A new poll of the Arab world has been getting a lot of attention for the precipitous drop in confidence in President Obama that it reveals, but equally as interesting to me is what the poll shows about Arab attitudes toward a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
86% of respondents are “prepared for peace if Israel is willing to return all 1967 territories including East Jerusalem.”
A plurality of 39% believes that the conflict will be ended through negotiations, with a minority of 16% believing it will end through war.
Only 21% of respondents named the Palestinian “right of return” — a red line for Israel — as their most important concern, with a plurality of 46% naming the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza as their highest concern.
While it’s unlikely that Israel will withdraw from all lands occupied in 1967 (the general understanding is that Palestinians will be compensated for post-67 land retained by Israel through agreed land swaps), this poll does effectively demolish the claim that the Arabs are simply unwilling to accept Israel — especially when combined with the fact that there has been a comprehensive Arab peace initiative on the table since 2002, an initiative to which Israel to this day has yet to formally respond.
As one Israeli official remarked to me on a recent trip, given that the Palestinians have fulfilled most of their road map obligations, the Israelis “are desperate to find evidence of Palestinian wrongdoing” in order to combat the perception — bolstered by Netanyahu’s refusal to honor Israel’s past commitments on settlements, which remains a huge issue for the Palestinians — that it is the Israelis who are the intransigent party. Given these new poll numbers, combating that perception just became a bit harder.