Joint poll shows doubts abound over Palestinian state

Palestinians demonstrated a surge of support for Turkey,not Syria,Iran.

June 30, 2010 07:15
4 minute read.
Palestinians participate in a Land Day in the nort

land day protest 311. (photo credit: AP)


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In the wake of last month’s deadly raid on the Gaza-bound protest flotilla, Israelis and Palestinians alike are increasingly doubtful that a Palestinian state can be achieved, according to a joint Israeli-Palestinian poll released on Tuesday.

Two-thirds of the Israeli and Palestinian participants said the chances for an independent Palestinian state within the next five years were low, if not nonexistent.

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“The pessimism on both sides regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state is striking,” said Hebrew University’s Prof. Ya’acov Shamil, who directed the Israeli polling. “There are ongoing talks now, but neither population believes in them.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians demonstrated a surge of support for Turkey, which has strongly criticized Israel’s involvement in the death of nine Turkish men on the flotilla. Among Palestinians, 43 percent said Turkey was the regional country most supportive of the Palestinian cause.

Perhaps surprisingly for many Israelis, fewer than 6% of the Palestinians expressed similar confidence in Iran or Syria, despite those nations’ aggressive stances toward Israel.

The poll, conducted June 6-16, was carried out by a joint initiative between the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Since the breakdown of the Oslo Accords in 2000, the pollsters have measured Israeli and Palestinian sentiment regarding current events and the long-term political atmosphere.

According to Shamil, the survey is one of the only joint Israeli-Palestinian academic initiatives that survived the second intifada.

The two organizations polled the two populations separately, coordinating on specific questions to ask of both groups. The sample included 1,270 Palestinians from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza strip, and 810 Israelis.

Despite the years since the end of the second intifada, the strains between the two populations remain glaring.

Among Israelis, 58% said they were worried that they or their families might be harmed by Arabs in their daily lives, while 74% of Palestinians said they or their families were in danger from Israelis.

More than half of the Palestinians supported nonviolent resistance, while 44% were for the resumption of an armed intifada.

But overcoming a general cynicism, both Israelis and Palestinians demonstrated an increased willingness to compromise.

In fact, according to the poll, 50% of Israelis support direct talks with Hamas in order to reach an agreement. In a testament to some of the misconceptions that abound, the survey also found that 61% of Israelis incorrectly believe that the majority of the Israeli public opposes such negotiations.

Israelis were also more likely to support what are known as the Clinton Parameters, laid out by then-US president Bill Clinton following the unsuccessful Camp David Summit that included Clinton, then-prime minister Ehud Barak and then-Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat.

The Clinton Parameters proposed a two-state approach that incorporated a divided Jerusalem and the concept of a land-swap, in which Israel would retain certain settlements in exchange for Israeli territorial concessions.

Forty-nine percent of Palestinians supported this solution, and 52% of Israelis voiced approval, a 6 percentage point increase from last year’s figure.

Only in 2003 did both populations express majority support for the proposal.

According to Shamil, the increase in Israeli support for the Clinton Parameters reflects an ease in tensions after several years of relative peace, as well as developing prosperity in the West Bank.

“The public is responding to this,” he said, describing the change in public opinion as a small step toward what he viewed as the eventual solution.

“The Clinton Parameters, one way or another, will be part of a final agreement,” he said. “Everybody knows what the solution will be; the question is only how much blood will be shed until then.”

He said the small steps toward compromise were visible on both sides of the conflict.

In particular, Shamil stressed the Palestinians’ rebuff of the one-state solution, a politically edgy proposal that the Palestinian government has recently been supporting and that would challenge the Jewish majority of a unified state.

In a reversal of increased Palestinian support for the proposal over the past year, the most recent survey showed that only 27% of Palestinians support it today – a 3 percentage point drop from the March poll.

“People are smart and can make sense of the situation and daily life, and they know that it is very difficult for such a solution to work,” said Shamil, who teaches a public polling course at the Hebrew University.

“As I tell my students, you should not think that people are stupid.”

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