Shibley Telhami: Would Israelis and Palestinians Support a Realistic Peace Deal?

What survey results show

In July of 2013, the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to begin a nine- month period of talks, under U.S. sponsorship, to see if agreement could be achieved on a basic framework for a final settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

One of the major questions lying behind the talks is: what will be the attitudes of the public on each side if a basic framework for a settlement does emerge? Will either the Israeli public, or the Palestinian public--or both--support such a framework, even if it may have important reservations? Or will the difficulty of the compromises required lead either (or both) publics to reject an agreement?

Existing polling has shown that there are many final status issues on which there are serious gaps between the views of the Israeli public and the Palestinian public. But most poll questions are simply asking people their preferences. Negotiating a deal requires finding a package of proposals that includes elements that are not necessarily preferred but can be tolerated by each side. If these publics were to advise their negotiators, what would they say?

To try to answer this fundamental question, the University of Maryland's Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development and Program for Public Consultation developed and fielded a survey in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

In addition to standard questions, the survey also included what is called a 'policymaking simulation.' The aim of a policymaking simulation is not to simply ask for reactions but to put respondents in the shoes of a policymaker and to deal with the tradeoffs of making a policy decision. It includes having respondents hear arguments for and against policy options. This provides policymakers with insight into how their publics are likely to respond to arguments as they are presented in the public discourse, and also how the public is likely to respond as they have time to deliberate about the issue.

Below are reports on our key findings: