rest of the sample, more were in favor (43%) than were opposed (29%).


When we introduced specific scenarios into this concept, we saw significant overall changes in perception, with a consistent reduction in support for a Palestinian state, where a minority of our sample agreed to its formation. This again demonstrates the importance of contextual cognitive assessment and how attitudes differ if the “how” is presented along with the “what.”


We tested the following scenarios: a Palestinian state entering into a treaty alliance with Iran; a Palestinian state that financially supports Hamas members who participated in the October 7, 2023, attack; a Palestinian state whose educational system teaches that Jews have no rights or history in the region; and a Palestinian state where Jews could not live, own property, or have residence. We also asked what effect the finding that 75% of the Palestinian public supported the October 7 attacks would have on their opinions.


While the range of opinion varied, the introduction of these concepts all had a significant effect on reducing support for the proposed Palestinian state.


We found that when informed that a large majority of Palestinians supported the October 7 attack, support was reduced by 5%. This reduction was even more pronounced when presented with a scenario of a Palestinian state allying with Iran (15%), when informed that the Palestinian Authority funds and financially supports Hamas members who participated in the October 7 attack (21%), when informed that a Palestinian state’s educational system would deny Jewish rights and history in the region (22%), and when told that a Palestinian state would ban Jewish rights to property ownership or residence (23%).


Other Issues


As to potential alternatives to a “two-state” solution, only 30% believed that a single, merged state where both Jews and Arabs would have equal rights and citizenship is a realistic solution.


Twice as much of our total sample (34%) supported Israel over the Palestinians (17%) in the conflict, with about 24% supporting either “both equally” or “none.”


Conclusions


While population surveys provide essential data on attitudes and trends, we see that selective information can influence results. In our current study, we see that while providing general background context was not impactful, providing specific contextual information was.


Presenting policies – concepts alone and absent context – can lead to cognitive evaluation that differs from practical evaluations when data relevant to that policy is presented. Our data showed that general ideas and notions are often understood by the public one way, but this understanding changes once factual data that has the potential to modify attitudes is presented. Accordingly, while the general notion of a Palestinian state sounds like a good idea to many fair-minded people, the practical implications of such a state create a dissonance that is resolved by reducing support. Attitudes are flexible, and presenting other types of data that potentially would modify attitudes in a different direction is also possible.


Consistent with our previous studies, we see a large population segment that is essentially agnostic to the issues presented and the potential for cognitive change. The reduction in support for a Palestinian state appears to have come from the segment that was not “neutral” but rather theoretically supportive of the concept of a “two-state solution.” Our data shows that this concept is not immutable, and shifts in support are real. Accordingly, considering other options or other forms of what “two-states” can be is a viable approach, especially if public attitudes can be shaped by presenting the specific cognitive “motors” that would lead to attitudes consistent with the ultimate policy goal conceptualized.


Full results of our samples are presented here, with data from our larger sample where introductory background material was presented and our smaller sample where the introduction was absent.

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Introduction


On October 7, 2023, Hamas, a State Department-designated terrorist organization serving as the governing body for Palestinians in Gaza, launched a raid on Israel, attacking mostly civilian communities and gatherings. As a result of the raid, over 1,200 Israelis were murdered, with 253 Israelis and foreigners kidnapped and many cases of sexual assault and other atrocities reported and documented. Israel responded with a military assault on Gaza, culminating in a ground invasion whose purpose is to end Hamas rule in Gaza and release all remaining hostages. The United States has supported Israel’s goals while expressing concern over civilian casualties in Gaza and urging Israel to take all necessary measures to minimize civilian suffering. Israel has allowed humanitarian supplies to be distributed in Gaza and arranged “safe corridors” and areas for Gazans.


At present, Israel is preparing for its final assault on Hamas in the town of Rafah. The United States is calling for a temporary ceasefire “as soon as practicable” and has expressed support for creating an environment where a “two-state solution” would allow the creation of an independent Palestinian state under the governance of a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority. Israel, at present, opposes a ceasefire and opposes discussion of a “two-state solution” until its military goals are achieved. We are interested in your opinion on these issues.


Survey Results – Sample of 574

Survey Results – Sample of 301

Read More

How Iran Is Causing Chaos Beyond Just Israel and Palestine

Defining Jihadism

Iran’s Escalation in the West Bank

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