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Israel and the Palestinians

Multilateral Approaches and the Road Map

A very strong majority favors a multilateral approach to trying to resolve the Israel-Palestinain conflict--either through the UN (preferred by a plurality), or a group of leading nations—over the United States taking the lead. An overwhelming majority favors convening an international conference. A modest majority favors the Road Map plan, rising to a large majority when given more information. Two out of three would support contributing US troops to a multilateral peacekeeping force to monitor and enforce the agreement.


Very strong majorities favor a multilateral approach to trying to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In a May 2003 PIPA poll, Americans were offered competing arguments about whether the US should be working alongside the UN, the European Union and Russia (in what is called the “quartet”) in efforts to facilitate resolution of the conflict:

A majority of 64% said it was “a good thing” for the US to work with Quartet partners on the Israel-Palestinian problem. Only 24% said it was a bad thing, while 13% did not answer.

As shown below, when PIPA asked in May 2002 who should take the lead, only 13% favored the US taking the lead. A very strong majority of 68% favored a multilateral approach, with 41% favoring the UN taking the lead and 27% favoring "a group of leading nations including the US." Just 15% said "no outside country of group should take the lead." [1]

Approval of International Conference

An overwhelming majority approves of the Bush administration's initiative to hold an international conference before the end of summer 2002. In the May 2002 PIPA poll respondents were presented the following question: "As you may know, the US, together with the European Union, Russia and the UN, have agreed to hold a major international conference to try to help resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Do you think this is a good idea or not a good idea?" Eighty-two percent said they thought it was a good idea, while just 12% thought it was not. [2]

As shown in other sections, a modest majority also looks favorably on the proposal made at the meeting of the Arab League in Beirut in March 2002 (see "Positive Reaction to Arab League Proposal"). A strong majority would like to see the UN play a major role in various efforts to resolve the conflict (see "UN's Role in Israel-Palestinian Conflict"). If a number of conditions are met, a majority would also support US participation in an eventual peacekeeping operation in the Palestinian territories (see "Support for US Participation in a Peacekeeping Operation").

In May 2003, shortly after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a document called the “Road Map”—drafted by the US, the European Union, Russia and the UN—was formally delivered by the US to Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership, and not long afterward the Israeli government, accepted the road map. A modest majority approves the road map plan for resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. When asked, “Just based on what you know, would you say you approve or disapprove of the plan for resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, commonly called the road map?” 54% approved the plan, only 17% disapproved, and 28% declined to answer.[3]

Later in the poll, respondents were exposed to more information about the road map plan—including the tasks that Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states were slated to perform in the plan’s first phase.
Respondents saw the table below:

With this information, respondents were asked: “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of this plan?” An overwhelming 74% approved—up from 54% before information was provided. Only 13% disapproved. This suggests that if an effort were made to publicize the road map and explain its basic ideas, the public would respond quite positively. [4]

One aspect of the road map raises a difficult issue that has attracted criticism: it requires all sides to work on their tasks in a given phase, regardless of what the others are doing or not doing. No side is asked to go beyond the current phase before the other sides are finished; but within a phase, each side’s actions are noncontiguous. In a question about this issue, respondents were told “a controversial element in the road map plan is that it asks each side to take its steps, without waiting for the other sides to take their steps.” A modest majority (53%) called this “a good idea”; 37% thought it was “not a good idea.” [5]

A test of support for the road map is the question of whether, were the road map process to succeed in creating a peace agreement, the public would be willing for the US to engage in the task of enforcing it. Two-thirds (67%) said that “if Israel and the Palestinian Authority, at the end of the roadmap process, were to agree on a final settlement,” they would support “the US participating, together with a number of other countries, in a UN-sponsored peacekeeping force to monitor and enforce the agreement.” Twenty-three percent were opposed. PIPA asked a similar question in May 2002 which spelled out the same conditions, and found 77% support at that time; the 10-point drop is presumably due to the months of strife between Israel and the Palestinians, plus the fact of the current, heavy US military engagement in postwar Iraq. [6]

Another issue is Israel’s challenge to the road map’s stipulation that its four partners will together evaluate the parties’ progress. Respondents were told that “At present the road map plan calls for the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia to evaluate together whether or not each side has taken the steps required by the plan,” and that “Israel has requested that only the US should make these evaluations.” However, only 21% thought “it would be best for these evaluations to be made by the US.” A very strong 69% thought it best for the US to make the evaluations together with the quartet partners. [7]

Another frequent criticism of the road map plan has been that the UN, the European Union and Russia are all somewhat biased against Israel and will not be evenhanded toward the parties. PIPA put this problem to respondents and asked whether they thought each “member of the group” (apart from the US) “would be more likely to favor Israel, be more likely to favor the Palestinians, or would deal with Israel and the Palestinians in a fair way.”

The UN did the best of the three; a 56% majority thought the UN would deal with both parties in a fair way (favor the Palestinians, 20%; favor Israel, 14%). A 44% plurality thought the European Union would be evenhanded (favor the Palestinians, 20%; favor Israel, 20%--clearly the picture proposed by some of a pro-Palestinian EU has made little headway with the public). Respondents took a more skeptical view of Russia, with a 42% plurality saying it would favor the Palestinians (be evenhanded, 34%; favor Israel, 8%). While the US was not a topic in this sequence of questions, interestingly, even fewer than 34% say that, in practice, the US is evenhanded toward the parties to the conflict (see below). [8]

There is some controversy over what stance the US should take if other members of the quartet want to apply more pressure to Israel. PIPA asked what the US should do “if Israel does not take steps that are required in the road map plan” and “the other members want to take action to pressure Israel.” Only 13% said the US should discourage other members from pressuring Israel. A 46% plurality said the US should not take a position, while 29% said the US should encourage the other quartet members in pressuring Israel. [9]


 

 

Report Contents

View PIPA/Knowledge Networks study [pdf files]
Americans on the Middle East Road Map

[full report]
[questionnaire]
May 30, 2003