Award winning journalist Daoud Kuttab says that, except under certain circumstances, public opinion does not count in the Middle East. “The way to make change in the Middle East is in one of two ways. With the first method, an effort is made to reach overwhelming public support in any one community. To do that, activists will need to lower their expectations and agree on the common denominator that will produce overwhelming public support. The only other way is for outside pressure to be exerted on leaders.”
Baskin and Siniora, co-directors of the Israel/Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI), describe the dynamic history of Israeli and Palestinian public opinion. They claim that Israeli opinion has shifted toward embracing a two-state solution over the last decade, partly from fears that demographic realities are working against Israel. However, public opinion amongst Palestinian intellectuals has already begun to lean toward wanting a one-state solution, and will soon move toward being embraced by the public. “The trend has begun and the longer it takes to reach real permanent status negotiations and agreements, the more viable will become the one-state option in Palestinian public opinion.”
PUBLIC OPINION SPECIAL SERIES: Globe and Mail columnist Shira Herzog says, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Public opinion could pressure both leaders to do more - but in the current circumstances, it won't be easy. The more Israelis believe that Palestinians reject violence, the more prepared they'll be to demand withdrawal from illegal outposts and more settlements…The more Palestinians see economic improvement and progress on the ground, the more prepared they'll be to challenge factions that reject the central authority…If positive trends in public opinion can be reinforced, leaders may have no choice but to respond.”
Professor Naomi Chazan claims that, “there is a broad and firm consensus in Israel-mirrored to a large extent on the Palestinian side-on the objective of two states, the resurrection of the mechanism of negotiations, and the ultimate aim of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians (reaching over 80% in both communities).” But the national leadership is “guided more by trepidation than by political resolve… Israelis are coalescing around a lucid and hopeful message which is desperately crying out for a committed and credible messenger who can give it traction.”
Lucy Nusseibeh, founder and director of Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND), writes: “One of the prerequisites for peace…is to go beyond the looking glass and pull public opinion back to reality and away from projections and reflections. The reality is that since 2003, public opinion on both sides (over 72%) has been shown to favour peace on roughly the same terms - along the 67 borders with a shared Jerusalem, etc.- but the main obstacle is the perception of the other side's public opinion.”
(Source: Common Ground News Service, December 15, 2005)
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