PSR - Survey Research Unit: Joint Press Release

28/11/2002

JOINT PRESS RELEASE

IMPORTANT BUT FRAGILE PRAGMATIC SHIFTS IN PALESTINIAN AND ISRAELI PUBLIC OPINION TOWARD THE INTIFADA AND THE PEACE PROCESS



Table of Contents:

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in Ramallah and the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, have conducted a joint survey of Palestinian and Israeli public opinion.

This joint poll is the fourth in an ongoing research project into the opinions of the two publics. The first poll was conducted in July 2000 at the wake of the Camp David summit. The current poll was designed to examine attitudes toward the conflict as well as issues of political reform and democracy.

The poll was planned and supervised by Dr. Yaacov Shamir, professor of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University and Dr. Khalil Shikaki, professor of Political Science and director of PSR. The two surveys included both identical questions as well as specific questions for each public. A representative sample of 1319 Palestinians in 120 locations in the West Bank Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem was interviewed face-to-face with a sampling error of 3%. A representative sample of 1009 Israelis (508 Jews and 501 Arabs) was interviewed by telephone (sampling error of 3.9%). The interviews were conducted between November 14- 23.

The following summary is based on a properly weighted Israeli sample and highlights the findings of the joint poll. For further details on the Palestinian survey, contact Dr. Khalil Shikaki at Tel 02-2964933 or email kshikaki@pcpsr.org. On the Israeli survey, contact Dr. Yaacov Shamir at Tel. 03-6419429 or email jshamir@mscc.huji.ac.il.

Summary of Results

I. Fragile Signs of Pragmatism

  • In both publics a majority supports the plan known as the "Road Map". Among Palestinians, 54% support the plan , and 42% oppose it. Among Israelis 59% support the "Road Map" while only 38% oppose it.
  • Despite the fact that no change has been registered on Palestinian attitudes toward violence, 76% of the Palestinians support the mutual cessation of violence by Palestinians and Israelis. Last August, only 48% of the Palestinians supported a gradual cease-fire between the two sides. In Israel 96% of the public support a mutual cessation of violence by both sides.
  • Despite the fact that 82% are worried that it might lead to internal strife, a majority of 56% of Palestinians supports taking measures by the PA to prevent armed attacks against Israelis inside Israel after reaching an agreement on mutual cessation of violence. Last May, a large majority of 86% opposed the arrest of those who organize suicide attacks inside Israel. The current support for security measures against those who carry out armed attacks inside Israel is similar to the one registered in March 1996 (59%) in the aftermath of the suicide attacks carried out by Islamists in February and March of that year.
  • A majority of 73% of Palestinians believes that if the PA does not take measures to prevent armed attacks inside Israel, after reaching an agreement on mutual cessation of violence, it would impede the return to the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis.
  • Despite these significant shifts in Palestinian public opinion no change has been recorded in support for armed attacks. As in previous polls this year, 53% support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel, and about 90% support attacks against soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. Furthermore, 66% of Palestinians continue to believe that armed confrontations have so far helped achieve Palestinian rights in ways that negotiations could not. Israelis overwhelmingly contest this assessment: 79% of the Israelis do not believe that the Intifada has paid off for Palestinians.
  • A significant pragmatic shift is evident in the Israeli public as well: 62% of Israelis support now the dismantling of most settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, compared to 52% in November last year and 38% right after the Camp David summit and before the eruption of the Intifada. Until an agreement is reached, 64% of the Israeli public support a freeze on further expansion of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • Moreover, 70% of the Israelis support tough governmental policy against extreme Israeli elements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, even if this can result in a confrontation with settlers. 53% believe that the Israeli government is not strict enough in imposing the rule of law among such extreme elements, compared to 41% who think the government is strict enough.

II. Reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians

There is a surprisingly small impact of the two-year long Intifada on Palestinians' and Israelis' sentiments towards reconciliation given a state of peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Under such conditions, 73% of the Palestinians and 75% of the Israelis would support a process of reconciliation despite the ongoing hostilities. While Palestinians would mainly support open borders and economic cooperation, Israelis see more favorably than Palestinians changes in the school curriculum, cessation of incitement in public discourse and social interaction.

More specifically:

  • 83% of the Palestinians and 50% of the Israelis would support open borders
  • 66% of the Palestinians and 72% of the Israelis would support joint economic institutions and ventures
  • 27% of the Palestinians and 39% of the Israelis would support joint political institutions designed eventually to lead to a confederate system
  • 37% of the Palestinians and 59% of the Israelis would support legal measures to prevent incitement against the other side
  • 8% of the Palestinians and 46% of the Israelis would support a school curriculum, which educates school children to give up irredentist aspirations.
  • On a personal level, under conditions of peace, 65% of the Israeli Jews would invite a Palestinian friend to their home, and 58% are willing to visit a Palestinian friend in his home. Thirty seven percent of the Palestinians would invite, and 37% would visit an Israeli colleague.

III. On Political Reform and Democracy

Greatly dissatisfied with the PA democracy, Palestinians overwhelmingly support democratic reform. They remain however skeptic about the ability of their new government to implement such a reform and about the long-run prospects for a Palestinian democracy. Israelis share similar skepticism about the prospects of a Palestinian democracy

  • 85% of the Palestinians support and 13% oppose internal and external calls for fundamental political reform in the PA
  • 73% of the Palestinian public support and 24% oppose the appointment or election of a Palestinian prime minister, but 47% support and 49% oppose changing the current Palestinian political system to a parliamentary system in which power would reside in the hands of a prime minister while the position of the president would be ceremonial
  • 88% of the Palestinians support and 11% oppose a democratic system with the following characteristics: periodic elections, a president with a limited term in office, freedom to form political parties, free press without censorship, an independent judiciary, and respect for human rights

Given the above noted support for many democratic values and principles, Palestinians have low evaluations of the current state of democracy in the PA, and low expectations for democracy in the future. Israelis believe that Palestinians are interested in a genuine democratic system, but are even more skeptic about the possibility of its implementation

  • 51% refuse (and 40% agree) to give a vote of confidence in the new Palestinian government. Only 37% of the Palestinians believe that the new government will be able to carry out the needed political reform
  • Only 19% of the Palestinians and 3% of the Israelis give PA democracy and human rights a positive evaluation.
  • As to prospects for democracy in the future, only 17% expect a democratic system in the Palestinian state. Among Israelis, only6% see high or very high chances for democracy in the Palestinian Authority or future Palestinian state. Nevertheless, 67% of the Israelis believe that Palestinians are interested in a genuine democratic system.

As to Israeli democracy during the Intifada, Israelis evaluate it more critically than Palestinians. Obviously Palestinians refer to internal Israeli affairs in their judgment rather than to the application of democratic principles in the handling of the Intifada. On most dimensions, the majority of Israelis do not see a change in the state of Israeli democracy since the outbreak of the Intifada. At the same time, the importance of democracy compared to other central values has declined since the outbreak of the Intifada.

  • 66% of the Palestinians give a positive evaluation to the status of democracy and human rights in Israel, compared to 49% of the Israelis.
  • 40% of Israelis believe that Israel's observance of human rights of Palestinians in the territories has deteriorated since the outbreak of the Intifada, 15% think it has improved, and 37% see no change.
  • 38% believe that equality of the Arab minority in Israel has decreased since the Intifada, 13% think it has increased, and 44% see no change.
  • 26% of Israelis believe that observance of the rule of law has deteriorated since the outbreak of the Intifada, 17% think it has improved, and 53% see no change.
  • 83% believe that social and economic gaps have widened since the Intifada, compared to 16% who see no change or a narrowing down of these gaps.
  • As to freedom of speech, 29% feel there is more freedom of speech to dissenting views since the Intifada, compared to 18% who see less freedom and 51% who see no change.
  • 73% of Israelis believe that settlers' actions against soldiers and policemen during the evacuation of unauthorized settlements pose a danger to democracy and the rule of law.
  • Since the beginning of the Intifada, the relative importance of the value of democracy compared to other central values has declined. Today 20% rank it as their most preferred value, compared to 32% before the Intifada.

 

PSR Survey was conducted with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Ramallah. The Truman Institute Survey was conducted with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Jerusalem.

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