Poll: Most Palestinians would accept a limited state

JERUSALEM — A new survey indicates that the majority of Palestinians accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in less than all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Jerusalem remains the most intractable problem.

The still unpublished survey, conducted by the Nablus-based Palestinian Center for Research and Studies April 10 to 12, asked 1,334 interviewees questions on the six aspects of the Yossi Beilin-Mahmoud Abbas plan without mentioning their origin, said director Khalil Shikaki.

Support for the plan as a package was 43 percent for, 52 percent against. This compares with a survey last month that asked the questions as phrased in Israeli views of the plan; support then was 20 percent for and 77 percent against.

Support on each question was generally 4 percent higher in Gaza than in the West Bank.

The questions asked were:

1. Do you support the establishment of a state in 95 percent of the West bank and Gaza Strip with the right to self-defense but with restrictions on types of arms? Fifty-two percent said yes, 45 percent no. The March poll, which substituted "most" for "95 percent" and demilitarized the state, found 16 percent said yes, 83 percent no.

2. Do you accept a mutual exchange of land by which Israel would annex 5 percent of the West Bank as a settlement bloc, with the Palestinian state receiving an equal amount of land in exchange? Thirty-two percent were for, 63 percent against. (In the March poll, which called for Israel annexing most settlements, it was 18 percent for and 79 percent against.)

3. May settlers in the Palestinian state live as individuals in peace under Palestinian Authority? Forty-eight percent were for, 49 percent against. (The same question received identical response in March poll.)

4. Refugees have the right to return to the Palestinian state only, but a small number to be agreed upon may return to Israel. Those who do not return will be compensated, and the right of return as a theoretical right will remain. Fifty-five percent were for, 42 percent against. (The March poll, which did not include a right of return to Israel, was 44 percent for and 52 percent against.)

5. Israeli forces will withdraw from the state, but a limited agreed-upon number will stay in specific locations, for a limited duration. Joint IsraeliPalestinian patrols along the Jordan River. Forty-two percent were for, 53 percent against. (The March poll, which did not mention joint patrols or limited duration, was supported by 8 percent, opposed by 87 percent.)

6. Jerusalem would be open for all Palestinian citizens but remain united under Israeli control. Sovereignty over East Jerusalem would be negotiated later by a special committee. City boundaries would be expanded to include new Jewish and Arab areas and a Palestinian municipality established in Arab areas linked to the Palestinian Authority administratively, functionally and with regard to security. Arab areas would subsequently revert to Palestinian sovereignty. Meanwhile, the capital of the Palestinian state would be established outside the existing municipal boundaries. Moslem and Christian holy places would come under Palestinian rule. Twenty-seven percent were for, 68 percent against. (The March poll, which mentioned only a Palestinian capital outside current municipal border and control over holy places, was supported by 9 percent, opposed by 89 percent.)

The apparent anomaly in the responses to questions 1 and 2, even though 2 actually offers Palestinians more, stems from the fact that question 1 emphasizes the establishment of a state, while question 2 emphasizes Israeli annexation of land.

"This indicates the importance of packaging poll and possibly negotiation questions in a certain way," Shikaki said.

All answers add up to 100 percent when those with "no opinion" are included, and the margin of error is 3 percent, Shikaki said.

In the same poll support for the current peace process is 60 percent, almost an all-time low.