Poll finds Israelis, Palestinians hopeful after Arafat's demise

police mourns arafat 298 (photo credit: AP [File])
police mourns arafat 298
(photo credit: AP [File])
A joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians released Sunday provided some signs of optimism among both populations in the post-Arafat era. Palestinian support for armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel dropped to 49 percent, as opposed to 54% in a similar poll conducted in September. In the case of a cease-fire, 58% said they would support the Palestinian Authority taking steps to prevent attacks on Israelis, with 38% opposed. A full 80% of Palestinians indicated they would like to see a cease-fire and an immediate return to the negotiating table, while 89% of Israelis support the former and 71% support the latter. A majority of both groups (61% of Israelis and 53% of Palestinians) believed the death of Yasser Arafat increased the chances for reaching a political settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while 62% of Israelis and 52% of Palestinians believe it is possible to negotiate a compromise settlement with the other side's current leadership. However, only 30% of Israelis - in contrast to 68% of Palestinians - think the other side's leadership will be strong enough to convince its own public to accept a deal. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, under the direction of Dr. Khalil Shikaki, conducted person-to-person interviews with 1,319 Palestinians throughout Gaza and the West Bank from December 1-5. The poll has a 3% margin of error. Concurrently, the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University interviewed 604 Israelis by telephone in Hebrew, Russian and Arabic. The poll, supervised by Dr. Yaacov Shamir, had a 4% sampling error. The survey of Palestinians also found that 40% of those planning to vote in the Palestinian election on January 9 would vote for PLO chairman and Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas and 38% for jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who withdrew his candidacy this week. According to the pollsters, Abbas "is seen as the candidate most capable of reaching a peace agreement with Israel, improving the economic conditions and enforcing law and order," while Barghouti "is viewed as the candidate most capable of protecting the right of return." Originally published December 14, 2004