Thursday, May 20, 2010

Polling for Peace (Or Against It)

About a year ago Dr. Colin Irwin, an Irish pollster, published the result of a large polling project he had done with two Mideast outfits, one Israeli and one Palestinian, about the positions in each society towards making peace. Since the poll still gets quoted and linked to till this day, I finally went to visit it; here's the link to it.

I'm a fan of public opinion polls only up to a degree. They can easily be manipulated. Their questions are sometimes downright misleading, or ambiguous, or unhelpful, or all of the above. There are better ways to gauge public opinion, especially in the long run: elections for example aren't bad, or long term behaviors. Still, once you've reminded yourself to keep that pinch of salt handy, polls can have their uses.

Especially one such as this, which tells us what we mostly knew anyway, this time with confidence-inspiring numbers.

72% of Palestinians think that all of Palestine should belong to the Muslim Waqf, for example. (59% think it's essential, 12% think it's desirable). 12% say that's unacceptable - yet some of them must be saying so merely because they don't like the Muslim part of the question. When it's formulated as a secular, political matter, only 7% of Palestinians think that having a Palestinians state in the entire land is an unacceptable idea, while 82% think it's a great idea. 71% go so far as to say it's essential - a figure that rather puts a damper on one's hope for peace anytime soon, I would think. Of course this doesn't quite fit the part where 38% of the Palestinians think a two-state solution is essential (another 15% think it's desirable), but life isn't always consistent. And the latter figure isn't so rosy anyway, is it.

Now compare the Palestinian insistence the Israel not be here, with Israelis' positions on having a Palestinian state next door. Only 32% think - as I do - that this is essential (even though it's not going to happen - see if you can fit that into a neat peg-hole), yet another 13% think it would be desirable, another 16% think it's acceptable, making 61% of Israelis who are comfortable with the idea of asovereign Palestine next door, to which another 17% say they can live with it even if they're not going to be happy. That's 78% of Israelis willing to live alongside Palestine, with 93% of Palestinians saying it would be better to have no Israel.

There's lots more where that came from. 54% of Palestinians won't accept settlers remaining in Beitar and Modi'in Illit; 66% wouldn't accept settlers remaining even as Palestinian citizens - not that there would be more of a handful who'd want to anyway. Divide Jerusalem according to neighborhoods (Clinton Parameters): 61% of Palestinians are against the idea. Jews remain in control of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (founded in the year 1267): 76% of the Palestinians are against -though in this case, I'm glad to see that the Israelis are also hardly in favour of dividing Jerusalem - never fewer than 50% of them in favour of division.

Actually, it might be fun for the Israelis among us to answer all the questions ourselves and come back and report: according to this, are we to the left, right or center of the Israeli median. Didi and Alex need not bother: we know their answer.

Predictably, some pundits spun the poll as proof that the Israelis and Palestinians are equally against peace through partition. Josh Marshall, for example. Others were more clear-eyed, or perhaps they read the numbers before running to tell about them - Jonathan Chait, for example.


Anonymous said...

Walter Russell Mead muses on split-mindedness and as far as I remember comes to the same conclusion as Yaacov

Anonymous said...

I am in fact the Armchair Guerrilla that Marshall links to in his post (which Chait then followed up on). As such, I encourage everyone (humbly, of course) to look at my own fairly comprehensive breakdown of the numbers, linked below.
Josh S

Alex Stein said...

The real problem with opinion polls is that people only quote the ones that support what they think already:

Anonymous said...

hi Alex
thanks for putting the Donors on the website of CFP - I just had a quick glance at Nova - it seems now I'll have to get them to put up their funders. It starts to feel to me like I'm trying to find my way through labyrinths.
Very intriguing to me who has always been a fan of Ariadne

Yaacov said...

Alex -

Actually, if you read carefully, your link and the one I linked to don't contradict each other. The numbers in yours are a wee bit more optimistic, but they lack the breadth of the Irish fellow's questionnaire.

Anyway, as I said, in principle polls have only limited value. We don't need them to know that a solid majority of the Palestinians doesn't remotely dream of making peace with us on terms even you and Didi could live with.

Anonymous said...


You write that "a solid majority of the Palestinians doesn't remotely dream of making peace with us on terms even you and Didi could live with."

That's only partly true, according to the poll. Among Palestinians, 38% say two states are "essential," 15% find it "desirable," 10% find it is "acceptable," and 11% "tolerable." Thus, the Haaretz (optimistic) headline that 74% of Palestinians are willing to live alongside Israel peacefully. A more sober reading is that 74% might at least tolerate such an outcome (comparable to the 78% of Israelis). Of course, as I pointed out previously, those numbers are impossible to square with other poll results such as the ones you refer to in your post.

I'd be hesitant to read to much into all this anyway. The inconsistencies are evidence that numbers such as these are incredibly fluid and could change in an instant depending on the situation on the ground.

In any event, while the type of wide-eyed optimism expressed in the Haaretz article reporting the results seems unwarranted, neither should any of this serve as an excuse to throw up your hands and stop trying. In the meantime, the current Israeli government (along with others past) continues to tolerate and indeed promote policies that make the prospect of changing the dynamic more and more unlikely.

Josh S

Yaacov said...

Josh -

The pessimism comes not from that question but from the usual suspects: Right of Return and Jerusalem. Frankly, we don't need this poll or any other to know that the chasms there are currently unbridgeable. Which isn't to say there aren't better and worse ways for Israel to live with the situation.

If it was up to me I"d pull all the settlers back from beyond the wall, including Ariel, and pack them into Jerusalem. But I'm not a decision maker, fortunately.

Anonymous said...

Another important number in the poll is the percentage of outright rejectionists on both sides (those for whom the two-state solution is unacceptable): 24% of Palestinians and 21% of Israelis. Hardly a landlside.

The numbers get more complicated, though, when you start talking about what the two-state solution would look like, i.e., the right of return. Here, the numbers are pretty dismal. 87% of Palestinians said the right of return and compensation were "essential," and an additional 5% "desirable." 48% deemed the right of return to Israel without compensation as "unacceptable." The option of limiting the number of refugees to Israel to family members and numbers agreed to by the two parties was deemed "unacceptable" by 75%.

Israelis were only slightly more flexible. A full 60% found "unacceptable" the option of Israeli recognition of the refugees' suffering and a return by most to the West Bank and Gaza with a limited number returning to Israel. 77% found the right of return with compensation unacceptable as did 83% without compensation (one has to wonder why fewer were opposed to return with compensation than without).

Josh S

Anonymous said...

I just saw your response after I wrote. As you can see, I agree that two states can mean two vastly different things. Still, I don't see any alternative other than continuing to try to change opinions - none of this is an excuse for inaction; caution, yes, but the longer the status quo is maintained, the more entrenched the situation becomes.

I think you'd make a pretty good decision maker, but you'd have to make room in your cabinet for Alex Stein and Didi for balance.

Josh S

Anonymous said...

Josh S
how about asking some confidence building measures from Israel's counterparts?
You know the list of desirables probably better than I do, but all I read is always Israel this, Israel that and if only Israel etc etc ad n...

it strikes me as unfair and lopsided

NormanF said...

We know the Palestinians hate Israel and want to see it disappear. They are not going to agree to a compromise peace any time soon. They are uncompromising and radical.

And it high time Israel's Stupid Jews took their heads out of the sand and woke the heck up!

There is not going to be peace in the Middle East in our lifetime.

Christian Zionist said...

Josh: "A full 60% found "unacceptable" the option of Israeli recognition of the refugees' suffering and a return by most to the West Bank and Gaza with a limited number returning to Israel. 77% found the right of return with compensation unacceptable as did 83% without compensation"

I suspect what you are seeing are either Mizrahim or Mizrahi sympathisers who see a washout between Mizrahi and Palestinian displacements, and so no reason for Israel to accommodate the Palestinians.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

68% percent of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same building as an Arab.

These confidence-inspiring figures confirm what we already knew anyway, i.e. that Israeli Jews are deeply racist.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

We know the Palestinians hate Israel and want to see it disappear. They are not going to agree to a compromise peace any time soon. They are uncompromising and radical.

Nonsense. The Palestinians have made a huge concession in the most critical point of dispute between both sides: water rights. Water is the single most valuable natural resource Israel extracts from the West Bank. And the Palestinians signed with Israel what is probably the most generous agreement between water-thirsty parties in the world -- so much so that the World Bank has called for a renegotiation that will be less unfair to the Palestinians.

No uncompromising or radical people would have granted Israel such a disproportionate fraction of West Bank water.

By comparison, Israel has made no concession whatsoever. When it evacuated Gaza it was because of the burden to its budget. When it got the hell out of Lebanon it was because it was tired of losing soldiers. Israel had a lot to win from its "concessions." Palestinians had nothing to win and everything to lose from their hydric generosity. Yet they are the rejectionists!

Anonymous said...

not so long ago Fake-Ibrahim was by his own account a Jew
go to Ibrahim the Impostor's own blog here and search for
Alberto José Miyara
to wet your appetite I've copied 2 teasers below

btw in that same thread he promised that his next impersonation would be as a bisexual Zebra on Mauritius - if only he could be trusted ...

Teaser No. 1

"Reviews Written by
Alberto José Miyara (Rosario, Argentina) (...) This book will far less welcome, however, BY THOSE JEWS, LIKE THE AUTHOR OF THIS REVIEW, don't like to be told what they should think about Israel in order to be good Jews."

Teaser No. 2
Nickname: ajmiyara
Location: Rosario, Argentina
In My Own Words:
Alberto José Miyara is a university professor, writer and journalist from Rosario, Argentina. He has authored three short-story books and does research on wood technology. His journalistic concerns include human rights, the Catalan language and Jewish issues.

Bryan said...

Racism is by definition irrational, Ibrahim.

Can you think of any rational reasons why Israeli Jews would not want to live in the same building as an Arab? Because I can think of a few.

Just because I disagree with them doesn't meant they are acting irrationally.

By the way, Ibrahim, the Palestinians still have not given Israelis the the most fundamentally important concession: they haven't stopped murdering Israelis indiscriminately or encouraging that murder. As long as they continue to incite terrorism, they are not willing to live to peace and Israel has every right to treat them like violent irredentist separatists.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

Bryan, could you source your assertion that racism is irrational by definition? So if you hate blacks because most thieves in your town are black, then you're not racist?

With regard to concessions, I gave a clear example that Palestinians are prepared to compromise. You don't address my example and instead try to change the subject to something else.

Anonymous said...

Ibrahim Miraya
the "you don't address" argument has been sourced on this blog by Sylvia ages ago to the Rules for Radicals


Anonymous said...

Latest news on Ibrahim

he is a math teacher - the man sure is many-faced.

Sylvia said...

Can you cite any OBJECTIVE evidence to support your claims? As far as we all know Israel has been demanding for years from the Palestinians to stop letting their sewers pollute the water. They are refusing to establish a sewage system that would take care of the problem. So we should be thankful to them for being generous with their crap? Get real.

Sylvia said...

A little bit more information for you.
The name Miyara/Myara/Miara (pronounced Meeyara) is definitely originally Jewish. There are plenty of Miyara/Myara/Miara in Israel. Originally from Morocco.
Check out this French site of "Names of the Jews of Morocco".
However, as a result of repeated waves of forced conversions to Islam, there are many Muslim families named Myara/Miara, but you can tell which is which from the first name - Muslim Myara always have an Islamic first name.
In this case the combination with Alberto suggests that he is originally from a Jewish family.
He could very well have become a Muslim(or a Chritian for that matter ), but nobody can become an Arab.

Anonymous said...

thanks Sylvia
as to the Palestinians - I am tired of taking the voicing of good intentions seriously - I want to see action consistent over long periods of time.

As to friend "Ibrahim"
if you go to the last sentence of the book review below Alberto/Ibrahim/José/Miraya/Ibn Yusuf
on April 25, 2000 our man still posed as Jewish - period (I am intrigued by the José though - in German Joseph would put him firmly in the Catholic corner)
- and in his profile (link on top of the page) he claimed all kinds of professional expertise, math not being one of them, but maybe wood engineering does qualify (poor kids)

Having worked in personnel I am very familiar with very very colourful CVs but Fake-Ibrahim's I would have stamped as incoherent, not worth an interview and that at a time when job seekers were such a rarity that we would have a look at about anybody. It is also amazing with respect to the fact that he claims to have written 3 short story books ... and can come up with a plausible character for himself?

He is a loser and as a failed artist both in music and in writing one of the worst kind. Like losers through all the times he picks on Jews because that's where even the sorriest ones can find enthusiastic followers.

Anonymous said...

"68% percent of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same building as an Arab."
"....So if you hate blacks because most thieves in your town are black, then you're not racist?"

Where did the word 'hate' pop from ??? The leap of logic from Israelis would 'refuse' to live with Arabs to Israelis 'hate' Arabs, is more reflective of you than on than Israelis.