Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:14 pm (KSA) 09:14 am (GMT)

Don't take sides in Israel-Palestine conflict: poll

Bush (C) says a peace deal is possible in 2008 (File)
Bush (C) says a peace deal is possible in 2008 (File)

The first global public opinion poll about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict released Tuesday found that majorities in 14 out of 18 countries polled believe their government should not take sides in the decades-old Middle East conflict.

It also revealed that most people support a greater role for the United Nations, from guaranteeing security of the countries involved to sending peacekeepers to enforce an eventual peace agreement.

According to the poll – which was conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org and covered 18,792 people in 18 countries and the Palestinian Territories – 58 percent of respondents said they did not believe their country should take a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Twenty percent said their country should support the Palestinians, while only seven percent supported the Israelis. Egypt, Iran and Turkey were the only countries favoring the Palestinians.

American view

Even Americans overwhelmingly said their government should not take sides.

In a finding that goes against the common assumption that Americans overwhelmingly support Israel, seven out of ten Americans said they thought their country should not take sides in the conflict. Of the rest, 21 percent said it should take Israel's side compared to only 3 percent who supported taking the Palestinians side.

“Israel is liked a lot more and if you force them (Americans) to choose, Israel gets more sympathy,” Steven Kull, director of WorldOpinion.org, told AlArabiya.net in an interview.

“You ask them which side they blame more, and more blame Israel than the Palestinians, but if you look more closely there are huge numbers that refuse to answer or say they don’t know.”

Americans, said Kull, are unequivocal that U.S. policy needs to be even handed in dealing with the situation. “There is a discrepancy in this sense between the public and government foreign policy,” he added.

At 86 percent, Egypt was the only country to overwhelmingly support taking the Palestinian side and to say that Palestinians are doing their part to resolve the conflict. A similarly large percentage said neither Israel (88%) nor the U.S. (86%) is doing their part well.

Country assessments

Israel received the worst ratings about whether it is playing a positive role in the conflict, with majorities in thirteen out of fifteen countries asked this question saying that the Israelis are “not doing very well” or “not doing well at all.”

Arab countries and the United States did not fare much better.

Fifty-nine percent of those polled view America’s role in the conflict negatively, as do 46 percent of Americans themselves. A majority, 54 percent, of those polled also said that Israel is not playing a positive role while 47 percent say the same for the Palestinians.

The United Nations Security Council, however, fared far better in terms of people’s perceptions about the role it should and could play. Respondents said they believed the United Nations should play a greater role in the conflict, especially if an agreement is eventually reached.

All but one of the 17 countries asked had majorities or pluralities that supported sending U.N. peacekeepers were an agreement reached, with an average of 67 percent favoring and 20 percent opposing such an idea.

The predominantly Muslim countries of Egypt, Turkey, Indonesia and the Palestinian territories in particular supported U.N. involvement, from protecting Arab countries in case of an Israeli attack to sending peacekeepers.

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