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Friday, May 21, 2010

Lozowick: Polling for Peace (Or Against It)

Lozowick:  Poll of April 2009 says: 78% of Israelis willing to live alongside Palestine, with 93% of Palestinians saying it would be better to have no Israel.

Thursday, May 20, 2010    

Polling for Peace (Or Against It)


About a year ago Dr. Colin Irwin, an Irish pollster, published the result of a large polling project he had done with two Mideast outfits, one Israeli and one Palestinian, about the positions in each society towards making peace. Since the poll still gets quoted and linked to till this day, I finally went to visit it; here's the link to it.

I'm a fan of public opinion polls only up to a degree. They can easily be manipulated. Their questions are sometimes downright misleading, or ambiguous, or unhelpful, or all of the above. There are better ways to gauge public opinion, especially in the long run: elections for example aren't bad, or long term behaviors. Still, once you've reminded yourself to keep that pinch of salt handy, polls can have their uses.

Especially one such as this, which tells us what we mostly knew anyway, this time with confidence-inspiring numbers.

72% of Palestinians think that all of Palestine should belong to the Muslim Waqf, for example. (59% think it's essential, 12% think it's desirable). 12% say that's unacceptable - yet some of them must be saying so merely because they don't like the Muslim part of the question.  
 When it's formulated as a secular, political matter, only 7% of Palestinians think that having a Palestinians state in the entire land is an unacceptable idea, while 82% think it's a great idea. 71% go so far as to say it's essential - a figure that rather puts a damper on one's hope for peace anytime soon, I would think. 
  Of course this doesn't quite fit the part where 38% of the Palestinians think a two-state solution is essential (another 15% think it's desirable), but life isn't always consistent. And the latter figure isn't so rosy anyway, is it.

Now compare the Palestinian insistence the Israel not be here, with Israelis' positions on having a Palestinian state next door.  
 Only 32% think - as I do - that this is essential (even though it's not going to happen - see if you can fit that into a neat peg-hole), yet another  
 13% think it would be desirable, another 16% think it's acceptable, making 61% of Israelis who are comfortable with the idea of asovereign Palestine next door, to which another 17% say they can live with it even if they're not going to be happy.  
 That's 78% of Israelis willing to live alongside Palestine, with 93% of Palestinians saying it would be better to have no Israel.

There's lots more where that came from. 54% of Palestinians won't accept settlers remaining in Beitar and Modi'in Illit; 66% wouldn't accept settlers remaining even as Palestinian citizens - not that there would be more of a handful who'd want to anyway. Divide Jerusalem according to neighborhoods (Clinton Parameters): 61% of Palestinians are against the idea. Jews remain in control of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (founded in the year 1267): 76% of the Palestinians are against -though in this case, I'm glad to see that the Israelis are also hardly in favour of dividing Jerusalem - never fewer than 50% of them in favour of division.

Actually, it might be fun for the Israelis among us to answer all the questions ourselves and come back and report: according to this, are we to the left, right or center of the Israeli median. Didi and Alex need not bother: we know their answer.

Predictably, some pundits spun the poll as proof that the Israelis and Palestinians are equally against peace through partition.
Josh Marshall, for example. Others were more clear-eyed, or perhaps they read the numbers before running to tell about them - Jonathan Chait, for example.