A large majority of Arabs are prepared to make peace with Israel if the Jewish state hands over to the Palestinians territories seized in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem, a new study suggests. The survey of 4,087 Arabs in six countries revealed that 73 per cent would be willing to end the animosity with Israel but few believed that it would give up the occupied West Bank easily.
Only 25 per cent of respondents said Arabs should continue to fight Israel no matter what, according to the annual 2009 Arab Public Opinion Survey by the University of Maryland and the polling company Zogby International. "By and large it clearly suggests a critical mass is forming among people who are concluding that it is time for something to change with Israel," said John Zogby, president of the firm which conducted the survey in late April and early May, well after the conflict in Gaza that caused much anger in the region. "There is a growing recognition that Israel does exist and hardened attitudes are not a path to peace."
Respondents were pessimistic about the consequences of a lack of peaceful settlement. If the two-state solution collapses, 60 per cent said there would be a period of "intense conflict" for years to come. That view has hardened since 2008 when 55 per cent of respondents believed it to be the case. President Barack Obama enjoys high ratings - 45 per cent had a favourable view of him - but 66 per cent said they had "no confidence" in the United States.
"Overall ratings were low but better than they were before," said Mr Zogby. "This is speculation but if we did a poll after Obama's speech on Thursday, I think there would be increased comfort level with Obama." The survey also revealed mixed attitudes towards Iran. Although 53 per cent said they believed Iran had the right to possess nuclear weapons, a small but growing number believed the Islamic republic to be a danger. The survey revealed that 13 per cent felt Iran was a threat to them, compared with seven per cent last year.
"Arab popular opinion regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions is more divided than people think," said Karim Sadjadpour, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org