More than half of Israelis and Palestinians support an unofficial peace proposal that includes unprecedented compromises for both sides, according to a poll published yesterday.
The draft peace agreement, called the Geneva Accord and worked out by former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, calls for the formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the return of Palestinian refugees to that state - but not to Israel - and the division of Jerusalem between the two states.
Pollsters read a summary of the agreement to Israelis and Palestinians, and found that 53 percent of the Israelis and almost 56 percent of the Palestinians support it. Almost 44 percent of Israelis and 39 percent of Palestinians said they would oppose such a deal.
The summary did not specifically include the fact that a hotly disputed site in the Old City of Jerusalem - where the Al Aqsa Mosque compound sits atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temples - would be under Palestinian sovereignty. Instead, it said, "Each side would govern its holy sites."
There is considerable opposition in Israel to ceding the site, Judaism's holiest, in a peace arrangement.
The poll covered 610 Israeli citizens by telephone, and 631 Palestinians, interviewed in person. The poll quoted a margin of error of four percentage points.
"This poll is a timely reminder of the fact that majorities on both sides are prepared to embrace an agreement that meets their respective core aspirations and interests," said Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Syria and director of the Texas-based Baker Institute for Public Policy, which conducted the poll together with the International Crisis Group in Washington, working for conflict prevention and resolution.
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