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Attitude Factors in the Search for Israeli-Palestinian Peace: A Comprehensive Review of Recent Polls

September 2, 2010

By Alvin Richman

Full Report

Both the Israeli and Palestinian publics want to reach a peace agreement, but both sides deeply distrust the other and are pessimistic that negotiations will soon resolve their conflict. Negotiators on both sides also are constrained by extremists opposed to major Israeli-Palestinian compromises - Hamas which favors a posture of "resistance" to Israel, and the Israeli settler movement which opposes yielding territory or settlements to the Palestinians.

One of the most telling measures of the Israeli and Palestinian publics' mutual desire for an accord - besides both sides predominant support of the Middle East peace process - are their attitudes toward a U.S. mediating role. Both Israelis and Palestinians mainly favor a stronger U.S. role in the peace process, because the U.S. is seen as a key to reaching an agreement, even though each side perceives the U.S. as partial to the other. There is a growing consensus among Middle East observers that the United States will have to present Israeli and Palestinian negotiators with a two-state peace plan, including at least the basic parameters for resolving the most critical issues - borders/settlements, Jerusalem/Holy Sites, security arrangements and refugees/compensation.

Among the various issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians, the future of Jerusalem appears to be the most difficult to resolve: Not only is the issue of Jerusalem ranked a high priority by both publics - and therefore relatively difficult ground on which to make concessions - but also each proposal tested to resolve this issue was predominantly opposed by both Israelis and Palestinians. These findings are based on analyses of several sets of simultaneous, dual-sample surveys of the Israeli and Palestinian publics taken in 2009 and 2010 which measured support for more than two dozen specific proposals covering eight major issues.

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The author served for thirty-six years as a senior analyst in the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Information Agency reporting on American and foreign public opinion and now works as a private public opinion analyst and consultant.
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