50% of Israelis support talks with Hamas

Significant drop in Palestinian support for Clinton's peace parameters.

israelis mahne yehuda 88 (photo credit: )
israelis mahne yehuda 88
(photo credit: )
Exactly half of the Israeli public would support negotiations with Hamas if the need were to arise, according to a poll conducted by the Harry Truman Institute at the Hebrew University. The poll was carried out in a joint effort with the Palestinian Center for Policy and Public Opinion in Ramallah. Israelis and Palestinians were polled on a variety of issues pertaining to the peace process, including border crossings, the elections on both sides, and President Clinton's terms for peace set forth in 2000. Participants were polled on each aspect of Clinton's terms and the results averaged together to arrive at a general percentage of agreement. Generally, 64% of Israelis and 46% of Palestinians would now support the 2000 peace proposal. When the same poll was conducted in December 2004, 54% of Palestinians said that they would support the proposal, while Israeli opinion has remained the same. Strikingly similar fractions of the two sides approved of Clinton's terms for borders (55% of Israelis, 53% of Palestinians): the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, excluding the Jewish settlement blocs which comprise 3% of the area. 42 percent from each side rejected the proposal. One year ago 63% of Palestinians approved of those borders, as did 55% of Israelis--a significant decrease in approval on the Palestinian side. Israelis and Palestinians were equally opposed (60% and 65%, respectively) to Jerusalem being the capital of a Palestinian state according to Clinton's parameters. Jerusalem was defined by Clinton as east Jerusalem and the Old City, excluding the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter. In December 2004 only 55% of Palestinians were opposed, as were 64% of Israelis. The decrease in general Palestinian support for Clinton's parameters may indicate a disappointment in the results of the disengagement. In a separate poll in September, nearly half of all Palestinians said that they believed that the agreement on crossings from Gaza to the West Bank would give them greater freedom of movement. In the current poll, however, only 19% said that they felt such an improvement had taken place. When asked about President George Bush's road map plan, 60% of Palestinians and 65% of Israelis supported it. However, 44% of Palestinians and 23% of Israelis believed that such a compromise would never be reached. According to the poll, 66% of Israelis opposed the release of jailed Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti from prison. The fact that half of the Israeli public is in favor of talking with Hamas while the majority opposes freeing Barghouti shows that the Israeli public has its pragmatic side, but draws the line when it comes to the rule of law, which must be preserved by not freeing prisoners. An overwhelming 72% of Israelis believed that Sharon would be able to convince the Israeli public to accept a compromise with the Palestinians, while only 29% thought that Peretz would be able to do so. Of the Palestinians who said that they would participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, 50% said that they planned to vote for Fatah, 32% for Hamas, and 9% for other parties. 45 percent of Palestinians believed that the situation in the Gaza Strip had improved since the disengagement. 61 percent were opposed to renewing violence against Israel from Gaza, as most of them believed that this would lead to a closing of the newly opened Rafah border crossing. The Israeli data were collected by telephone from 600 respondents. Palestinian data were collected face-to-face at 120 locations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, polling 1,316 Palestinians over age 18 in total.