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Support for even-handed Israeli-Palestine approach

Among 18 countries polled, including the United States, not one favours taking Israel's side. Most support a strong role for the UN in resolving the conflict. Most fault both Israelis and Palestinians in their efforts so far. US government dismisses the latest report that Israel is preparing to attack Iran. The latest crackdown on militants in north-west Pakistan prompts accusations that the government is engaged in a public relations exercise.

A newly-released public opinion poll conducted in 18 countries, found that in 14 of them the majority of people say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While three countries ? Egypt, Iran, and Turkey ? favoured taking the Palestinian side, none favoured taking Israel's side, including the United States, where 71 per cent support an even-handed approach. 18,792 individuals were polled from 18 countries that together represent 59 per cent of the world's population. The WorldPublicOpinion.org poll said: "World publics give low marks to international actors when asked to evaluate how well they are 'doing their part in the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.' "Israel receives the worst ratings. In 13 out of the 15 countries asked this question, majorities say the Israelis are 'not doing very well' or 'not doing well at all.' On average, 54 per cent say Israel is not playing a positive role while just 22 per cent say it is. Those giving Israel poor grades include three out of five Americans (59 per cent). Only in India do more view Israel's role positively (35 per cent) than negatively (25 per cent). The Chinese are divided. "Palestinians do not fare much better than Israelis. In 10 out of 15 countries, most say the Palestinians are not doing their part in the effort to resolve their conflict with Israel. On average, 47 per cent view the Palestinians' role negatively while 28 per cent view it positively... "Publics around the world think the UN Security Council should take a robust role in resolving the conflict. In 16 of 17 countries asked about this issue, majorities or pluralities think that if Israel and the Palestinians reach an agreement, the UN Security Council should send peacekeepers to enforce it. On average, 67 per cent favour this idea while just 20 per cent oppose it."

The current military operation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is limited in scope, raising questions about whether it is the start of a concerted move against the bands of extremists established across the tribal zone or just a stunt designed to give the appearance of a crackdown. The new Pakistani government has advocated peace negotiations, not military action, against the extremists in Fata and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), alarming the United States and Afghanistan," wrote Saeed Shah for Toronto's Globe and Mail. "Pakistan's home-grown Taliban movement has, so far, not been touched by the present offensive, which has targeted local fundamentalist groups in Fata's Khyber area. Pakistan's Taliban and their Afghan brethren are not in Khyber but are holed up in other parts of Fata. "Yesterday, Pakistan's fitful military operation against Islamist extremists pushed into its third day, consisting primarily of isolated assaults on buildings used by warlords in Khyber agency. The army met almost no resistance. In a commentary for Pakistan's The News, Mohammad Malick wrote: "Security tsar Rehman Malik and prime minister Gilani are patting themselves on the back for having restored the government's writ. TV audiences are being treated to a steady feed of images of paramilitary convoys whizzing around and security forces blowing up one 'militant hideout' after another. "The government is also crowing about the fact that its measures are so popular with the local tribal population and its power so awesome for the obviously chickened-out militants that not a single bullet has been fired at the security forces. A lot is being made out of the banning of Lashkar-e-Islami (led by Mangal Bagh), Ansar-Ul-Islam (led by Qazi Mehboobul Haq who is Mangal's sworn enemy) and Haji Namdar-led Tanzeem Amar Bil Maroof Wa Nahi Anil Munqar. And if Islamabad's version is to be believed then it is only a matter of time before the rest of the tribal region starts toeing their line as well. "And now the truth: It's all hogwash. It's a drama being staged to placate a nervous public, please the co-operative militias by giving them sufficient advance warning, and confuse the Americans who of late have been displaying the audacity to ask for verifiable deliverables against all the money they have been pumping in for the last eight years. A desperate appeasement attempt for the visiting Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Boucher, if you may."

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