Prisoner release, 1967 boundaries, and settlements top preconditions
BEIRUT -- Ahead of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement last week that Israel and the Palestinians have agreed in principle to resume peace talks, most Palestinians remained skeptical about the U.S. commitment to brokering a solution. Nearly three in four Palestinians Gallup interviewed in late May and early June this year rejected the notion that recent efforts by U.S. President Barack Obama and Kerry demonstrate that the U.S. is more serious than ever about mediating a solution to the conflict that is acceptable to both sides.
While internationally many see the U.S. as the only viable broker of peace negotiations, doubts abound among Palestinians about what the Obama administration can deliver. Two in three Palestinians (66%) say they do not have any trust at all that Obama can help Israel and the Palestinians negotiate a peace treaty that is equally fair to both sides. And, 23% say they do not have much trust.
Israelis surveyed in fall 2012 shared some of this doubt. Twenty percent of Israelis said they had no trust at all in Obama's ability to navigate both sides toward a treaty that is fair to Israel and the Palestinians, while 38% did not have much trust. Seven percent said they have a great deal of trust, while 32% had a fair amount of trust.
Palestinians' strong doubts about U.S. intentions or willingness to deliver a fair peaceful settlement do not shroud their support for the peace process. Thirty-eight percent of Palestinians say they strongly support the process, and 27% moderately support it. A minority strongly (18%) or moderately (12%) oppose it.
Releasing Prisoners, 1967 Boundaries, Halting Settlements Top Preconditions
Some political observers on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides are more likely to see the peace negotiations as a futile process at best. These observers are concerned that most, if not all, of the long, controversial list of preconditions that the Palestinians and the Israelis have held onto as prerequisites for starting negotiations have yet to be agreed on.
Gallup asked Palestinians whether a series of issues should be preconditions for starting negotiations and considered a priority. Among all issues surveyed, three are of paramount importance to Palestinians for starting peace negotiations. Palestinians place the highest importance and priority on the release of Palestinians currently held in Israeli jails, Israel committing to the 1967 boundaries as the basis of the borders between the two states, and Israel agreeing to freeze all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Kerry's announcement last week comes at a crucial time for U.S. engagement in the Middle East, where the U.S. is perceived as either winding down its involvement or at least hesitant to engage any further. For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shaped other regional events and affected how the Arab and Muslim world views the U.S. and the West as backers of Israel. Over the past few years, other events -- the Arab Spring, the conflict between Israel and Iran, and sectarian rifts -- have pushed the Palestine question further back on the regional political stage.
Gallup data show that regardless of Palestinians' doubts about the fairness of the U.S., the majority support the peace process. Kerry's recent efforts demonstrate that the U.S. can pull certain strings to bring Palestinians and the Israelis together. To earn Palestinian and Israeli confidence in the talks as they unfold, however, Kerry needs to find a fair way to deal with the impasse on peace talk preconditions.
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Results are based face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in May-June 2013 in the Palestinian Territories and in October 2012 in Israel. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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