A recent poll by the Truman institute in Jerusalem provides a very different picture of the Israeli psyche than the one suggested by its politicians’ aggressive stance. A full 68 percent of Jewish Israelis and over 70 percent of all Israelis (i.e. including Israeli Arabs) continue to support the two-state solution. But when asked whether they believe it can be implemented, 31 percent answer it will never be possible, 20 percent that it will be possible only in many generations to come and 19 percent that it will be possible only in the next generation. In other words, a full 70 percent of Israelis believe that the two-state solution is currently impossible, even though the same proportion think it is the only desirable solution.
The secret behind the paradox that an electorate that overwhelmingly supports the two-state solution votes for right-wing politicians is very simple: it is fear. This is why so far only Ariel Sharon, who had enormous popular support, has been able to confront the settlers and to move out of Gaza. He could do it because Israelis blindly believed (rightly or not) that he would keep them safe, even in the heydays of the second intifada: his image was the combination of the fierce warrior and the caring shepherd.
Netanyahu does not have the same aura, and his political situation is precarious. Because Netanyahu is a weak leader, he needs the pretext of external pressure to move on – and in this Obama seems to be succeeding. The current crisis has created a remarkable storm: all Israelis understand that the support and friendship of the U.S. is a matter of life and death.
But here is Obama’s main mistake so far: only 18 percent of Israelis believe that he is friendly towards Israel.