Poll: Most Palestinians, Israelis Favor Two-state Solution

NEW YORK - Expressing views that may go unnoticed amid the headline-grabbing violence in the Mideast, 76 percent of Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, according to a poll of people on both sides.

That finding was offered Tuesday by leaders of OneVoice, a privately funded group that aims to promote peace in the Mideast. While preliminary, they said, the survey suggests that giving ordinary citizens an "active role" might help end the region's 60-year cycle of bloodshed.

Meeting with reporters in New York, the group's founder-president, Daniel Lubetzky, and Mideast regional director, Mohammad Darawshe, said their ultimate aim was to survey a quarter-million people, to show there is a "silent majority" on each side that favors mutual agreement instead of violence and extremism.

"Every Palestinian and Israeli says they are for peace, but the people have not been held accountable for their beliefs," said Lubetzky. "What's happening now is that 40,000 people stood up and said this is what they want."

The survey was conducted in the past two months among residents of Israel and the West Bank using questionnaires designed to draw specific answers to 10 basic questions about the conflict. So far, 25,000 responses have been recorded, with another 15,000 awaiting tabulation.

Survey workers questioned people in streets, homes, schools, workplaces and refugee camps. Amid tension resulting from violent acts by Palestinian extremists and armed responses by Israel, the workers "were sometimes threatened, hit or spat on," Darawshe said. "It was not always a receptive audience."

The questionnaires relied on a complicated system under which respondents endorsed a statement with which they agreed or broke down a negative answer by points.

"Even if they say 'no' to everything, it yields data that is very valuable," Lubetzky said.

In the region, where 65 percent of the population is 34 or younger, nearly half the respondents were of high school or college age, 15 to 24.

The most significant finding was that among the 23,000 Palestinians and 17,000 Israelis queried, about 76 percent on each side endorsed the two-state concept - a Palestinian state existing beside a Jewish state, "each recognizing the other as such, both democratic and respecting human rights, including minority rights."

The fact that about three-fourths of each group supported that idea was reflective of other data but "not consistent with perceptions," said Lubetzky.

"The silent majority is speaking out," he said.

Among the other 24 percent were some adamantly opposed to any Palestinian political entity and others who advocated the abolition of Israel.

Most questions dealt with familiar issues such as whether the 1967 borders of Israel should be restored, an end to Israeli occupation, political control of Jerusalem, access to holy sites and education.

Results showed Palestinians "overwhelmingly" against Jewish settlements and Israelis opposed to refugees' right of return, but those questions were not specific enough for clear-cut findings, the group said.

Lubetzky, an American Jew born in Mexico, and Darawshe, a Palestinian native of Nazareth, admitted to frustration over a lack of media attention to their project.

"Good news doesn't sell," Lubetzky said. "We do not produce blood, therefore it is not so exciting."

OneVoice, an initiative of New York-based PeaceWorks Foundation, aims to "empower Israelis and Palestinian on the ground to achieve a consensus on core issues that can form a roadmap for conflict resolution," according to its Web site.