Israel/Palestine: Support for Potential Peace Brokers

by Lydia Saad and Steve Crabtree

EU, Japan appear more acceptable to both populations


PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a three-way summit in coming weeks. Rice reportedly wants to use the meeting to reach a "political horizon" that will infuse some energy into the stalled Middle East peace process.

At a time when both Olmert and Abbas are on political thin ice at home and when the United States is arguably as unpopular as ever within the Arab world, it seems dubious that U.S.-led peace talks with two weakened leaders will produce the meaningful concessions from each side that are necessary to forge real progress. Gallup World Poll data collected in 2006 suggest it may be time to bring other parties into the talks -- countries or leaders with more balanced levels of credibility with the disputants than the U.S. profile.

Wanted: Trusted Mediator

As of January 2006, just 15% of Palestinians, contrasted with 66% of Israelis, approved of the leadership of the United States. Only 11% of Palestinians, versus 56% of Israelis, had either a "great deal" or "fair amount" of confidence in George W. Bush "to help Israel and the Palestinians negotiate a peace treaty that is equally fair to both sides."

Palestinians' attitudes toward the United States tend not to be positive, but on a relative basis, they are exceptionally negative today. A Gallup survey conducted in the Palestinian territories in the summer of 2000 found 52% holding a "very unfavorable" opinion of then-President Bill Clinton. As of January 2006, 82% of Palestinians had a very unfavorable view of Bush.

To bolster Palestinian confidence in the process, Rice might be advised to advertise for a new partner at the peace table. The 2006 Gallup World Poll tested Israelis' and Palestinians' reactions to the leadership of 17 governments, including the world's major economic powers and Middle Eastern governments, plus the European Union. Of these, the ones that received the most support from the Israelis (the United States and the United Kingdom) receive the least support from the Palestinians, and vice versa. The Palestinians are not highly positive about any of the governments tested, but were relatively most positive about the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Iran, all countries that provoke a negative reaction from Israelis.

Governments Viewed Highly Negatively by One or Both Populations
Net Approval Rating (% Approve Minus % Disapprove)



United States



United Kingdom












United Arab Emirates



Saudi Arabia















The only governments left to consider are ones with mildly negative, or at best lukewarm, reputations among both peoples. Several emerge as having an image profile among Israelis and Palestinians that could make them mutually acceptable additions to the peace process. The most promising of these are the European Union and Japan.

Governments Viewed Relatively Positively by Both Populations
Net Approval Rating (% Approve Minus % Disapprove)



European Union


















The European Union

The EU enjoys a net positive rating of 19 percentage points in Israel, based on an approval rating of 42% and disapproval of 23%. In Palestine, the EU's net rating is -13 points; only 34% of Palestinians approved of the EU while 47% disapproved. However, this represents a relatively mild level of criticism from Palestinians, compared with their views of the United States and the United Kingdom.

The EU has indicated its strong commitment to Middle East peace and to improving economic and political conditions in Palestine. In the spirit of even-handedness, it has offered the Palestinians substantial economic aid and support, while insisting on Palestinian recognition of Israel. The EU already maintains a key mediating role in monitoring the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt as part of the 2005 Israeli disengagement plan from Gaza. However, the EU's decision to suspend direct assistance to the government after the election of Hamas may have tarnished its image among Palestinians since the Gallup World Poll was conducted last January.


About a third of Israelis view Japan favorably, while 19% view it unfavorably. In Palestine, about a third view Japan favorably, and 45% view it unfavorably.

Japan's interest in being a player in the region is clear. In May 2003, Japan hosted a conference with Israeli and Palestinian government leaders, business representatives, and academics to "explore ways in which Japan can contribute to peace." In 2005, then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told Kyodo News "Japan can provide support and cooperation in a different way from the U.S. and Europe" by operating from a more "independent" position than the current players.

However, because Japan has been perceived as pro-Arab, Israeli officials many tend not to view the country as neutral. Just as the EU would have to establish political goodwill with the Palestinian state, Japan would have to do the same with the Israeli government.

Survey Methods

Palestinian results are based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Palestinians, aged 15 and older, conducted Dec. 26, 2005, through Jan. 8, 2006. Respondents were interviewed in 52 sampling points throughout the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. Interviews were conducted in Arabic. Households were selected at random, and respondents within households were chosen at random according to Kish tables.

Israeli results are based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,002 Israelis, aged 15 and older, conducted Jan. 5-23, 2006. Respondents were interviewed in 120 sampling points throughout Israel. Interviews were conducted in Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian. Households were selected at random, and respondents within households were chosen at random according to Kish tables.

For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 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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