PRINCETON, NJ -- As President Barack Obama attempts to reinvigorate peace talks in the Middle East, Gallup surveys show the peace process is what Israelis and Palestinians still want. The stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process stands in stark contrast to the wishes of the Palestinian and Israeli people who broadly support it. Gallup polling last fall in Israel and the Palestinian Territories found non-Jewish (mostly Arabic speaking) Israelis expressing the highest level of support for the peace process, at 89%, followed by 72% support among Palestinians living in the West Bank, 70% among Jewish Israelis, and 62% among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
Support for the peace process runs a bit deeper among Palestinians than among Jewish Israelis, with a third or more of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip saying they strongly support it, compared with 20% of Jewish Israelis. However, the highest level of strong support is among non-Jews living in Israel, a group primarily Arabic speaking and, therefore of predominantly Palestinian origin. Nearly two-thirds of this group strongly supports the peace process, possibly speaking to the more integrated nature of their lives, working and living in close proximity to Jewish Israelis.
In comparative terms, opposition to the peace process is most evident in the Gaza Strip, where 38% of Palestinians express this view. This contrasts with about a quarter of West Bank Palestinians as well as Jewish Israelis and 9% of non-Jewish Israelis.
These results are based on separate nationally representative surveys in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in 2012, with interviewing concluding before the major violence that erupted between Hamas and Israel in the fall, culminating in Israel's "Operation Pillar of Defense" attack in the Gaza Strip in November.
The Israel survey was conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 24 and includes a representative sample of Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis. The Palestinian Territories survey was conducted Aug. 28-Sept. 15.
Optimism for Peace Remains Scarce
Despite their general desire for peace, relatively few Palestinians or Israelis are optimistic peace will ever be achieved, ranging from 18% of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to 22% of West Bank Palestinians, 28% of Jewish Israelis, and 35% of non-Jewish Israelis.
Majorities Support a Two-State Solution
President Obama, while visiting the West Bank Thursday, stated he believed a two-state solution "is still possible." Seven in 10 Palestinians living in the West Bank broadly support the idea of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside an independent state of Israel -- the so-called two-state solution. An even larger percentage of non-Jews living in Israel (85%) are in favor of this solution.
Barely half of Jewish Israelis favor the two-state arrangement; however, they are more supportive than not: 52% are in favor, 40% opposed. By contrast, Palestinians in the Gaza are essentially divided, with 48% in favor and 51% opposed.
Whether these dampened rates of support for a two-state solution in Israel and Gaza reflect tepid support among the respective leaders, or whether the leadership merely reflects its residents' views on the proposed solution, is not clear.
Both Sides Eschew Violence
When asked about the preferred means to achieving "self-determination and security" for their people, Israelis, both Jewish and non-Jewish, heavily favor "nonviolent forms of resistance and negotiation" over "armed struggle and military solutions." In fact, the 73% of Jewish Israelis favoring nonviolent solutions in September was the highest Gallup has found in five readings since 2006.
Most Palestinians also opt for nonviolent means to achieve self-determination. The rate is higher in the West Bank than in the Gaza Strip. Given that in previous years support for nonviolence was equally high in the two regions, this bears monitoring.
Peace Is Relevant to Most in the Palestinian Territories, but to a Dwindling Percentage in Israel
Despite widespread pessimism about the prospects for peace, large majorities of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip believe that achieving peace with Israel is important to achieve several objectives, suggesting there are potentially powerful motives among Palestinians for supporting the peace process.
At least seven in 10 Palestinians in each region say a peace treaty with Israel is very important to the personal safety and security of Palestinians, to economic prosperity in the Palestinian Territories, to international respect for the Palestinian Territories, and to the future they and their family face. These views are consistent with what Gallup has found since 2006.
At the same time, the perceived relevance of peace is markedly lower in Israel, where fewer than half of Jewish Israelis believe that achieving peace with the Palestinians is "very important" to any of the four objectives. Also, Jewish Israelis' views that each of these is important is much lower today than in 2011 or 2007, indicating that these potential motivators of public support for peace in Israel have only recently weakened.
Mutual Dislike of Each Other's Leaders May Stand in the Way of Peace
One of the clear obstacles to Mideast peace is the mutual distrust the Palestinians and Israelis have for each other's leaders. Most simply, 2% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have a "very favorable" or "favorable" opinion of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is comparable to the 1% to 2% favorability Jewish Israelis show to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza.
Additionally, while 32% of Jewish Israelis have a favorable opinion of U.S. President Obama, the figure is 2% in the Palestinian Territories, an imbalance that could hamper Obama's ability to forge an agreement both peoples would accept as fair.
The corollary to these favorable scores is that the vast majority of Palestinians and Israelis have a negative opinion of each other's leaders. However, there is significant variation in the percentages holding a "very unfavorable" view as opposed to an "unfavorable" view. In particular, Palestinians are far more likely to view Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu very unfavorably (83% in the West Bank and 80% in the Gaza Strip) than Jewish Israelis are to view Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas (31%), West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (33%), or Hamas leader and acting Prime Minister of the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh (46%) very unfavorably. Also, far more Palestinians (75% and 72%) than Jewish Israelis (14%) view Obama very unfavorably.
These figures suggest that Palestinians may need more outside reassurance than Israelis in any peace negotiations between their leaders.
Obama Has Little Clout in the Palestinian Territories
Palestinians' dim view of Obama extends to the confidence they express in him to be a neutral arbiter in the conflict. Eight percent of Palestinians in either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Obama to negotiate a peace treaty that is fair to both sides. Roughly seven in 10 say they have no confidence him to do this.
On the other hand, close to half of Jewish Israelis say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Obama as an arbiter, while 18% have none. Jewish confidence in Obama was higher in 2011 and 2012 than it was the prior two years.
By way of comparison, in 2006, 55% of Israelis and 11% of Palestinians had a great deal or fair amount of trust in George W. Bush on this question -- his highest ratings from both peoples in Gallup trends between 2005 and 2008.
Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains important to most Palestinians and Israelis, with majorities of both peoples supporting it and sizeable segments supporting it strongly, even though both sides believe peace is unlikely to be realized.
Palestinians are more convinced than Israelis are that peace is important to achieving various important national and personal objectives, suggesting Palestinians now have more incentive to pursue peace. These views could be an important indicator of the level of motivation each side has to make the difficult compromises that they would need to achieve lasting peace. However -- perhaps defying the mutual antipathy seemingly felt by Israeli and Palestinian leaders toward each other -- Palestinians are far more critical than Jewish Israelis of the opposing leaders and show little trust in Obama to negotiate a fair resolution.
Given that Israel is building more settlements in the West Bank and the lack of support for a two-state solution by Israel's conservative government and the Hamas leadership in Gaza, it is becoming increasingly doubtful that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is physically or politically feasible. Still, Gallup finds most Palestinians in the West Bank and a slim majority of Jewish Israelis backing the idea. And, perhaps, President Obama's renewed effort in the region -- including openly stating he thinks a two-state solution is possible -- will spur further support for this arrangement between both sides.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in Israel, aged 15 and older, conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 24, 2012. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points.
The Palestinian Territories survey is based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, aged 15 and older, conducted Aug. 28-Sept. 15. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points.
Results for the West Bank are based on face-to-face interviews with a subset of 530 adults in the West Bank, aged 15 and older, conducted Aug. 28-Sept. 15. For results based on the sample, one can say with 95% confidence that have a margin of sampling error of ±6 percentage points.
Results for the Gaza Strip are based on face-to-face interviews with a subset of 375 adults in the Gaza Strip, aged 15 and older, conducted Aug. 28-Sept. 15. For results based on the sample, one can say with 95% confidence that have a margin of sampling error of ±7 percentage points.
The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.