Joint Israeli Palestinian Poll, December 2008  

Following Obama’s Election, Palestinians and Israelis Seek a more active role of the US in Moderating the Conflict  

Among other findings of the joint Truman-PSR poll: both publics support continuation of the cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel. Only about a quarter of Israelis support reoccupation of the Gaza Strip if shelling of Israeli communities continues 

November 26-December 5, 2008


These are the results of the most recent poll conducted jointly by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, between November 26 and December 5, 2008. This joint survey was conducted with the support of the Ford Foundation Cairo office and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ramallah and Jerusalem.  

Following the election of Obama for president, a majority of the Palestinians and half of the Israelis want the US to play a more active role in moderating the conflict. Half of the Israelis and half of the Palestinians think that a more active American involvement will be successful, whereas the other half splits between expecting it to have no impact or to fail. Nevertheless both sides expect no change in the US role in the conflict. While the Israelis expect no change in US military economic and political support of Israel, the Palestinians expect that US support of Israel will strengthen.                                                                                                                                               

Our poll also examined both publics’ attitudes toward the Arab League (Saudi) plan, given the recent public diplomacy campaign by the PLO negotiation team which published the full plan in Israeli newspapers in order to increase Israelis’ awareness of the plan. Only 25% of the Israelis reported having seen the ad. Following this public diplomacy initiative the level of support for the plan remained stable: 36% of the Israelis support and 61% oppose the plan now, while in September 38% supported and 59% opposed the plan. Among Palestinians 66% support the Arab League plan and 30% oppose it.  

With regard to the cease fire with Hamas, support is slightly down compared to three months ago: 51% of the Israelis support its continuation and 44% oppose it; among Palestinians, 74% support and 23% oppose the continuation of the cease fire agreement.


The joint poll examined Israelis’ and Palestinians’ expectations and assessments of the US policy toward the conflict, following the election of President Obama. The poll also examined various negotiation tracks including the Israeli-Palestinian track, the Israeli-Syrian track and the Saudi (Arab League) plan currently on the public agenda; threat perceptions, support of violence, and domestic political affairs.  

The Palestinian sample size was 1270 adults interviewed face-to-face in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in 127 randomly selected locations between December 3 and December 5, 2008. The margin of error is 3%. The Israeli sample includes 600 adult Israelis interviewed by phone in Hebrew Arabic or Russian between November 26 and December 2, 2008. The margin of error is 4.5%. The poll was planned and supervised by Dr. Yaacov Shamir, the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University, and Dr. Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR).  

For further details on the Palestinian survey contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki or Walid Ladadweh, at tel. 02-2964933 or email On the Israeli survey, contact Dr. Yaacov Shamir at tel. 03-6419429 or email



 (A) Expectations regarding the US policy toward the conflict following the election of Barack Obama for President

  • 49% of Israelis and 57% of Palestinians want a more active role for the US in the conflict following the election of Obama for president. 31% of Israelis do not want the US to intervene, and 18% want the US to continue to play its current role in the peace process. 35% of Palestinians do not want the US to intervene, and only 4 % want it to continue to play its current role.
  • As to the results of such an involvement, 49% on both sides expect it to be successful, while 22% of Israelis and 30% of Palestinians think it will be a failure, and 23%of Israelis and 16% of Palestinians think it will have no impact.
  • Despite the two publics’ preference for a more active American role, 50% of Israelis and 59% of Palestinians expect that the US role will not change. 19% of Israelis and 7% of Palestinians even think the US will play a weaker role than in the past.
  • 59% of Israelis believe that US support of Israel will not change, and the others are split between expecting that this support will weaken (19%) or strengthen (15%). Palestinians on the other hand expect US support of Israel to strengthen (56%), and 29% more expect it not to change. Only 7% expect it to weaken.
  • Two thirds of Palestinians think that Israel would benefit more if the US intervened strongly in the peace process. Among Israelis 39% say that both sides would benefit, 25% - that the Palestinians would benefit and only 14% - that Israel would benefit from such intervention.
  • Israelis and Palestinians are quite split as to the possibility of American pressure on the two sides to accept and implement the peace plans currently on the agenda. On each side a majority would accept such pressure with regard to the plan on which there is majority support in the society, but reject pressure with regard to the plan on which there is no majority support. Thus, with regard to the Arab (Saudi) Peace Initiative (detailed below in section B), 44% of Israelis think Israel should accept such American pressure and 50% think it should reject such pressure. With regard to a permanent settlement along the Clinton/Geneva parameters (as detailed below) 51% think Israel should accept such pressure and 43% think that it should reject it. Among Palestinians the pattern is the other way around: 56% of them think they should accept American pressure to accept and implement the Saudi Plan, 39% say they should reject such pressure. As to a permanent settlement along the Clinton/Geneva parameters, 47% of Palestinians think they should accept and 49% think they should reject such American pressure.
  • Among Israelis, 48% believe that the Palestinians would accept American pressure on the two sides on both plans, and 39% believe that the Palestinians would reject it. Similarly, more Palestinians believe that most Israelis would accept than reject American pressure on both plans: on the Arab/Saudi plan, 49% believe most Israelis would accept American pressure, and 43% think that most Israelis would reject such pressure. On the Clinton/Geneva parameters, 55% think most Israelis would accept American intervention, and 36% think Israelis would reject it.


(B) Negotiation Tracks on the Agenda 

The Saudi Plan

  • 61% of the Israelis oppose and 36% support the Saudi initiative which calls for Arab recognition of and normalization of relations with Israel after it ends its occupation of Arab territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The plan calls for Israeli retreat from all territories occupied in 1967 including Gaza the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The refugees problem will be resolved through negotiation in a just and agreed upon manner and in accordance with UN resolution 194. In return, all Arab states will recognize Israel and its right to secure borders, will sign peace treaties with her and establish normal diplomatic relation. In our September poll 59% of the Israelis opposed the plan while 38% supported it. Among Palestinians, 66% support the plan and 30% oppose it, just like in September.
  • Following the extraordinary step of public diplomacy initiated by the PLO negotiation department which published the full plan in the Israeli papers on November 20, 2008, 11% of the Israelis report they saw the ads but did not read it, and 14% claim they saw it and also read it. 75% did not see the ad. About half of those who report that they saw the ad and those who saw it and also read it expressed support for the plan while only a third of those who did not see the ad at all supported it. The fact that there is no difference in support between those who only noticed the ad and those who also read it indicates a self selection process where respondents who are more interested in peace also exposed themselves more to the Palestinian campaign, and the difference in support between those who did not see the ad at all and those who saw it does not necessarily indicate a success of the Palestinian campaign.


Clinton/Geneva Parameters  

The Clinton parameters for a Palestinian-Israeli permanent settlement were presented by President Clinton at a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials eight years ago, on December 23, 2000, following the collapse of the July 2000 Camp David summit. The Geneva Initiative, along similar lines, was made public around the end of 2003. These parameters address the most fundamental issues which underlie the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: (1) Final borders and territorial exchange; (2) Refugees; (3) Jerusalem; (4) A demilitarized Palestinian state; (5) Security arrangements; and (6) End of conflict. We addressed these issues several times in the past since December 2003, and in the current poll we revisited these crucial issues following the Annapolis conference and the resumption of the peace talks between the parties. The findings indicate stability in support of the overall package among Israelis compared to 2006 and 2007, with a slight majority supporting the package (52%). This is a significant decline from close to two thirds support in December 2004 and December 2005. Among Palestinians, a minority of 41% supports the overall package, down from 47% a year ago. Since we have been tracking these issues in 2003, there was only once majority support for this package on both sides, in December 2004, shortly after the death of Arafat which was followed by a surge of optimism and considerable moderation in both publics. Among Israelis there is consistent majority support for the Clinton package since 2004, but this majority has shrunk. Palestinian support for this permanent status framework package seems to have been affected in the past more by the disengagement and the disappointment from it, than by Hamas' rise to power. Israeli support only fell following the Palestinian political turnabout, and does not seem to have been affected by the disengagement. Below we detail support and opposition to the individual items in the Clinton permanent status package.


(1) Final Borders and Territorial Exchange

Among Palestinians 54% support or strongly support and 44% oppose or strongly oppose an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with the exception of some settlement areas in less than 3% of the West Bank that would be swapped with an equal amount of territory from Israel in accordance with a map that was presented to the Palestinian respondents. The map was identical to that presented to respondents in December 2007, when support for this compromise, with its map, stood at 56% and opposition at 42%.

Among Israelis 46% support and 48% oppose a Palestinian state in the entirety of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip except for several large blocks of settlements in 3% of the West Bank which will be annexed to Israel. Israel will evacuate all other settlements, and the Palestinians will receive in return territory of similar size along the Gaza Strip. In December 2007, similarly 46% of the Israelis supported this component while 50% opposed it.


(2) Refugees

Among Palestinians, 40% support and 58% oppose a refugee settlement in which both sides agree that the solution will be based on UN resolutions 194 and 242. The refugees would be given five choices for permanent residency. These are: the Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state in the territorial exchange mentioned above; no restrictions would be imposed on refugee return to these two areas. Residency in the other three areas (in host countries, third countries, and Israel) would be subject to the decision of these states. As a base for its decision Israel will consider the average number of refugees admitted to third countries like Australia, Canada, Europe, and others. All refugees would be entitled to compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property. In December 2007, 39% agreed with an identical compromise while57% opposed it.

Among Israelis 40% support such an arrangement and 54% oppose it. In December 2007 44% supported it and 52% opposed.


(3) Jerusalem

In the Palestinian public 36% support and 63% oppose a Jerusalem compromise in which East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state with Arab neighborhoods coming under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish neighborhoods coming under Israeli sovereignty. The Old City (including al Haram al Sharif) would come under Palestinian sovereignty with the exception of the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall that would come under Israeli sovereignty. In December 2007, an identical compromise obtained 36% support and 63% opposition.

Among Israelis, 40% agree and 57% disagree to this arrangement in which the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem including the old city and the Temple Mount will come under Palestinian sovereignty, the Jewish neighborhoods including the Jewish quarter and the Wailing Wall will come under Israeli sovereignty, East Jerusalem will become the capital of the Palestinian state and West Jerusalem the capital of Israel. In December 2007, 36% supported this arrangement and 63% opposed it.


(4) Demilitarized Palestinian State

Among Palestinians 27% support and 73% oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that would have no army, but would have a strong security force and would have a multinational force deployed in it to ensure its security and safety. Israel and Palestine would be committed to end all forms of violence directed against each other. A similar compromise received in December 2007 23% support, and opposition reached76%.

This item receives the lowest level of support by Palestinians. Unlike the refugees and Jerusalem components, this issue has not received due attention in public discourse, as it should, since it may become a major stumbling block in the efforts to reach a settlement.

Among Israelis 64% support and 33% oppose this arrangement compared to 61% support and 38% opposition obtained in December 2007.


(5) Security Arrangements

In the Palestinian public 35% support and 64% oppose a compromise whereby the Palestinian state would have sovereignty over its land, water, and airspace, but Israel would have the right to use the Palestinian airspace for training purposes, and would maintain two early warning stations in the West Bank for 15 years. A multinational force would remain in the Palestinian state and in its border crossings for an indefinite period of time. The task of the multinational force would be to monitor the implementation of the agreement, and to monitor territorial borders and coast of the Palestinian state including the presence at its international crossings. In December 2007, 51% of the Palestinians supported this parameter while 47% opposed it.

In the Israeli public 56% support and 40% oppose this arrangement compared to 53% who supported it and 44% who opposed it in December 2007.


(6) End of Conflict  

In the Palestinian public 55% support and 44% oppose a compromise on ending the conflict that would state that when the permanent status agreement is fully implemented, it will mean the end of the conflict and no further claims will be made by either side. The parties will recognize Palestine and Israel as the homelands of their respective peoples. An identical question received in December 2007 the support of 66% and the opposition of 32%.

In the Israeli public 67% support and 29% oppose this component in the final status framework. In December 2007, similarly, 66% of the Israelis supported it while 30% opposed it.


The Whole Package

Among Palestinians 41% support and 57% oppose the whole package combining the elements as one permanent status settlement. This level of support is lower by 6 percentage points than that obtained in December 2007, when 47% supported and 49% opposed such a package.

Among Israelis 52% support and 43% oppose all the above features together taken as one combined package. In December 2007, similarly, 53% supported and 43% opposed such a package.


It is important to see that the pattern of support for the overall package is more than the sum of its parts, suggesting that people’s calculus is compensatory and trade-offs are considered. Despite strong reservations regarding some of the components, the overall package always receives greater support in both publics, where the desirable components and the chance of reaching a permanent status agreement seem to compensate for the undesirable parts.


31% of the Israelis estimate that a majority in their society supports the Clinton parameters as a combined final status package. 55% believe that the majority opposes it. These perceptions tap the normative facet of public opinion and indicate that despite the consistent support in the package over time, it has not acquired widespread normative legitimacy in the Israeli public. Among Palestinians 45% believe now that a majority in their society supports the Clinton parameters as a combined final status package and 46% believe that the majority opposes it. In addition 48% among Palestinians incorrectly assume that the majority of Israelis opposes the package, and 40% think there is an Israeli majority for the package. The assessment of Israelis of the Palestinian majority is quite split: 43% of Israelis think that a majority of Palestinians supports the parameters, and 40% think that a majority opposes them.


Summary Table: Support for Clinton’s Permanent Settlement Framework  (2003-2008)

 Dec 03Dec 04Dec 05Dec 06Dec 07Dec 08Dec 03Dec 04Dec 05Dec 06Dec 07Dec 08

1) Borders and Territorial Exchange

2) Refugees35%44%43%38%44%40%25%46%40%41%39%40%
3) Jerusalem41%39%38%38%36%40%46%44%33%39%36%36%
4) Demilitarized Palestinian State61%68%69%62%61%64%36%27%20%28%23%27%
5)  Security Arrangements50%61%62%51%53%56%23%53%43%42%51%35%
8)  End of Conflic66%76%80%68%67%67%42%69%64%62%66%55%
Overall Package47%64%64%52%53%52%39%54%46%48%47%41%


  • In addition to our systematic assessment of the two sides’ support of the Clinton parameters we also examine periodically Israelis and Palestinians readiness for a mutual recognition of identity. Our current poll shows that 69% of the Israelis support and 28% oppose mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people as part of a permanent status agreement. Among Palestinians, 54% support and 46% oppose this step after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian State is established.


Other Tracks

  • 63% of Israelis oppose full evacuation of the Golan Heights in return for a complete peace agreement with Syria, and 25%, like three months ago, support it. If in the peace agreement, Syria will commit to disconnect itself from Iran and stop its support of Hizbulla and Hamas, support increases somewhat to 29%.
  • 55% of the Israelis support and 43% oppose talks with Hamas if needed to reach a compromise agreement with the Palestinians. In September 57% supported and 42% opposed such talks. A sizeable Israeli majority (67%) support and only 31% oppose talks with a national unity government composed jointly of Hamas and Fatah if such a government is reestablished. In September these figures were 65% and 32% respectively.


  (C) Conflict management, threat perceptions and support of violence

  • 51% of the Israelis support the continuation of the cease fire agreement with Hamas and 44% oppose it. Three months ago in our September poll, 55% supported and 39% opposed it. Among Palestinians 74% support the continuation of the cease fire agreement and 23% oppose it. Also among Palestinians, this level of support is somewhat lower than it was in September, when 81% supported and 15% opposed it.
  • A majority of Israelis (59%) support the deployment of a Palestinian Authority military force in Hebron. Palestinians are quite split as to what this force will accomplish: 45% think it will bring about law order and safety to the residents, while 48% think it will not do that.
  • Among Israelis, 62% are worried that they or their family may be harmed by Arabs in their daily life. Among Palestinians 47% fear that their security and safety and that of their family are not assured.
  • Among Israelis, 27% suggest that Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip and stay there if the shelling of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip continues; 40% think that Israel should carry out ad-hoc operations against the shelling and get out; 28% believe that Israel should use primarily diplomatic rather than military steps.
  • A majority of Israelis (59%) think that Israel should bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities in case all the international measures taken to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon will fail; 34% oppose it.


D) Domestic political affairs

  • If personal elections for prime minister were held today in Israel, 37% would vote for Bibi Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni would receive 30% of the vote, and 11% would vote for Ehud Barak. Netanyahu is also considered by Israelis as the best candidate to lead the country toward peace with the Palestinians and/or Syria: 33% of the Israelis think he is the most able to do so; 26% choose Tzipi Livni; Barak comes out third with 10%. When security challenges are concerned, 38% of the Israelis trust Bibi Netanyahu most, 20% trust Barak, and 20% believe in Livni. As to the economic challenges Israel is currently facing, 49% trust Netanyahu, 26% believe in Livni, and 7% in Barak.
  • In the Palestinian Authority, if presidential elections were to take place today, Mahmud Abbas, the Fatah nominee, would receive 48% of the vote, while Ismail Haniyeh as the Hamas nominee would receive 38% of the vote.