Monday, August 31, 2009

New joint Israeli-Palestinian poll yields troubling results

The Palestinian Center for Policy Survey and Research has combined forces with the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to gauge Israeli and Palestinian attitudes regarding the peace process and domestic policy. The results do not bode well for peacemakers. In general, both Israeli and Palestinian support for a solution along the lines of the Geneva Initiative (seen largely as the best hope for a just and lasting solution to the conflict) has consistently declined. The full joint press release for the survey can be found here. I have outlined some highlights from the report below:

American involvement:

Both Israelis and Palestinians are skeptical of President Obama’s intentions, however, positive attitudes toward the president are increasing among Palestinians and decreasing among Israelis – due in large part to the administration’s request that Israel halt settlement expansion in the West Bank. 49% of the Israeli public wants Obama the United States to play a more active role in the peace process, while 61% of Palestinians seek the same.

The Peace process:

Surprisingly, and perhaps most depressing for those interested in peacebuilding efforts, a majority of 59% of Israelis do not currently believe Israel has a partner for peace negotiations. Only 27% believe such a partner does exist. Because the actual poll questions were not included in the report it is impossible to ascertain whether this attitude refers to the lack of a unified Palestinian government or opposition to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The poll indicates that support for the Saudi Peace Plan is increasing with 64% of Palestinians now supporting a process along the lines of that agreed to by the Arab League. Despite the increase in support, only 40% of Israelis indicated they could support the Saudi plan.

The Geneva Plan, long regarded as the most pragmatic, realistic, and workable solution to the decades-long conflict, is slowly losing support among both the Israeli and Palestinian populations. Only 38% of Palestinians support a plan similar to that posed by President Clinton. A larger percentage (46%) of Israelis support the Geneva Plan than Palestinians, but that percentage does not constitute a majority and is slowly declining.

The survey polled both Israelis and Palestinians on individual issues related to the peace process and found disturbing results, indicating that both populations were less than ready for a settlement based on what many mediators believe is the only workable solution.

Both Israelis and Palestinians are evenly split in their support for a solution which includes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank with the exception of some settlement areas that make up less than 3% of the area that would be swapped with equal amount of land given to the Palestinian Authority adjacent to the Gaza Strip.

Neither population supports a limited right of return or compensation for Palestinian refugees. Just over one-third of Israelis and Palestinians support a refugee solution along these lines. The same percentage supports dividing Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently asserted that he would support the creation of only a demilitarized Palestinian state. While 56% of Israelis support the establishment of a Palestinian state under this condition, only 24% of Palestinians support this type of limit on full sovereignty.

Despite several unsettling revelations, two questions (asked only to Israelis) yielded very interesting results and allow some small degree of hope. 52% of Israelis support including Hamas in the peace process if it is needed to reach a compromise. Furthermore, a majority of 66% of the Israeli public support talks with a Palestinian national unity government that includes Hamas. Interestingly, more Israelis are willing to talk with Hamas than are willing to halt settlement activity.

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