Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

New Poll: What Palestinians, Israelis Really Think about Peace Prospects

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

New Poll: What Palestinians, Israelis Really Think about Peace Prospects

Article excerpt

The Arab American Institute (AAI) and the New America Foundation's Middle East Task Force held a Dec. 19 panel discussion at the foundation's Washington, DC headquarters to discuss a new public opinion survey on what Palestinians and Israelis want in a peace deal and their thoughts about the prospects for achieving it.

During the month of September 2012, a time of relative calm, and before Israel's November attacks on Gaza, Zogby Research Services conducted a comprehensive survey of Israeli Jews and Arabs; Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem; Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan; and the American Jewish community. More than 4,200 participants took part in the poll conducted for the Sir Bani Yas Forum, a joint effort of the UAE and Chatham House.

While wide gaps separate Israelis and Palestinians on such fundamental issues as borders, settlements, refugees and the status of Jerusalem, AAI president Dr. James Zogby emphasized the fact that there was some consensus, suggesting there are ways to "move the needle forward."

For one thing, according to the poll, despite serious obstacles the two-state solution remains the only viable option acceptable to all parties. Everyone, including Palestinian refugees, rejected the one-state solution. Both Israelis and Palestinians want separation from each other, the poll results showed. Israelis want security and Palestinians want security, independence and sovereignty. Both sides agree that security arrangements are important and that a Palestinian state should control its borders and freely trade with other countries.

Both sides also agree that mutual trust has been broken. Israelis want Palestinians to renounce violence and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians want Israel to remove roadblocks, end the blockade of Gaza and acknowledge responsibility for the refugee problem.

One-half of Israeli Jews claim that it is their right to build settlements wherever they want, while three-quarters of Palestinians say all Israeli construction in their occupied lands is illegal and settlements should be evacuated.

A huge majority of Palestinians (especially Israeli citizens) support the right of return, while two-thirds of Israeli Jews strongly oppose it. While there are deep differences in attitudes on individual "final status" issues, the parties demonstrate greater flexibility when presented with comprehensive peace plans. When options are presented, "trade-offs" offered or issues paired, both Israelis and Palestinians display greater flexibility.

Zogby said the poll showed huge gaps between the views held by secular and Orthodox Israeli Jews. Secular Jews are ready to take risks for peace and to acknowledge Palestinian rights, while Orthodox Jews and settlers who live beyond the Green Line are not.

Interestingly enough, unlike Israelis, Palestinians do not display major differences in opinion between the young and old, university-educated and those who are not, religious versus secular, men and women, supporters of Fatah and those who support Hamas. …

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