NEW YORK, Jan. 12 (JTA) — Israel and the Palestinian Authority may not agree on much these days, but a recent poll shows that their respective peoples agree on at least one thing — the need to create a complete separation between them. According to the survey, conducted jointly by a Tel Aviv University research center and a Palestinian institute, 81 percent of the Israeli respondents and 63 percent of the Palestinians interviewed support a closed border. At the same time, large majorities of Israelis and Palestinians — 77 percent and 65 percent, respectively — said relations between the two peoples should be intensified in order to build support for peace. While the two sets of answers may seem contradictory, the researchers believe that increased relations and separate borders are not mutually exclusive. “In our estimation, both sides are interested in enhancing the prospects for peace, but wish to do so without forfeiting their separate identities,” according to an evaluation of the poll issued by Tel Aviv University’s Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, which conducted the study with the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center. “For Palestinians, the main purpose of the separation is to attain the goal of sovereign Palestinian statehood; for Israelis, the principal factor is the fear of terrorism.” Both the Israelis and Palestinians surveyed supported the Oslo peace process — 59 percent and 68 percent, respectively — and the majority of both groups also were optimistic about the prospects for Israel and the Palestinian Authority concluding a final settlement of their differences. In evaluating the obstacles now facing the peace process, the Palestinian respondents put the blame on the Israeli government — as did the Israelis polled, though by a smaller proportion. Among the Palestinians, 61 percent cited Israeli factors as obstacles to peace. Among Israelis, the figure dropped to 39 percent, with the most salient obstacle, cited by 27 percent of them, being the government of Israel and the prime minister. This result contradicts statements by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israelis believe the Palestinians to be the biggest obstacle to peace. The Israeli respondents also pointed to obstacles on the Palestinian side – – 9 percent cited terrorism and another 9 percent cited Arab attitudes and mentality. Some 16 percent of the Israelis blamed both sides. A large difference emerged between the two groups regarding their sense of personal security since the peace process began. Most Palestinians — 64 percent — sensed an improvement, while 12 percent felt their situation had worsened. Among Israelis, 35 percent felt less secure, while a small minority — 9 percent — felt an improvement in personal security. Only a small minority of each group — 17 percent of Palestinians, 7 percent of Israelis — felt that their personal economic situation had improved since the peace process began. Regarding their respective economies at large, 59 percent of Palestinians thought that a widespread deterioration pervaded living conditions in the self-rule areas. Some 40 percent of Israelis said the Israeli economy had worsened. There was a large difference in the intention that each population attributed to the other’s government. Nearly all the Palestinian respondents, 89 percent, believed that the Israeli government does not truly want peace. The Israelis were divided regarding the Palestinian Authority, with 56 believing it is truly interested in peace and 40 percent believing it is not. In contrast, when it came to assessing the intentions of the other population at large, nearly similar majorities of both the Israeli and Palestinian respondents indicated that they believed the other populace truly sought peace. The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, involved 1,185 Palestinian respondents and 1,002 Israeli respondents who were at least 18 years old. Among the Israelis, half were Jewish, half Arab. The polling results among Israeli Arabs were subsequently weighted to reflect their proportion within the Israeli electorate, which is 11 percent. Conducted in November and December, the survey used identical questionnaires that researchers from the two institutes developed together.
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